Building A Thriving Community Using Gamification
Let's talk about customer communities.
- Providing an exceptional user experience with an effective interaction design is key to building a successful community.
- Ensuring you have the right content for your users is not only critical but serves as a foundational component of your community.
- Gamification, done right, can be the heartbeat of your community, motivating users to participate, engage, and return.
This article focuses on the role gamification can play in building a thriving community.
According to Gartner Research, over 70% of Global 2000 businesses will employ gamification techniques by the end of 2014. Gamification is the use of game techniques in a non-game experience and is most often used to increase customer and/or employee engagement and loyalty. One area companies are looking to employ gamification techniques is in their online communities. As a content strategist and community manager who happens to work in the gamification space, this is a topic I actively seek to gain and share knowledge about with other professionals in the same space.
Growing Perpetual Communities using Gamification
In Badgeville's Gamification and Communities Webinar with Marketo and Forrester, Kim Celestre, Senior Analyst at Forrester, coins the term perpetual communities, which is something all community managers strive for. It is a shift away from communities being a drive-by conversation to communities being a hub for ongoing conversations with other like minded individuals, thought leaders, product experts, etc. A key goal of a successful community is to provide an environment that encourages ongoing, long term engagement. Kim went on to say that communities fail because there is a lack of motivation to participate and perpetual communities require ongoing engagement. One way to achieve that ongoing engagement is through gamification. Kim's research at Forrester has shown that "gamification drives continuous action."
Gamification drives continuous action by using game techniques to harness user motivations. The objectives of gamification are:
- Adoption: The motivation & trigger to participate
- Activity: The motivation & trigger to do more
- Retention: The motivation & trigger to come back
The following motivational methods are borrowed from game mechanics and help create a story of growth for your users:
- Overcoming challenges
- Making social connections
- Building/finding order
- Obtaining extrinsic rewards
The process of implementing a gamification program involves understanding your users’ behaviors, which are the activities your users perform, and leveraging those behaviors to motivate them. In the context of a community, you may want to motivate users to contribute to the community and reward their participation for asking or answering a question, creating content, sharing their success story, contributing product ideas, etc. By rewarding and recognizing users for performing these activities in ways that are meaningful to the users, their engagement and retention increases, keeping the community alive and vibrant as participants are transformed into experts and brand advocates.
Understanding the Role Business Goals Play in Gamification
In a recent discussion with Zachary Bodnar, Senior Behavior Architect at Badgeville, we discussed the keys to a successful gamification implementation with an emphasis on support communities. Of course, behavior design is a key part of an engagement program, but that's not all gamification is about. Zack was clear to point out the reason "why" a company would want or need to implement a gamification solution -- the bottom line is the beneficial impact gamification has on business goals.
"It's not just about trying to get users to do things, but it is about business goals. The foundation of any successful gamification implementation has to be business goals and KPIs (key performance indicators). Those need to roll up in order for the gamification solution to be successful and championed in the long run. For example, in a support community, you may want to spend less money on the call center and have more good questions answered by the community of users. The business goal is to reduce support costs. You then need to look at the behaviors that you want to motivate in order to reach this KPI of reducing support costs." - Zachary Bodnar
Before gamification comes into play in your community, you must ensure the following:
- You need to ensure you have relevant content already in place. Meaning there is trusted content already in the community that can help answer customer questions.
- You need to have a strong strategy in place to get users to the community and make it easy to navigate around and find the information they need. Users need to understand that they should go to the community to find the information they need.
- You then need to understand your KPIs and target behaviors related to reaching those KPIs.
Once the user is in your community and on the page, gamification can accelerate the rate at which the end user learns how to get value from the site.
Community Gamification Success Story
Marketo implemented gamification in their customer community in 2012 and has seen a dramatic, positive impact in user engagement. In their first week alone, they tripled their user engagement in the community, meaning users logged in and performed a desired behavior, such as answering a question or contributing an idea. Over the course of the first year, the Marketo community doubled their long-term engagements, had a positive impact on customer renewal rates, and benefited from a steep incline in loyal customers and brand advocates.
Liz Courter of Marketo noted in the above mentioned webinar that gamification as helped accelerate customers to maturity, not just by participating and collaborating in the community, but by adopting their products and striving to become Marketo experts.
In 2014, Marketo is excited about optimizing their gamification experience and looks forward to rewarding offline behaviors, implementing an internal employee gamification program, and serving up personalized experiences to multiple constituencies.
If you are considering gamification as part of your community strategy and solution, start out by mapping out the business goals and KPIs that you are trying to achieve. Answering these questions up front and early on will help you design an effective engagement program that ultimately increases user adoption and company success!