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Can Email Make Online Community Gamification Fun?

Written by Heather Arkwright | on September 27, 2016 at 9:00 AM

How to make online community gamification fun

Watching the adrenaline-inducing Olympics inspired me to think about ways community professionals can refine our own systems for awarding our community users. How can we make gamification more authentic and fun?

At this point, community professionals are all pretty well-versed in the value of enacting gamification campaigns for our communities. But another crucial part of gamification -- one that’s often overlooked -- is alerting members via email.

Assuming members will log in regularly and check their profiles for new badges, leaderboard status and other activity updates, is putting a lot of faith into busy community members (which, for some communities, works out just fine!). However, for less mature communities, there are benefits to automatic email campaigns to notify members of their newest achievements.

Build Hype

Targeted campaigns will create buzz and build hype around member accomplishments -- awarding badges can stir up curiosity and the right to brag. The benefits of healthy and friendly competition in a community can not be overstated (à la gamification/shamification). Wouldn’t you be more likely to log in and check out the community if you received an email from the community manager awarding you the “Rising Star” profile badge?

I recently helped a community management client implement email notifications and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of emails I received from members with tons of questions:

  • “What’s a Rising Star badge and how did I get it?”
  • “How can I move up to the next level to get a higher badge?”
  • “What actions count the most in terms of engagement so that I can more quickly boost my status?”

This gave me the opportunity to let them know we had new gamification options in the works and to keep up the good work, creating a sense of mystery and encouraging continued engagement.

Boost Community Logins

As a community manager, a crucial part of my job is to pull monthly engagement reports to assess the health and growth of the community I manage. A major benefit of letting members know about a cool new ribbon or badge on their profile, is that it will inevitably lead to increased logins – and more importantly, unique logins.

There are plenty of options for gamification campaigns. If you send new community members a “New Member” badge, it can pique their interest enough to log in for the first time. This leads to accepting your terms and conditions, browsing discussions, thinking, “Hey, this place is neat!” and even start contributing.

On the flip side, for members that used to be active in the past but haven’t been engaging lately, it’s a simple, easy way to remind them of all the great contributions they used to make and reward them.

It’s all about motivating members to get involved again by making the community top-of-mind.

Prompt Members to Update Profiles

Once members are logged in, they will likely go to their profiles to check out their new swag. (Tip: make this even easier for them with a direct link to their profile in the email message!) This is also a perfect opportunity to prompt them to update their profile information or upload a profile photo if they haven’t done so yet. I found that the members of my community were incredibly motivated to update their profiles because they now had a fancy new badge that they wanted to show off, plus were utilizing the member directory a lot more to check out what badges their friends/peers within the community had been awarded.

Encouraging members to log in and complete their profiles helps the community’s overall engagement and member experience. Since they logged in and are active, they’re more likely to start contributing within the community -- and people are more likely to reply to someone with a profile picture. But their profile and engagement also helps your organization, by giving you more data to learn from.

Bonus Benefit: I got many responses requesting the badge/ribbon file so members could upload it to their LinkedIn profiles, include it in their email signatures, etc. This was a completely unforeseen benefit and an additional way to market the community.

Tips for Gamification Email Templates:

Like all effective emails, make sure you customize, personalize, and prioritize.

  • Customize the message you send by making it relevant to your community and organization.
  • Personalize the email by speaking in first person (as the community manager) and specifically thanking the member for their engagement and contribution.
  • Prioritize the actions you want them to take after reading the message.

For me, I wanted my members to log in, check out their profile, and see their new badge, so I made my call to action a simple “See Your Badge Now!” that linked to their profile. Ultimately, this led to an uptick in new member engagement.

Keep it short and sweet, but be specific. Simply telling members that they have been awarded a “Gold Level Contributor Badge” will mean little to them if they have no idea why that’s important or what they’ve done to earn it. Explain what the badge means: their great discussion contributions, helpful resource uploads, for providing excellent advice to their peers. This will resonate and mean a lot more to them.

Hopefully your community already has a meaningful gamification campaign and have some really wonderful badges and ribbons designed. And, if so, setting up email notifications is simply the last step in the full process.

We can’t wait to hear how your members respond – share your feedback below!

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