Gamification is currently one of the hottest trends in business, and with good reason. Tons of research attests to the fact that gamifying a process or system increases customer engagement and satisfaction.
This is certainly true of community forums. The standard forum is a great tool, but honestly, in its most basic form it can be a little bland. Adding gamification makes it more interesting to use, creating more authentic interactions and value for your users.
There's no wrong way to gamify a forum. But there are certainly best practices to get the most out of your gamification efforts. Let’s look at the most important ones you should implement right away.
Reward Valuable Community Members
The most critical element of any community board forum is its members — and those who are actively contributing should be rewarded for doing so. This not only encourages active members to continue adding value to the community, it shows other members that there’s a reward for posting. What’s more, it acts as a catalyst for future community members to step up and participate.
There are a number of ways to accomplish this. The most common is to reward high-value members with badges or other marks of honor.
To really enhance the experience for those consistent posters, grant them special abilities in the forums, such as access to special emoticons, the ability to highlight favorite posts to share or even unique signatures that add a little personality to their profile.
Build Community with Innovative Marketing Tie-Ins
Individual posters are just one part of the equation. Gamification must also be used to create a sense of community within your forums. Specifically, this means coming up with innovative marketing promotions to encourage members to share their activities with their private social networks.
Consider this: if you just ask people to go out and tell their friends about something, odds are they won't. But if you run a contest rewarding those with the most social media shares, you're more likely to invite engagement.
Reward Customer Service Staff
It's easy to see forum gamification features as only customer facing. In reality, though, they are also excellent features to use internally to motivate customer support staff.
Because forum activity is trackable, you can create fun metrics and then have CS agents compete against one another to see who performs the best. Examples of this are: customer satisfaction rates, agent response times and the rate at which customers return to seek assistance from an agent for a problem.
While this approach may at first seem too childish or ‘fun’ to be serious, in many ways, that's exactly the point. In the same way customers respond to rewards, CS agents respond to them as well. Human motivations don’t change based on which side of the support window a person is on.
Because it's a lighthearted way to gain individual recognition, internal prize-giving can be hugely motivating for agents.
Conduct Product Research
By increasing meaningful customer interaction with your forums, gamification allows businesses to generate more valuable and actionable data for themselves. This is an excellent way to conduct product research in a cost-effective manner.
For example, gamification features can encourage customers to suggest improvements or changes to products. If you send out a survey asking customers what they want to see, you will get varied responses that then need to be interpreted.
In contrast, having a game on the forums where customers can only improve the product using specific options will produce both a clear winner for the community and a clear path forward for management.
Gamification also results in more accurate samples for product research. Sending out a survey to customers asking their opinions on a recent product release will return data that is biased for the profile most likely to return the survey. Usually this skews towards angrier, more unsatisfied customers, giving the business a flawed view of how the product is behaving in the totality of the market.
But if the same product is placed in a support forum with gamification features that encourage robust participation, businesses get a view of the product through the varied eyes of their most important customers (i.e.: the ones who are most engaged). This is a much more relevant sample for businesses looking to improve their products and services quickly.
This is the ultimate promise of the gamification of community forms: an enhanced sense of community for customers that generates better data for businesses.