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Invision Community Blog


Our take on managing successful online communities

Matt
 

Gamification for your community

It's 2 am, and my bleary red eyes are fighting sleep. My thumbs are still glued to the Playstation controller as I try and persuade my on-screen avatar to complete the level. If I manage it, I've won another trophy.

Many of us have been there. Investing a considerable amount of time into a game just to get to the next level, win a trophy or better yet, complete the entire game.

I still remember the thrill of finishing Metal Gear Solid. I had become a recluse and lost track of time. Each time I thought about putting the gamepad down, there was just one more tiny thing to achieve.

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For decades, game designers have been using gamification to keep players plugged in and wanting more. A well-designed game hooks you completely, and you can't help but keep playing.

In more recent times, social media has switched onto gamification. Each like and share you receive triggers a little dopamine kick in your brain. It's a pleasurable sensation which keeps you coming back for more. How many times have you opened Twitter back up moments after closing it?

What does this mean for communities?
Applying game mechanics to your community can have a powerful effect on member retention and engagement on your site.

There are three main areas we can use gamification for: onboarding, driving engagement and encouraging positive behavior.

Let's look at these areas in more detail.

Onboarding
When a new member joins your community, you want them to complete as much of their profile as possible. Ideally, this would mean that they upload a photo and complete any custom profile fields you have created.

The more information a user provides, the more chance there is that they will come back and that others will start to engage with them. A relatively anonymous member will not be taken seriously by your veteran members.

Traditionally, new members are presented with either a massive registration form or they are never prompted to complete their profile after sign up.

Presenting a sizeable complex registration form is a sure way to reduce your guest to member conversion rates. A persons attention is a rare resource so do not waste the one opportunity you have for a new sign up!

Invision Community has a profile completion feature which displays a progress bar at the top of each page.

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Members are encouraged to complete their profile

This is a great way to add gamification to the onboarding process. You get the best of both worlds. A short compact registration form and a very persuasive reason to upload a photo and complete any profile fields.

Very few can resist the temptation to leave their profile 90% complete!

Gamification can help you convert a new lurker into a contributing member by leveraging the member groups and promotion feature.

Set up your default Member group with specific restrictions that would be attractive to your community. This may be custom signatures, or it could be custom member titles. Perhaps limit the number of images that can be seen per day in Gallery.

The key is to limit access in a way that doesn't agitate or annoy your new members but encourages them to level up.

Create a new group "Full Members" and remove those restrictions. Create a promotion rule that after five posts, they get to level up.

This will encourage lurkers to join in the discussion, so they reach the next level.

You will want to be careful with this feature. You don't want to encourage noise and vapid posting just to reach the next level. 5-10 posts are enough to get them engaged.

Meet Player One
The number one thing you need to have a thriving community is constant user engagement. It is the lifeblood of any discussion focused site.

Game mechanics will help drive user engagement using Invision Community's features strategically.

But first, we must understand the types of players that will frequent your site.

The High-Status Seeker
We've all come across this type of forum member. These members tend to wear their content counts with pride. They cite how long they've been members for. They are the elite member's others look up to.

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The High-Status Seeker will want to be in the top three of your leaderboard every single day.

In many ways, the High-Status Seeker is the ideal member. They want to move up the levels as fast as possible and show their experience and dominance to others. They will have an eye on becoming a moderator and getting access to exclusive private forums.

The Social Butterfly
This type of forum member isn't as interested as status as others. They are content to be active and participate in many different conversations. They typically like open-ended games like MMORPG where the reward is just playing the game.

 

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The Social Butterfly can be reluctant to engage with gamification elements in your community, but in many ways, they do not need to as they are likely to become long-standing members anyway.

Engagement and Loyalty
Now we have met the players, let's look at some of the features Invision Community has built in to create a game-like environment to drive up engagement and retention.

Content Count
The humble content count has been around since the dawn of the forum age. In simple terms, it displays the number of posts and comments the member has added to the community since they joined. When content is deleted, the post count is typically untouched.

High-Status seekers love their content count and protect it with their life! Getting to 10,000 posts is a real achievement and sets them apart from newer or less engaged members.

Reputation
Allowing others to like your posts is a powerful way to not only get more engagement but also encourages quality content to be posted. Content with actual value, humor or flair tends to receive more likes than average. This gives the author a good morale boost which they will want to replicate.

