Community Management Tweets From November 2011

For some reason, I have seen a number of great blog posts on community management over the last 2 weeks and have added them to my Twitter stream.  Maybe people are finally starting to realize that community management is an integral part of social media and customer experience?

To make it easier for me to find these resources in the future, I am consolidating all of my recent community management tweets into a blog post.


5 Essential Traits for Community Managers by @stuartcfoster in @mashable

10 Community Manager Tools You Might Not Know by @Renee_Warren

Online Community Managers: When Community Should Be About You — from @Kommein

4 Ways to Make Your Professional Online Community More Fun | by @Joshua_D_Paul in @B2Community #gamification

Fire Your Marketing Manager and Hire A Community Manager – from @armano in- Harvard Business Review #socialmedia

The Future of Online Community | by @vdimauro in Social Media Today – look for specialized private online communities

Altimeter: The Two Career Paths of the Corporate Social Strategist. Be Proactive or Become ‘Social Media Help Desk’ « from @JOwyang –

“My Chapter on #Gamification: From Behavior Model to Business Strategy” – a wealth of resources from @mich8elwu

Games, gamers and business strategy… In #gamification…


Adding Gamification to Your Community

I wrote a post about Gamification last week and this week, I want to dive into more detail about how to apply gamification and game mechanics to a community site.  It is interesting to see gamification now being applied in a marketing/website/community context, because many marketers and community managers have already been using these techniques to build engagement for several years.  But I am more than willing to jump on the gamification bandwagon if it helps push the boundaries for other marketers and community managers.

In any case, there are many ways to incorporate game mechanics into a community and which ones are appropriate depend a lot on the make-up of your community audience and what the ultimate goals for the community are.  In addition, my belief is that you need to gradually introduce new elements into a community and make sure that any new features are fully explained and documented.  Otherwise, you could overwhelm your audience or get suboptimal uptake of the new features.

Universe of Game Mechanics — According to a definition in the Gamification Wiki,“Game Mechanics are constructs of rules and feedback loops intended to produce enjoyable gameplay.”  To break the definition into simpler terms, game mechanics let you build features that are fun and addictive.

In my earlier gamification post, I provided a table that compared game mechanics to human desires.  This is just a subset of possible types of game mechanics that could be incorporated into a community or website.

Building Blocks of Gamification from Bunchball

The Gamification Wiki actually lists 24 different game mechanics and SCVNGR identifies 47 unique game mechanics based on an article published on TechCrunch by Erick Schonfeld last year.  SCVNGR is a mobile game with real world challenges — and all SCVNGR employees are given the Game Dynamics Playbook and ‘strongly’ encouraged to memorize the deck of game mechanics cards.  SCVNGR’s games and challenges are built using combinations of these game mechanics.  Both of these lists can be used to brainstorm on adding new features and elements to any website or community.

Community Audience Questions — Before you can add gamification to your community, you need to really understand your community.  Here are some probing questions that need to be answered before adding any new gamification features to a community:

Do you have an open or closed community?  Is your community a professional, social, support, informational, hybrid or something else community?  How do you want members to use the community?  How many members do you have and how many do you add in a typical week or month?  What is the typical member profile?  How engaged are your community members?  How do you measure engagement?  What motivates your members to join, participate and stay engaged in the community?  Do you have robust member profiles?  Are member profiles searchable?  Can members ‘friend’ or message other members?  Do you have a way for members to add their Twitter or Facebook accounts to their profiles?  How  easy is it for members to share content on other sites?

Community Goals — Likewise, you also want to make sure that the goals for your community are well understood and syndicated across your organization:

What goals are you trying to accomplish with the community?  Can you measure them?  Do you have any elements of gamification incorporated into your community today? Does your community platform support gamification elements?  Can you track your measures in your community system?

Measures of Engagement for a Community — There are 5 generally-accepted measures of engagement for a community:

  1. Recency — when was the last visit?
  2. Frequency — how often does the member visit?
  3. Duration — how long do members stay on the sight when they visit?
  4. Virality — how often do members share content on the site?  and how much is their sharing amplified through their network?
  5. Ratings — how often do members rate content on the site?
Suggestions for Community Gamification — Based on my experiences with professional user communities, I am going to make some suggestions for what gamification features I would want in a community today.  Many of features were not available in the community platforms I used in the past and some may not be available on your platform either.  If these features are not available on your platform today, they then become your short list for features and enhancements that need to be added to your site.  As a start, these gamification techniques should satisfy community members’ human needs for reward, status, achievement, recognition, competition, altruism and self-expression.
Robust profile system [self-expression, status, achievement]– First of all, the member profile system needs to be robust with the option to upload a picture and have free form bio descriptive fields.  Most importantly, I should be able to link my profile to my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and possibly use single-sign-on use those services.  The profiles should also keep a history of a user’s activity, badges and points.  Another requirement for the profile system is that members should be able to create virtual friendships or groups within the community site.

Point system [competition, achievement, reward, status] – I definitely want to keep track of points, but I want to be able to customize the calculation of the points.  I don’t know what the ideal point values would be, but I know that I would want to experiment with rewarding members for recent visits, the frequency and duration of their visits, their sharing of content on the site or in their social networks, creating content, participating in discussions or rating content.

Leaderboards [reward, status, achievement, recognition, competition] – Customization is also important in the leaderboards.  I want to have multiple leaderboard; for example, I may want a weekly, monthly and all-time versions of the leaderboard that I will post in different parts of the community site to recognize leaders who are currently contributing the most to the community experience and to others who have been long time contributors.

