As you build and maintain your advocate community, one of your key challenges will be to keep your members interested, engaged, and active.
How do you achieve this? High levels of personalized communication? Sharing of blog posts about your organization’s news, product innovations, and the latest industry trends? These certainly help. However, is there a more effective—and fun—way to foster the advocacy relationship and nurture a community around your brand and products?
Yes, there is. It’s called gamification, and it’s now an essential element for building and managing a sustainable online community. Gamification allows you to get closer to your customers through fun and rewarding game-based activities.
Let’s take a closer look at what gamification is, how it works, and how you can use it to raise the profile of your community activities.
What is gamification?
Gamification involves the use of game-like strategies and principles in a non-game environment. It is designed to stimulate consistent positive behavior, engagement, and a friendly sense of competition. And it works!
The reason why we enjoy all sorts of games—from simple card and board games to parlor games, video games, and even sports—is because games activate those parts of our brain responsible for the feel-good state, reducing stress, and motivating us to constantly better ourselves.
The mechanics behind gamification stem from human psychology and behavioral science, with many factors playing key roles in driving action and keeping users coming back for more. These include the desire for accomplishment, recognition, improvement, instant gratification, as well as social status and validation.
Examples of gamification in our digitalized world include those used by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These social media giants have embedded gamification elements such as the number of followers, likes, and friends in their platforms, which increase engagement and draw users in.
How gamification contributes to community management.
Gamification strategies can be used in many areas of your business, from sales to education and work productivity. In the context of community management, gamification is a widespread method you can employ to reward members for interacting with one another and making contributions to the community’s purpose.
This helps you build a collaborative, engaged environment while cementing personal connections. Gamification techniques also increase the chances of your shared content “sticking” in people’s minds, reinforcing your brand’s image and its broader impact on your audience.
To help you better understand gamification and maximize your results from applying its principles, here is a list of six core elements that comprise a successful gamification strategy.
1. Community Managers.
A community manager or hub admin is responsible for observing, monitoring, and adjusting your gamification features. He or she ensures the right balance for members between effort, motivation, and reward. Focused on delivering value to your advocates and properly motivating them to make positive contributions, a community manager has a unique, in-depth perspective of the status, health, and stability of your community.
Awarding points is a form of incentivizing users for participating in certain activities in your community. Points are assigned to each one of your community members when they complete a challenge set by you.
The number of points awarded is based on the effort involved, and once a member has accrued a certain number of points, they can receive badges and/or titles which add to their personal and professional prestige, as well as tangible rewards tailored to their individual interests. A points-based system stimulates your members’ competitive nature and enables your most ardent product champions to stand out.
3. Badges and titles.
Just like points, badges are used to drive engagement and motivate your community members to demonstrate certain types of behavior. Badges are a consistent visual representation of the activity levels achieved by your members, based on the number of points earned. Badges have a motivational and competitive purpose, inspiring your brand supporters to strive for them. Within the gamification system, badges—which are awarded by the community manager—are closely linked to people’s need for status and recognition.
The need for progressive accomplishments is also satisfied as members progress from one badge to the next. For example, newcomers may begin with a “level 1” or a “silver” badge and work their way up to levels 2 and 3, or gold and platinum, respectively. It is ideal to get imaginative with badge and title names so that they fit the fundamental values of your brand and community.
A challenge is what community members need to do in order to earn points. Challenges can range from commenting on or sharing a blog post, watching a tutorial, participating in a survey, or reviewing a product, to submitting a video testimonial or acting as a reference for a potential new customer. The more effort required for the challenge, the higher the number of points that should be awarded for its completion.
You should always relate your challenges to your business and community goals and make sure that they create value for your community members—so consider their interests when creating them. When you post a challenge, provide context, marking the path you want your members to follow.
Be specific about what they need to do and keep your challenges clear—as vague and abstract ideas are hard to understand and can lead to confusion. The success of your challenges largely depends on how well they resonate with your members. Challenges are a key component of any gamification strategy. When they are well-designed, they create a fun and dynamic environment, enable members to compete in a playful way, and stimulate valuable returns.
Your leaderboard is the place where each member’s name, status, and number of achieved points are displayed for everyone to view. Think of it as a visual representation of each member’s journey in relation to other members. Gamification nurtures the spirit of healthy competition, but it should also encourage a progressive path towards self-realization and the improvement of knowledge and skills.
For a leaderboard to inspire progress, action, and engagement, it should be regularly updated and well-balanced. Try to design a leaderboard structure that segments members into categories with similar scores, instead of one that shows how far apart your members are score-wise. And consider making it easy for your members to achieve a higher status, as competition works only if people feel like they have a real chance of surpassing others.
Whether in the form of tangible goods, learning materials, discounts, or invitations, rewards are meant to portray recognition of positive social behavior and contributions within your community. Commonly, companies offer standard rewards based on the number of points acquired. However, rewards should really be relevant to your members’ needs and the overall purpose served by your community.
For example, you may wish to empower your members by offering them a choice of pre-selected rewards. Over time, this will give you an idea of which kind of prizes are most desired, and you can then adjust your rewards program accordingly.
Let the games commence!
Gamification is a great solution for creating rich, rewarding, and entertaining online experiences for all your community members, whether they are customers, employees, business partners, or other stakeholders. Ultimately, gamification will make your community a more vibrant, energizing, and happy place where members feel heard and appreciated.
Gamification is also a great leveler, creating equal value and opportunities for all your members through knowledge and skill acquisition. A robust gamification strategy also ensures continual momentum for your community and ensures that there is always something new for your members to learn or achieve.
Put your gaming hat on and get started today!