Expert-driven online communities & gamification

As a content strategist you might be involved in building an online community. In general, such communities can act as information systems where members can post, comment on discussions, give advice or collaborate. Obviously, those platforms consist of a ton of (user-generated) content and might need some strategic approach. Thinking about online communities (for our Content Marketing course at the Content Strategy Master programme of the FH Joanneum Graz), I came across a very interesting approach to foster engagement in online communities.

Game-like elements can help people within the community to build their expert status. Such experts are your brand advocates (some might call them evangelists) who are ready to help others in your community.

These experts could collect some types of rewards and you could even give away prizes or awards to the best experts. In particular, those gamification elements incorporate gameplay elements in a non-gaming settings (the community).

You could implement leaderboards, expert levels or badges. A popular example for such a gamified community are Google Local Guides. If you are contributing to Google Maps (with photos, reviews, etc.) you can collect points and climb up the ladder of local guides. They also offer certain (non-disclosed) benefits . In his article, Richard Millington showed a similar example from ServiceNow where you can also build your expert status.

Basically, by introducing such gamification elements you motivate loyal users to provide support, advice and feedback. He also mentioned that with such experts in your communities, it’s much easier to find people who can help. Additionally, you can validate the expertise of your community members. You could also use such a community even for recruiting or for user-driven innovation projects.

When thinking of incorporating gamification in a community, it’s worth taking a look at the guidelines provided by the Interaction Design Foundation:

  • Gamification is about motivating users and not about manipulating them
  • Too much game features lead to mental overload
  • The system that should be gamified must be good per se

This has some implications for incorporating gamification in communities. For example, your community has to be a great place to make gamification work. And probably you should focus on the most promising game features to make your community a useful place.

My fellow student colleague Melanie also mentioned in a discussion that it’s important “to not reward the wrong metrics and to have an eye on the impact on your community members“. I can only agree to that, in fast-paced world it’s important to not overwhelm your community members and keep them motivated.