In many ways, this is the critical driver for the Social Butterfly. Acknowledgment for their efforts is what keeps them happy and content.

Leaderboard
While the Social Butterfly may be content with receiving likes on their content, the High-Status Seeker will want to top the leaderboard for as many days as they can confirming their status.

The leaderboard is generated each night and adds up each person's reputation given for that day. The winner is crowned for all to see.

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The leaderboard

The winner also gets a trophy on their profile for 'winning the day.' High-Status Seekers love this feature and do all they can to ensure they are in the top three.

Our Picks
Invision Community introduced the social promotion feature to 4.2. We use it to promote our blogs and good content we see members posting on our forum.

To have your content picked for promotion is a huge thrill, and will undoubtedly put a smile on the face of the author. Both High-Status Seekers and Social Butterflies will love seeing their content promoted on social media and on the site itself.

It is also a great way to keep your social media feeds topped up with quality content.

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Our Picks

We are seeing a good number of communities using Our Picks as their home page to give their site more of an Instagram feel.

Level up with member groups
Who doesn't love being invited into a VIP area to sit in the good seats with the red ropes making it clear that not everyone is invited (yet!)

This is a key strategy to engage High-Status Seekers. With member groups, you can create exclusive VIP areas that normal members can see, but cannot view topics or post into.

In practice, it is as simple as creating a new member group called "VIP Members." This member group has access to specific forums.

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Group promotions

A member group promotion rule can then be used to level up members who reach specific goals, such as 5,000 posts.

This feature can be used to stretch members to achieve a large goal, or you can use it for a series of mini-goals. Either forum access or increased feature access can be leveraged to encourage goal completion.

Become part of the team
"Welcome to the team!" is a message that most members would love to receive. Being handed access to the private team forums where strategic discussions are held, topics are discussed and where the cool kids hang out is probably the ultimate goal for the High-Status Seeker.

Wearing the moderator's badge is a tangible benefit and validation for all their work in the community.

Inviting great members to become moderators is not only a massive boost for the member, but it is an excellent way to offload some of the workload for day to day moderation tasks such as flagging spammers, checking reported content and dealing with minor squabbles in topics.

Final Thoughts
Gamification is definitely a strategy that you should use to build the base of your community, but it should not be the only strategy you deploy.

Extrinsic motivation in the form of reputation points, member titles and badges are effective, but at some point, those rewards run dry.

I would encourage a mix of short-term rewards such as winning the day and mini-goals to level up through member groups along with longer-term goals such to stretch members. Long-term goals can be access to the "5k" club when the member hits 5,000 pieces of content. However, you will need mini goals to keep them moving forwards, or you risk the ultimate goal being too distant to want to reach.

Once your members are hooked on your gamification, social bonds will grow, and members will want to come back just to engage with their friends.

When you reach that point, you know you have an excellent robust community that will stand the test of time.

Edited by Matt


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Nice post! Great subject. As always, some food for thought.

You almost had me thinking you were officially announcing IPS Gamification though, or actual built-in Core support for gamification trophies and awards to, er, level up the Leaderboard feature! No fair, ya meanie!

 

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2 hours ago, WOFman said:

Yeah, too bad that there is no arcade add-on for 4.X

That is quite literal gamification!

But we cannot and should not try to compete with the phone game market, it's a different area to the general strategies for community building I mention here.

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We have an amazing trophy app in the marketplace ? 

 

3 hours ago, The Old Man said:

Nice post! Great subject. As always, some food for thought.

You almost had me thinking you were officially announcing IPS Gamification though, or actual built-in Core support for gamification trophies and awards to, er, level up the Leaderboard feature! No fair, ya meanie!

 

 

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Gamification is seriously lacking. While the described feature are nice, they are far from being ideal.

Winning most likes for the day does not make you the most valuable, more often it makes you the guy that posted the funniest meme in the humor section. We need a serious, customizable rating system that can be tuned up to objectively rate the members and their contributions. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Fosters said:

 

We have an amazing trophy app in the marketplace

 

Thanks Fosters. Appreciate that, and the fact you tried to fill a gap in the software for many, but I still think it should be built in officially and therefore it and site owners would benefit from IPS' support resources, plus it would likely also come out of the box with a set of nice looking awards to get us started, like Lithium has been doing for some years now.

