How to Optimize Gamification For Community Forum Engagement

5 minute read

August 3, 2016

How to Optimize Gamification For Community Forum Engagement

Any rise in these metrics usually means your members are spending more time interacting within the community and the brand. And one of the best tactics to drive community forum engagement metrics is through gamification.

For the uninitiated; gamification is using game mechanics to influence human behaviors that you want to encourage amongst your community members. It allows you to optimize your community and gets you closer to your customer.

At its core, gamification has the ability to motivate engagement, participation and loyalty among customers and community members. When done right, gamification provides better customer engagement and rewards for customers that all lead to more sales. It works because it focuses on some fundamental motivations that exist for many people, such as the desire to:

  • Be a part of a community

  • Receive meaningful feedback

  • Achieve and be rewarded for it

In a survey taken by the Community Roundtable, nearly 50% of the communities they polled had a form of gamification. And according to Gartner, more than 70 percent of top 2,000 companies globally added gamification to one or more of their applications or processes to enhance customer engagement.

Various forms of gamification exist within online community forums, including:

  • Points: Points are earned through a rewards system. Users are encouraged to exhibit the behaviour necessary to earn these points.

  • Badges: Badges are usually earned by completing specific actions. This encourages users to do specific things in order to earn a badge.

  • Leaderboard: A leaderboard allows users to shine. A leaderboard brings out the competitive nature of users and encourages users to compete for a chance to be featured on it.

  • Level up/ rank: Leveling up is similar to hitting a milestone. Users are rewarded by being able to reach a new level based on defined actions or events. Users with higher levels show that they have more experience than others

  • Avatar and username: Providing users with the ability to select their own avatar and username allows them the opportunity to customize their experience. Users enjoy being able to add their unique personality into their avatar.

  • Rewards: Rewards are another aspect of gamification that provides incentive to participate; this is why people love it. While these rewards could be a badge or a spot on the leaderboard, it’s common for top-tier rewards to be real-life items that are given to the user. People love rewards!

Strategic Community Gamification

But before you look to implement gamification, you should start by simply asking yourself some key questions that will help inform the direction you take. These questions include:

  • What behaviors do you want to encourage? Understanding what engagement is in context of your community. Does it mean more posts created, or more helpful answers. Take into account your member demographics and motivations. Dig deep into your community analytics and uncover the key actions that drive engagement or sales, that ultimately needs to be incentivized.
  • What are the levels of engagement? Design your game in such a way that allows for the a realistic achievement for your users. Better yet, why don’t you get your community members to help you design the incentives?
  • Is this a good fit for your community? Will it encourage and motivate your members? Make sure that the gamification design, rewards, and platform help motivate your members to be more engaged. Karma points from a Reddit forum won’t be relevant in a B2B community that focuses on enterprise software.

Community Manager Best Practices

A community can’t survive without the hard work of a passionate community manager. The not only have to monitor the community, but they also have to make sure that the right elements are in place, such as incentives that compliment the membership, to maintain engagement and increase customer experience.

Gamification works when you have an understanding of the key elements required for a successful engagement strategy:

  • Know your users. As a community manager, you should be able to have a deep understanding of your users and be able to share their passion for the community. You should know what they are motivated by, why they love the community and what value they get out of being a member. In short, you should be able to speak their language. Without this knowledge, your gamification campaign won’t succeed.
  • Make sure your rewards are obtainable. Design your incentives so that it make sense. Don’t make it so hard to obtain that your make your members frustrated. Remember, the key goal is engagement, so your rewards should work to encourage the types of behaviour you want to see in your community.

Maintain consistency in design and brand. It’s important that gamification elements and features are well integrated into your community platform. A gamification platform that provides too many barriers to using it effectively will just frustrate your members instead of encouraging user interest.

Tactics for Driving Community Behaviours

You can apply gamification into your existing processes in several ways, including:

  • Integrating gamification with learning. A great example of this is Adobe. Adobe employed gamification that helped users learn the basics of Photoshop during 30-day trials through their LevelUp campaign. Users completed levels and missions that helped them “level up” while learning how Photoshop works.
  • Maintaining customer attention. As attention spans continue to grow smaller, it’s important to identify areas that may lead customers to lose interest. By adding a level of gamification, you can encourage your customers to remain engaged until they move on to the next stage.
  • Progress is the goal. It’s not always about winning. Those who engage in online-based games are not necessarily focused on winning the game. Instead, they wish to be proficient in the game and feel in control. Keeping this in mind while designing your gamification can spur a similar response in customers wanting to feel in control in understanding your brand.
  • Keep the game going. By making a game longer and more complex, customers may be more inclined to stick around to develop their skills to earn ongoing rewards or incentives. This helps promote an increased frequency of repeat purchases and is good for maintaining user interest.

When a forum is gamified, users spend more time interacting with the brand and consequently promote it and its content. Additionally, a company will have more of an opportunity to incentivize customer behaviors that are most closely aligned with business objectives. Not to mention, as customers are rewarded for certain behaviors, brand loyalty tends to develop.

Gamification is at its best when it is done correctly. Whether it is accomplished by employing some game mechanics into an existing application to engage customers or if it’s a newly created experience, it needs to move beyond being a simple task-reward situation. Instead, it should be engaging and immersive to create desired results.

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Alok Chowdhury

Written by Alok Chowdhury

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