German Software giant SAP launched its community 10 years ago and within a few years it grew to become the social network for SAP Professionals, the SAP Community Network (SCN). SCN is a platform where SAP employees share news and updates about products and technology, and a place where customers or consultants go first when they encounter a challenge in an SAP project. The community has proven helpful in discussion forums, to such an extent that certain people reach out to SCN before contacting SAP Support. In addition, SCN is the platform of choice for some of the most prolific and talented bloggers in the SAP ecosystem and many topic experts also share content such as step-by-step guides via documents.
With 2 million unique visitors each month, SCN has reached organic growth a while ago already. The community became more social when the site moved to the Jive platform in March 2012: Members can now provide feedback such as likes, ratings, comments, etc and it helps the editorial team to curate content valued by the community on the site and in newsletters. This type of feedback is considered engagement around content. A contributor is encouraged when positive feedback is given, and such feedback helps them grow a reputation as an SAP Professional.
Engagement indicators were still low several months after the platform change, and it became clear that a little encouragement was needed. That’s when gamification came into the picture.
As part of SAP’s SCN team, my role is to identify contributors of quality content, recognize them and encourage them to continue sharing their knowledge on a regular basis.
For over 8 years SCN leveraged points and levels to reward contributions, showcase the top contributors in a specific area of expertise and recognize them on stage at our annual event SAP TechEd. We have been gamified for a long time!
Points and levels supported our business goals but were not enough to encourage the behaviors that are beneficial to the community at large. Using gamification and particularly the concept of missions (a series of actions needed to receive a badge and points), we wanted to encourage members to log in regularly, provide feedback, contribute quality content regularly and be recognized as topic experts and influencers.
SCN being mostly on the Jive platform, the vendor selection was pretty easy since Jive and Bunchball, one of the leaders in gamification, worked together to create the Jive Gamification Module. It is a plug-in that integrates seamlessly with the Jive platform. Less than one year after we purchased it, in April 2013, we launched gamification on SCN. We can now design missions that track activities we want to encourage in the community, assign badges and feature topic experts in leaderboards.
With our experience in managing a large and mature community in the High Tech industry, we were able to provide feedback to both companies who worked to incorporate our enhancement requests into the module and make them generally available. This is just the beginning, as we have more in mind. A few examples already: Gamification should be used as a tool to display reputation and influence in the community, and it can be a challenge to identify quality influencers among hundreds of thousands of people actively contributing. I can imagine the value and power that an enhanced reputation system would bring to a community like ours, where influential members get to weigh more on feedback and influence a reputation score. Also, in a world constantly changing, our members change jobs, become independent, etc. They need to be able to port their reputation to a new account, and display it across various platforms – not just Jive.
I recommend the book Building Web Reputation Systems by Randy Farmer and Bryce Glass to anyone interested in building a solid reputation program.
In a community where content is king and quality is queen, refreshing the reputation program with gamification had to be planned carefully. The point system is a very sensitive topic that has fans but also skeptics. We had to design a point economy that takes into account points for contributions and points for missions completed and ensures coherence, and of course migrate everyone’s points and design new levels that are more encouraging at the entry levels and rewarding at the top levels. Our missions were designed to guide our members from onboarding to contributing, showcasing expertise then influencing peers. Most missions incorporate quality elements such as level prerequisites, reading the rules of engagement before getting blogger badges, and positive feedback. I can tell that some of our badges are not easy to get!
After turning on gamification in the backend to observe and make sure that points were accruing correctly in the new platform, we were ready to launch in April this year by turning on the gamification platform in the UI. The community reception has been very positive. A lot of people have been talking about a “new SCN experience”, which proves how much a tight integration of game mechanics can transform user experience.
The community appreciated being involved in the design of the program, and understands that missions were designed to promote quality contributions and behaviors beneficial to the community. Of course, it is sometimes difficult to avoid cheating and content posted just to get a badge, content that doesn’t meet the quality criteria expected by the community. But overall it is a success.
We gave badges at launch to people who had been active at events last year, and they were pleased. We introduced about 30 missions but a lot of them are hidden until they are earned, or are part of a progression, which means that they are hidden until the previous mission is earned. This adds an element of surprise and the community is also looking forward to us introducing more missions on a regular basis.
As far as engagement is concerned, the preliminary results observed one month after the launch are impressive:
Stay tuned! In a few weeks I’ll be blogging about the design of our point economy, the overall point levels, the missions and the focus on quality. Right now I’m about to go on a well-deserved vacation.
I look forward to your feedback and hope to engage with you in the comments section. If I am not there to provide feedback or answer questions, my colleagues Audrey Stevenson and Sean Yang who worked closely with me on this project will chime in.
Laure Cetin is the Community Reputation Manager for the SAP Community Network. She can be followed on Twitter.
To learn more about the SAP Community Network and how the reputation system works and how you can design a gamified system, order the book Gamification At Work: Designing Engaging Business Software by Janaki Kumar (Director UX-Design at SAP) and Mario Herger (#1 Gamification Guru).