I actually bought your app last November and was initially impressed, but it proved a bit of a disaster in my case. Remember you had admin access for some time?

Maybe it was just a case of bad juju in my case and all the issues have since been resolved, but I felt it was an alpha/beta stage.

For example, it was issuing trophies for reaching say 100 posts or creating 50 topics to recent new members with hardly any post count, and also allowing guests/bots to see all of the trophies in my member's profiles, despite only the Admin group actually having the permissions to see and use the app (since I was still at the adding trophies stage and hadn't gone live yet) etc.

In all honesty, down to me entirely, but I've never since had the confidence or time to reconfigure it again from scratch after setting up all the initial awards (since there was no criteria export/import option). I don't want a situation where members can get awards, then I have to say they shouldn't have been issued and then have to remove them.

:smile:

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All of that is the cool features! Seriously. But all of them focused to improve user activity when he is 'one'. Actually, it's pretty good. But I want to choose another point of view - when forums/etc is the one side and the users are the opposite another side.

In that case, users completely not enough options to make the connection between staff and them. I mean some options for filter activity stream authors by user group (to track staff posts, for example), abilities to moving inside a big topic (hundred pages) from first staff post to next, improved voting system for easier create simple public reports like charts, bars with/o showing voted members. Some simple survey system is a highly anticipated feature too. Scheduler for topic publication is very wanted feature too. Some parts for multilanguage forums - where users can set preferred languages in their profile and then filter content in discovery, widgets which they not understand.

I think you understand what I mean. Maybe this requests is too far from this post. Sorry if this is so.

:cool:

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I hope that in a future version medals/thophies/achievement badges will become a core feature of IPS (some competitors already decided to add this), in combination with an excessive rules system that allowes for any situation to be a reason for awarding someone. I found that in many forums where people get rewards for whatever they are doing, they are more active. It also makes a site more interactive, if you post, vote or whatever and something personalized happens (such as getting a message, that tells you about a shiny new badge you have earned).

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I really like this, but there is a gaping hole at the moment. I fed back about it ages ago, here:

I see no evidence that those completing their profiles are more likely to engage. I have loads of new members who've updated their profile and haven't posted, and some that are as blank as my autobiography but yet have posted.

I do think the 'progress bar' works though, as I do see more completed profiles these days, and so gamification could be seen to work.

What I'd really like to see, as I fed back in that thread I linked, is a continuation of the approach to encourage the new member to 'break the ice'. Completing the profile is fruitless unless they take the next step and actually contribute in some way.

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Is this blog post the definitive guide to gamification? No.  But I think it's a decent start of a conceptual introduction, and more importantly, a conceptual framework to think deeply and broadly about gamification.  

For example, here are things that can be easily extended for gamification:

- Ranks and Pips: old school gamification badges that have been around forever.  If you're not using a third party trophy system, then you should at least be using Ranks.  

- Language: most of us are probably using the default language for things like reactions, leaderboard, and reputation.  The default language is not geared towards  personally engaging or congratulating the user, so you can change the language strings.  

- Recognition topics: this is something that needs to be manually done and many boards already do this, but a board for public recognition of major accomplishments and group promotions.  Think of it as going up on stage to get an award from the organization's president.  

Gamification is the defining user engagement framework of our time and that's because gamification techniques are behaviorally-based.  The first website to get into your mind is the website who wins your attention, and thus your time, clicks, and money.  I think this blog post is a good springboard to think profoundly about all the aspects of gamification and the application of the idea to our specific communities.  Do I think IPS can and ought to do much more in the core software? Hell yes.  But in the meantime, there are plenty of things to think about, experiment with, and implement.  

Edited by Joel R

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18 hours ago, Joel R said:

- Language: most of us are probably using the default language for things like reactions, leaderboard, and reputation.  The default language is not geared towards  personally engaging or congratulating the user, so you can change the language strings. 

That's a great point Joel. I've only ever changed the one Language String in the years I've had IPS. That was renaming the Similar Content block to "You may also like...".

 

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3 hours ago, The Old Man said:

That's a great point Joel. I've only ever changed the one Language String in the years I've had IPS. That was renaming the Similar Content block to "You may also like...".

