Would you like to reward your forum or site members while increasing engagement? Try gamification.
Gamification is a word that many people say, and at the same time, many don’t know what it means in the context of their sites.
Today, I will walk you through:
- What gamification is
- The types of gamification that exist
- What type of rewards work
- The ways gamification can backfire
- Plugins you can use to get started today
So, let’s get started.
What is Gamification?
Gamification is the practice of putting game-like features and mechanics into non-game spaces.
These game-like features can take the form of experience points, or hidden treasures on a site that users can redeem for a reward if they find them.
Types of Gamification
One of the best things I’ve seen gamification do for a client is increase engagement on their forum. Because their forum was fairly active, they added incentives around helping other users to remove some of the burdens off of their team of moderators.
This leads to other users stepping up more often and helping each other out, increasing engagement in the process.
Let’s look at the ways you can add gamification to your site and what it can do for you.
When you join LinkedIn, they have a list of steps they want you to take to complete your profile. They know that the more information people put into their profile, the more they engage with the site.
On my decade-old profile below, LinkedIn suggests it is of intermediate quality and prompts me to add the “University I attended” to complete my profile.
This suggestion is supposed to trigger the completionist inside and compel me to finish my profile. By placing the progress bar there, suddenly, completing my profile turns into a game. Most people will want to complete their profile to fill that green and blue progress bar.
You can implement this, too, with the user profiles on your site or with any other steps that you want users to take.
I’ve seen this used on forums regularly, where users get badges for completing specific actions, like making 100 posts. Usually, they start with a reasonably low barrier to entry, like make your first post. Then they ramp up a bit in difficulty to acquire, which we’ll talk about more in a bit.
Treasures are items that are hard to find and provide a surprise reward. I use them in some of the ALT tags on my images. Using the descriptive text that makes the site accessible, you’ll find invites to free coaching calls if you can point me to the image that had the invitation on it.
Once or twice a year, I have someone send me an email about the image and provide a free call to help someone run their business better.
Some sites will use the Konami code, like Google Stadia. It’s a little reward for users that know what the Konami code is. The first users that find it always feel like they are inside a small club.
Another way to gamify interactions on your site is to ask users to fill out quizzes. Chapters Indigo in Canada offers me more points on my membership card if I rate books. I can gain up to 10 points a day at one point per book rating. I can redeem these points for actual cash to spend on books once I’ve accumulated enough of them.
Other companies, like the Envato owned ThemeForest, offer badges as rewards. ThemeForest provides a whole page explaining what each badge means. Authors and community members work hard to earn these badges, which all encourage good community participation.
Over on the Discourse forum, Jeff Atwood has a great break down of what type of badges you should use. He proposes providing three levels of badges to earn.
These are learn-the-system badges which are rewards for performing basic functions. Most bronze badges should be able to be completed in the first day or two of being on your site.
These badges are for users that keep coming back over an extended length of time. Because of this, they may take a few weeks or months to earn.
These items are for users that are around for months to years. At StackOverflow, they have a 100 days in a row badge you can earn for answering a question 100 days in a row. You have to be dedicated if you want to receive this badge. Jeff argues that these types of badges are crucial to the long term viability of your community.
…Long term participation is critical to the survival of any community, regardless of how specialized it may be.” – Jeff Atwood
What Rewards Work?
One of the questions you have to answer is what rewards will work for your users and your content. When Dropbox first came out, I remember the mad rush that traveled among nerds to share their code with as many friends as possible. The incentive was that you got extra storage space for each friend that signed up. I remember telling friends to sign up, even though they had no idea what they’d use Dropbox for.
Clearly, this was a good way for Dropbox to get more users signed up to their platform. It became the de facto file sharing and syncing service for those that didn’t have corporate setups. But, again, this strategy may not be a fit for your particular line of business.
Ways Gamification Can Backfire
The first way that gamification can backfire is that you use it to prop up lousy content. Before you look at adding any gamification to your site, you should have compelling content that members are already engaging with.
If your content isn’t compelling, no amount of gamification will make users want to interact with it. Instead, it will undoubtedly turn them off.”
Second, gamification needs to add a bit of fun to your site. The key to this is understanding that not every interaction can be about the game. If everything is about earning points, and users are getting bombarded with emails and notifications about their status, it’s only going to turn users off.
An excellent article at Fast Company talks about the dark side of gamification, specifically in the workplace. In the workplace, you can turn gamification into an electronic whip that makes users feel punished if they’re not moving forward all the time. Remember, gamification should be an enhancement to your already great community and content, not something that drives the whole thing.
One final way that gamification can backfire is when it clutters your site with useless content. There is an excellent thread on the usefulness of badges on the Discourse discussion group. In short, it reveals how badges can actually ruin the experience for other users. For example, some people will like every post on a thread or mention a bunch of other users just to get a badge.
These types of actions are going to reduce the value of your community. Make sure you have a good set of moderators to step in and stop this behavior.
Gamification for WooCommerce Sites
Now that we have a decent understanding of what gamification of your site means, let’s look at some of the ways you can add these features to your WooCommerce site.
WooCommerce Points and Rewards
First up is WooCommerce Points and Rewards. This plugin allows members to earn points that they can redeem on your site for rewards or discounts on products. You can set the maximum discount that a user can have on a single purchase and also manually reward points to members that you feel deserve it.
GamiPress is a full featured plugin to add game-like features to your site. It manages points, rewards, and even allows you to show users their rank against other users.
Ultimate Member is a bit more than a plugin that only adds game-like features to your site; it’s a full membership solution that works with WooCommerce. It also provides integration with myCRED, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
You can use the extensions that are available for Ultimate Member, like Profile Completeness, to build a great membership site that has lots of game-like features.
LearnPress is another plugin that doesn’t simply add game features to your site. It’s a full Learning Management System (LMS) with game features in it. LearnPress works with bbPress and BuddyPress.
If you use their paid add-ons, then you can integrate LearnPress with WooCommerce and myCRED. Paid add-ons also allow you to award certificates for course completion and build a commission system for your learners.
The last two plugins we’ve talked about have both said they integrate with myCRED, which is an excellent point management system for your WordPress site. myCRED works with WooCommerce, BuddyPress, AffiliateWP, and many other existing WordPress tools.
Via the premium add-ons, myCRED will let you build different games that your users can participate in, like having a lottery, among many other things!
Is Gamification Right for Your Site?
If you’ve heard about gamification and wondered what it was, then you should be on sound footing now to add some game-like features to your site. The essential points to remember are that game-like features won’t save a website that doesn’t have compelling content. Without content your users want, no amount of gamification will entice users to use your content.
Once you have content that your users want, adding game features can help increase engagement. With the right enticements, you can build a community that’s thriving for the long-term.