Community reward systems need more flexibility

I enjoy participating in several on-line communities and the majority of them make use of reward systems to incent the desired behaviors.  They systems are training our behaviors, at least the behaviors of newer users, to reach the desired outcomes, the goals of the community.

Many of these communities work well for a short time but their reward systems become less useful the longer a person is involved with the community.  The reason?  The community software, and the strategic thinking that goes into the solution, often fail to recognize that multiple roles exist within the system, and that the behaviors you want promoted will vary from role to role. 

While some systems have done a particularly good job on the point system, Fuze Digital for one example, none that I have seen have fully solved the problem.

While the software makers work to figure it out, make sure that you have a strategy in place that takes into account these two user types:

New users, content consumers

Your goal is to simplify the new user sign-up process and make sure that users can easily find the answers to their questions.  Remember, if you madke finding their answer simple, new users may be willing to explore, so also make it simple for these user to:

  • Sign-up for updates on related topics, products, solutions, ideas.  You want their permission to engage them with e-mail reminders, reminders that are on topics they are interested in.  You want excuses to reminder them about the community, tobring them back.   Assign points, badges, rewards of some sort to this activity. 
  • To have a mentr assigned.  While this sounds challenging, and it is, a good community manager knows who their power users are and should be able to recommend mentors for given community areas.  Again, assign points for connecting with a mentor (and assign mentors points for participating too).
  • Assign points for responding to questions in your community.  Leverage e-mail, once again, to the new users.  Encourage them to come back and participate..

Even with these reminders, and the motivations of a reward system, many users will come to your community infrequently.  However, motivate, strategically, new users to get involved.

Content creators

Most communities do a good job of rewarding power users, putting rewards in place for producing content.  Remember that your strategy needs to take into account the usefulness of this content, not just the quantity of the content.  While British Researchers have demonstrated that thought leadership is often more affected by quantity over quality, do not risk this in your community.

Some great lessons from my earlier chat with Fuze Digital that I wan you to consider:

  • Your rewards, your points, should be in some way given from the community.  Tie in a rating system that enables members of the community to weigh in on the quality of the content.
  • Community managers should be able to boost the points for content based upon things like marketing value, value to community as a whole, etc..
  • Content should be well segmented to show your overall value to the community by category.  For example, you might be an expert on the French Revolution but a novice with regards to Babylonian history.
  • The frequency with which content is viewed should weigh into the value equation.  For every 5 views  of a post that answers a common support question you will will receive, on average, one fewer phone call to your support center.    That is big.

Content “Experts”

Alright, your influencers are the holy grail, a subject of much research and much debate, in the marketplace today.  How do you find and reward these users?  Well, this will be the subject of another post coming soon.   Stay tuned.


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Filed under: Random thoughts Tagged: Social Strategies, SSC
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