 

I think Language (and the language strings) are one of the easiest, fastest, yet most powerful ways for you to cultivate a unique culture for your community.  It's also using a default feature of IPS so you're not customizing with a third party app.  I used to think that langstrings were only for non-english communities but they should be used by any admin to cultivate a unique culture and lingo for your board.  

If you have a themed community, you can be extremely creative in your language customization.  Even if you don't have a themed community, it's an opportunity to think very deeply about your organization's goals and to couch those goals within a set of unique terms.  For example:

- if I were running a Harry Potter website, my reactions could be 'spells'

- if I were running a gaming clan, my leaderboard could be a 'scoreboard' or 'hit list'

- if I were running a mental health nonprofit, my clubs could be called 'support circles'. 

As a personal example, I changed my langstring for Subscription to Pledge.  Subscription sounded very commercial and monetary.  I wanted a word that connected better with supporting my websites mission and values, and to have less of $$ edge.  

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1 hour ago, Joel R said:

I used to think that langstrings were only for non-english communities but they should be used by any admin to cultivate a unique culture and lingo for your board.  

Absolutely. Same here until recently!

1 hour ago, Joel R said:

- if I were running a Harry Potter website, my reactions could be 'spells'

- if I were running a gaming clan, my leaderboard could be a 'scoreboard' or 'hit list'

- if I were running a mental health nonprofit, my clubs could be called 'support circles'. 

These are great examples, really good. IPS could feature this sort of thing in a future blog entry on leveraging the power of language strings, they're a great inspiration. I'm unsure what happens to any language templates when upgrading, actually will have to check mine haven't changed.

1 hour ago, Joel R said:

As a personal example, I changed my langstring for Subscription to Pledge.  Subscription sounded very commercial and monetary.  I wanted a word that connected better with supporting my websites mission and values, and to have less of $$ edge.  

Completely understand where you're coming from with this approach. Makes a lot of sense.

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On 7/27/2018 at 1:18 PM, The Heff said:

What I'd really like to see, as I fed back in that thread I linked, is a continuation of the approach to encourage the new member to 'break the ice'. Completing the profile is fruitless unless they take the next step and actually contribute in some way.

Hi Heff, I agree, it would be good if there was some kind of gentle encouragement. At the moment I create a forum to encourage new members to say a hello and maybe say a little about why they like the subject matter of my community. 

I also set up an Icebreaker themed award with Fosters' Trophies and Awards app using the snowflake Font Awesome icon and later the ship, never got a chance to give it a go as it was too buggy at the time. Think I'll revisit it, hopefully it's matured now.

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On 7/28/2018 at 2:03 PM, Joel R said:

I think Language (and the language strings) are one of the easiest, fastest, yet most powerful ways for you to cultivate a unique culture for your community.  It's also using a default feature of IPS so you're not customizing with a third party app.  I used to think that langstrings were only for non-english communities but they should be used by any admin to cultivate a unique culture and lingo for your board.  

If you have a themed community, you can be extremely creative in your language customization.  Even if you don't have a themed community, it's an opportunity to think very deeply about your organization's goals and to couch those goals within a set of unique terms.  For example:

- if I were running a Harry Potter website, my reactions could be 'spells'

- if I were running a gaming clan, my leaderboard could be a 'scoreboard' or 'hit list'

- if I were running a mental health nonprofit, my clubs could be called 'support circles'. 

As a personal example, I changed my langstring for Subscription to Pledge.  Subscription sounded very commercial and monetary.  I wanted a word that connected better with supporting my websites mission and values, and to have less of $$ edge.  

How do I find out more on how to do this @Joel R? I think the right language with your audience is extremely powerful.

I also think that rewards, no matter small or large for loyalty and returning members are a critical tool that you need to figure out for your community. I think that as much as you hopefully grow larger as a community with new people joining, you must never forget your loyal existing members. Its something my IRL company believes in so it makes sense that it applies to this kind of culture too - Treating Customers Equally, new and exsiting.

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24 minutes ago, GazzaGarratt said:

How do I find out more on how to do this @Joel R? I think the right language with your audience is extremely powerful.

Customize your language strings.  It's easy!

Most people only think about it for second languages, but I think it's one of the easiest and most powerful methods for crafting a unique 'lingo' for your site.  

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6 hours ago, Reto Bachofner said:

I assume, that those changes made in the live editor or in the standart editor will be saved even after an update?

Yes, your language strings are not affected by upgrades.  

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