|Professional Communities: From Gamification 1.0 to Gamification 2.0|
|Written by Mario Herger|
|Wednesday, 14 December 2011 21:50|
A gamification project on a professional community, imminent for 2012, has kept me thinking about ways to improve the current state of gamification on this community platform. This particular community is social network for business software professionals, hosting multiple communities around development, business process experts or universities in regard to corresponding technologies, products and concepts. On the platform several million users contribute to an ever growing repository of how-tos, blogs, white-papers, discussions, FAQs etc. The users are employees from the company's customers and partner companies, students, academic staff, employees and independent contractors. Together they populate the discussions boards for several hundred product and technology topics, several thousand bloggers and several million forum threads so far.
But there is a new kid on the block, called gamification and suddenly we see engagement skyrocketing in the 2 or 3 digit percentage range that is just mind blowing. Gamification industry experts pointed out that there is a huge opportunity for such a professional community with a lot of value.. Engagement figures for gamified systems today run in 2 digit percentage ranges, improvements in the hundreds of percentage range of what was formerly taken for granted are breath taking for everyone involved and recently having been convinced that improvements will be only incrementally possible. I keep a a batch of these figures from a variety of sources available in this document: Gamification Facts & Figures. You are welcome to use it as a reference for your own pitches.
Gamification 1.0This community has been using game mechanics for several years. Contributors who share a document, write a blog or white-paper receive points. In the forums, users can ask questions and award points to answers that were helpful or helped solve the problem. And users can earn points through editing the WIKI and creating FAQs and correcting pages.
In addition to points, users can be promoted to moderators or mentors. Moderators have administration authorization in the forums, mentors are the kind of outstanding and/or active contributors, who receive a number of perks like direct access to executives.
Each of the forums has its own leader-board with the top posters in this topic area for the actual period. There are multiple overall leader-boards, for actual and past periods, and leader-boards sorted by companies (deducted from the users' email addresses) and countries.
This has been working quite well, at least for some. Users who are often featured on the leader-boards tend to get more new leads, get better offers, better project choices and have better job opportunities. Hiring managers have told me that applications mentioning community points will be looked at first and are a better indication of somebody's skills that the regular resumé. Good contributions indirectly translate into real money, as the users' reputations and achievements are public. And knowing the consulting rates and salaries commanded for experts in the business software world, this is definitely not pocket change.
Beside the obvious success, there are a couple of behaviors on the platform that need to be considered by either encouraging more or discouraging them, that we only learned about after we had the basics right.
Some of the challenges that the community today faces are:
Gamification 2.0Regarding these challenges, it is time to step back and reconsider the things we have done. And the most important is to rethink of who your users are. Contrary to popular believe, users are not one-dimensional. Gamification applies a multi-dimensional layer on how to look at users/players. In communities, we have at least three dimensions:
Who are the players on my community?The community has been focusing a lot on contributors. Adding content at any costs has been the an important thing for a long time. Of course mechanisms to guarantee quality have been in place, like flexible point schemes. If your blog sucked, you didn't get points or less points than usual. On the other hand good blogs could get more points. But that all is a tedious manual process, done by administrators.
But in fact it turns out that there are many more user types that are equally important. Chris Anderson spoke about innovative communities, and named multiple roles that you want in your crowd:
From a community role perspective, we find the following types:
Finally, Bartle's player types have been pretty popular for many gamification discussions.
What are the challenges and goals in my community?Let's look at the goals and challenges from two angles: the community operators and the users.
For the community operators, a vibrant community with many users and quality content are amongst the key factors. These allow to tap into a resource pool of talents to provide solutions and integration scenarios, that indirectly result in more product sales, as customers are confident to get answers and find resources for their own challenges with business software and processes. In addition, never underestimate the power of a happy community to promote your brand and products. As a community operator I also want to keep the users engaged. I want the repeatedly visiting and contributing user, so user loyalty is important as well.
The goals for users on the other hand are less distinct. Some users are looking to find a solution for their problem. Others want to make themselves a name, a reputation, become experts and find jobs and projects. A bunch of others likes to hang out, because they appreciate to social aspect of the professional community. Other users are looking for experts. And I am sure you can name many more reasons.
ConclusionConsidering the above mentioned, this professional community has an opportunity to enhance the way it looks at its users and cater to a wider variety of them. There is a lot of potential and engagement that can be unleashed. Engage the users to activities that haven't been encouraged or have been under-encouraged so far, like social sharing, autonomously forming topic groups, help and reward each other in more ways than answering posts etc.
The value of this community today is without doubt. It's the best professional community out there. But the times are changing fast and many new concepts and technologies have come up that will bring this professional network from level 1.0 to level 2.0. With gamification I have no doubt that the engagement numbers will explode – something that has been deemed impossible and will add even more value to the community - something that has been considered impossible up to now.