– 70+ techniques to build an engaging online community
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We have all experienced gamification at some level — personally, during my childhood, I had invested significant amounts of time in crossing different levels in my favorite video games. However, gamification is so common that anyone who has a social media account would have encountered how it works on a first-hand basis. Think of how percentage scores get awarded based on the competition of profile data.
Also, something as common as the number of connections, followers, friends are gamification techniques. The higher the number, the more popular the user is perceived on the social network.
Here gamification essentially means the application of gaming techniques to something which is not generally a game. Specifically, gamification for community engagement has become critical since it is time-tested and it works. If a community manager can plan the gamification techniques meticulously and effectively apply, the community can become more active and the engagement rate would increase.
If we look at the common social gamification techniques, they are broadly the following:
- Earning reputation scores
- Getting badges
- Leaderboard to showcase top members
- Ability to win prizes
- Access to special privileges
The trick here is to create a sense of healthy competition in the community by using a combination of different gamification techniques.
However, before discussing the application of any of the techniques, let’s look at them in the context of online communities.
Gamification in online communities
The most common examples of gamification in a community setting that can be found from the early years of online forums are badges and trust scores. The successful online communities would have the common elements of a successful gamification strategy.
These are really simple to implement and highly effective in terms of the outcome.
Badges, as depicted above give a visual cue about the specialty of the community member. Considering that badges are awarded when a member achieves something significant in the community, these badges become aspirational and members work towards getting them.
Other members of the community recognize that the badge-holder has been a quality contributor to the community and get motivated by their peers. When defining these badges ensure that it reflects your brand guidelines and geared towards the goals of the community.
Reputation scores are the scores that your community members receive when they perform different activities inside the community — ranging from asking questions and answering to commenting and getting upvotes. All these community activities should be rewarded by assigning points.
The example above is a more simple case, but in most cases, you’ll want to assign titles with names that fit your brand personality and customize them to meet the needs of your community.
Virtual currency, as shown below, is the currency defined in your community that members earn based on their contribution and preferably redeem the same to purchase products or services. This can come in handy when running competitions inside the community.
Devising gamification for community engagement
One important element of gamification, i.e., rewards must not be solely treated as incentives for transactional activities. Rewards must be given to recognize the contribution and valuable social behavior — it could be reputation scores, badges, or anything else. Also, it is great to add a personal and human touch whenever rewards are distributed.
When designing a gamification plan it’d be worthy to note that one system can’t satisfy all the members. So, community managers must think about how gamification can serve the larger goal of the community. Gamification should be designed to acknowledge valuable contributions to the community and commitment for betterment.
Consider adding a gamification element can encourages users to build connections with others and accomplish a target via group activity. This results in stronger and complex networks in a communtiy. The more complex the networks are in a community, the better the networking.
A healthy competition between community members can bring in greater value for the entire community. When competition is leveraged to create teams, acquire knowledge and all are motivated to reach an agreed outcome, competition can foster community-building.
Points to ponder for community managers
The community managers are the architects of community success. They ensure that the members are well equipped to contribute to the community, all the incentives are configured correctly, and the right engagement techniques are deployed to reach business goals. Of course, this includes the gamification techniques as well.
Hence, a community manager must get the fundamental knowledge of the gamification for successful implementation:
- Member behavior. The community manager must have intimate knowledge of the members, their goals, the value they get from the community along the common elements that bind the members together. When the motivation of the members is clear, your gamification plan would have a higher chance of getting aligned for success.
- Reachable goals. The larger plan is to incentivize the users to attain the goals. If the goals are complex and look far-fetched, it can demotivate and cause frustration. So, the goals that a customer is required to achieve must be set in such a way, they would be able to reach different levels in a reasonable manner.
Finally, make sure that the gamification plan is designed to reflect your brand and completely integrated with the community platform, processes as well as customer journey.
Driving community engagement with gamification
There are multiple ways of applying gamification techniques in your company processes:
- Delivering value with gamification. When you have integrated your product with the community, you have a great avenue for awarding points to users who are successfully using different features of your product. You can define badges such as “fast-learner” to those who quickly explore most of the product features.
- Social sharing. You can also reward the members for sharing the community content on social media. This gives them quality content to share with their network as well as get points.
- Integrating with loyalty programs. You can integrate the community activities with your customer loyalty program. This ensures that apart from influencing the shopping behavior and your customers would get rewarded for their contribution to the digital space.
- Staying connected with customers. In the current age, every consumer is getting bombarded with advertising messages and the attention span has become very fragile. Hence, in a highly competitive arena, keep users engaged via gamification and stay on top of their minds.
- Giving control. Although you are facilitating the discussions and managing the community as the owner, the community is not about your brand — it is about your customers and members. So, when you define the gamification rules, ensure that the participants are getting value and they must realize that they are in control.
- Being consistent. The gamification plan should have an ongoing engagement. This ensures that the momentum is not lost and there is always something new for the community members to achieve and get more value.
When your online community has a gamification plan that actually works users would stay engaged by interacting in the communities and eventually spread the word about your community and product. Apart from that, a business would have an effective channel to influence consumer behavior via incentives to reach business goals.
The more engaged the customers, the more the retention rate and eventually, loyalty and lifetime value.
In the modern age, gamification must not be implemented via a give-and-take experience, rather it should be immersive and deeply integrated into the customer journey.