Humans are competitive. And since the beginning of recorded time, our passion for creating and playing games has only grown. In fact, humanity’s inclination for games goes so far back that we’ve even evolved circuitry in our brains devoted specifically to playing them.
But here’s the thing with games: while everybody loves playing them, only a select few can intelligently create and implement them.
That being said, if you can gamify your community forum in just the right way, your members will reward you with greater engagement, more referrals and general goodwill and trust. It’s pretty much impossible to gamify social media, because you’re playing someone else’s game on those platforms (no pun intended).
Forums, on the other hand, allow you to customize your environment and user interface in unique and impactful ways. Essentially, community forums give you full control of whatever type of experience you want to create. Below are a few favorites on the best ways to gamify your community to deliver the best and most engaging customer experience.
Before we dive in, however, be sure to give this blog a quick read if you're unfamiliar with the term "gamification."
Many forum owners use a badge system to incentivize quality and frequent contributions from their members. In a badge system, digital badges are given to members who meet certain criteria around the quality and quantity of their activity on your forum. These badges are typically displayed alongside your member’s avatar or username, to indicate their status in the community to others.
These badges are usually divided into two categories: discourse badges and accomplishment badges.
As the name suggests, discourse badges are earned on the merits of the content and quality of a member’s forum contributions. For example, if you notice that a particular forum member has been starting particularly popular threads around excellent ideas, that merits a discourse badge.
It helps to cap your badge system for ease of understanding. For instance, you could limit your members to 4 discourse badges, earned for progressively higher levels of conversational quality and depth.
Primarily, this acts as a point of pride for their recipient and marks this person as a particular source of wisdom for the community. If one of your members gets advice from a person with all 4 of their possible discourse badges, they’ll know to listen up.
Accomplishment badges, on the other hand, focus on concrete achievements: number of forum posts published, number of threads created, consecutive days posting, etc. The number of accomplishment badges you could theoretically have is limited only by your imagination.
Accomplishment badges, like discourse badges, offer a point of pride to their recipients and credentials within your wider forum community. The advantage to accomplishment badges over discourse badges is that they’re totally objective.
The depth and relevance of a given post or thread is always debatable but solid metrics like post and thread numbers are not. Because of this, many forum owners structure their members’ privileges around accomplishment badges.
Perhaps members aren’t allowed to create threads until they’ve received the “100 posts” accomplishment badge. After reaching 100 posts and acquiring the badge, they can progress to creating threads, and so on. This is a hugely effective way to keep your community engaged for the long haul.
Everybody loves a shot at an alluring prize. So think of something that would appeal to your forum members and promote a niche-relevant contest with a grand prize going to the winner.
It should go without saying that the more dynamic you make the competition and the more attractive the prize is, the wider your community involvement will be. So don’t skimp.
If you were so inclined, you could structure the competition around member contributions or user-generated content. The prize could go to whoever creates the best content around a specific theme within a set week.
Whether your contest revolves around forum activities or a separate competition, you’re still leveraging your members’ competitive spirit to fuel engagement.
Points and Leaderboards
Awarding points for member activities is a great way to encourage participation and foster engagement.
In short, points are a key element of gamification and are usually given as a reward for participation. Points are effective because they encourage users to exhibit specific behaviors set by the community or do specific actions to earn these points. Points are also a great way to help mitigate toxic behavior.
When using a gamification system that involves points, it's always a good idea to also include a leaderboard.
A leaderboard allows users to shine and is usually showcased on the homepage of a community for everyone to see. A leaderboard brings out the competitive nature of users and encourages users to participate in order to earn a top spot on the leaderboard. In most cases, the points incurred by the leaders are also shown next to their name, which provides a benchmark for others to use when aiming to be featured.