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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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