Badges [status, achievement, reward, recognition, competition, self-expression] – I also want members to receive recognition for their achievements by earning badges that can be displayed on their profiles and announced via their social networks.  As a community manager, I want to be able to create different types of badges including limited edition or special occasion badges.

Content rating [altruism, self-expression] – Content ratings have been around for awhile, and they are an important part of increasing engagement.  I would push the envelop further by making it easier for users to share their content ratings and to search for content based on the rating.
Content sharing [altruism, self-expression] – Members must be able to easily share content they like within their social networks, via bookmarking sites and by email.
Challenges [competition, reward, achievement] – As a phase 2 implementation, I would also want to add some custom challenges to my community to drive additional engagement.  I am not sure what form these would take, but I would start thinking about how to incorporate challenges while implementing the other elements noted above.
Additional Gamification Resources
While writing this post, I came across some additional resources that I want to include as references for readers who want to learn more about gamification:
What is Gamification Really? by Michael Wu, Chief Analytical Scientist for Lithium

The Gamification Backlash – Two Long Term Business Strategies by Michael Wu, Chief Analytical Scientist for Lithium

Gamification Research Network – The Gamification Research Network (GRN) is a communication hub for academic and industry researchers and students interested in studying the use of game elements in non-game contexts. The purpose of the GRN is to further research in the area by providing a repository of relevant people, projects, and publications, and by offering a shared space of discussion and publication.

Gamasutra – The art and business of making games

Semantic Foundry Survey of Gamification and Behaviorial Economics Resources

Gamification is Everywhere — But What Is It?

As a general rule, humans want to interact and compete with others.  I had a conversation last week about “gamification” and how to incorporate it into user communities.  From my previous experience with communities, I am aware of gamifiation and from my use of many popular social sites, I am an active gamification participant.  But I wanted to learn more about the theory behind gamification and game mechanics — and how best to apply it from a community and marketing perspective.

According to Wikipedia, “gamification is the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and engage users.”  Gamification expert Gabe Zichermann says that “gamification is the new loyalty”.  And at the 2011 Games for Change Festival, former Vice President Al Gore said that “games are the new normal”.

The term and use of gamification has literally exploded in the last 15 months.  Before August 2010, the term rarely appeared in the Google search timeline.  Starting in January 2011, it’s popularity has remained very high including 2 big spikes in January and August.

Google Search Timeline for "Gamification"

At the Gamification Summit, research data from M2 Research was discussed that pegs the current gamification market at $100 million — and the market is estimated to grow to $2.8 billion by 2016.  That is why gamification is on the front burner for many organizations and money is flowing into gamification initiatives and projects.

Even without actively playing games, many of the more popular websites and destinations today are already gamified.  And most of us are participating in or paying attention to these public displays of loyalty and success.  For example, Twitter publicly displays the number of tweets, followers and following for each Twitter user.  Personally, I tend to disregard any Twitter user who has less than 500 tweets or followers and use that as my ‘minimum’ for determining if someone is worthy of my trust or who does not get what Twitter is all about.

Tom Humbarger Twitter Stats As Of 10/18/2011

Other public displays of loyalty occur in Facebook which shows the number of likes or fans that a company or brand website has received, and also adds an item in a user’s news stream when they like or follow a company.  Many blogs or newsites display the number of views and shares for each piece of content which helps users to see how popular something is and whether it is worth reading.

Social Media Today Post Stats Shows # of Reads and Shares

Other sites are all about competing with your friends and when you join those sites, you explicitly participate in their game.  Foursquare tracks the number of places I have checked into and displays which badges I have earned.  Every time I check into a venue on Foursquare, a notification is sent to both my Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as to all of my Foursquare friends.  Foursquare also has a leaderboard that tracks my weekly progress against my friends’ progress.

Tom Humbarger Stats on Foursquare

So, why do people play games?  Bunchball, one of the new leaders in the gamification space, pulled together the following graphic in their Gamification 101 whitepaper .  This simple table matches up game mechanics (points, levels, challenges, etc.) with human desires for game play.  Each of the mechanics match a primary human desire, but most of the mechanics also impact other areas of human desire.

Building Blocks of Gamification from Bunchball

In the following video (45 minutes in total, but well worth it), Gabe Zichermann of Gamification Co discusses the history of loyalty systems and how game theory needs to be incorporated into websites to motivate customer engagement and loyalty.

Gabe’s key points include:

  • movitation drives engagement
  • 5 measures of engagement – recency, frequency, duration, virality, ratings
  • fun sells
  • loyalty used to be private, but in a virtual economy loyalty decisions are public
  • game designers have figured out what motivates players
  • Richard Bartles studied MUD player types in the late 1990’s and came up with 4 types of players: killers, achievers, socializers and explorers which demonstrates the need to know your audience
  • the flow zone is the state between anxiety and boredom
  • games cannot be ‘too easy’ as they need friction to be fun
  • people want status, access, power and/or free stuff
  • status, access and power should be preferred by marketers as it is difficult to value virtual rewards
  • serendepity is bad, design is good

Stephen Anderson gave the presentation at SxSW this Spring titled “Long after the Thrill: Sustaining Passionate Users”.  Stephen’s presentation discusses how to get users to stay in love with software applications by making them more gamelike.

And in another recent presentation, Margaret Wallace, CEO of Playmatics, talks about how gamification is changing the world.

In any case, gamification is here to stay.  Anyone less than 40 has grown up playing video games and have become accustomed to “gamelike” interactions.  And as the number of marketing messages continue to inundate the typical customer, using gamification to engage customers and build loyalty will separate the winning companies from the also-rans over the next few years.

To learn more about gamification, here are some additional resources on the topic: