Last week, we discussed how the “Like” button on your forum triggers an engagement loop. In the same way that forum communities must make the registration process for new users both obvious and easy, the “Like” experience must be intuitive.
Here are the rules we follow for the “Like” button on our forum communities:
- Make it prominent. The “Like” button must be obvious and easy to use.
- Provide visual feedback. Give feedback to the user after he or she presses or taps the “Like” button, so they know their feedback was recorded. This needs to happen almost instantly even though this can be challenging if the user has a slow connection.
- Reward and notify the recipient. Award reputation points to the content creator who earned the “Like” and send them an email notification with the good news. Chances are that user will come back and pay it forward to someone else, which will spark a new loop.
The “Like” experience is satisfying for everyone involved. It draws people into the conversation because it does not require much effort. Finally, it’s a great tool for both new and old members alike to stay engaged with the community and bring the tribe members closer together.
For any platform with user generated content, a “Like” button generates lots of reward for little effort, which is crucial. Given the ongoing surge in mobile usage among forum communities, it’s more important than ever to give users an easy way to participate. By comparison, writing a reply requires time and patience and brain power, three commodities that are always in short supply.
For one user to acknowledge another with a single click or tap is a simple but powerful act. It’s gratifying for the “Liker” because they get to display gratitude and give their stamp of approval by attaching their name to the post. Likewise, it’s gratifying for the content creator to be recognized in such a way and it encourages him or her to return to the forum to add more content. After all, most people love to garner approval from their peers.
On the Ninja Post platform, “Liking” something starts the feedback loop in the Hooked Model because “Likes” are connected to the user’s reputation score. So when a post gets lots of “Likes”, the reputation of the person who made the post improves. This approach forces users into a symbiotic relationship where users need to be friendly and helpful toward one another to improve their reputations within the community.
The above image shows a popular post and a popover window that displays everyone who “Liked” the post.
When it comes to forums and gamification we prefer to keep things simple. Allowing users to give out reps to other users for adding valuable content is the best example of forum gamification because we want to reward constructive contributions without being too distracting.
At its core, the concept of badges as they are commonly used around the ‘Net today is basic as well: the user achieves some goal, and in turn the user gets a shiny piece of flair for their profile.
Computers are perfect for detecting certain milestones: it’s been one year since you joined the forum; you achieved a rep score of 100 points; or you created a thread with 1,000 views.
But in the context of forum communities, where user-to-user interaction is king, this purely automated approach seems rather boring and difficult to customize.
Besides, there are plenty of other tasks worthy of shiny profile flair that are more nuanced. Does the user go out of his or her way to help newbies? Did the user donate to the latest forum fund raiser? Is the user a leader in the community? Is there an inside joke with the community that we can pay homage to? It is much harder for a computer to create, judge, and reward such feats.
Bearing this complexity in mind, we designed the Ninja Post badge system to accommodate three scenarios:
- Badges automatically generated by the system. For achieving a milestone…
- Badges only created and awarded by Admins. For going above & beyond the call of duty…
- Badges users can award to one another. For impressive accomplishments and perpetuating inside jokes…
Most badge systems stop at the first item on the above list. But our goal is to maximize user engagement and user-to-user interaction. We believe that allowing users to create badges and award to one another is a novel way to make your forum more fun and engaging. See some examples in the chart below.
Email alerts from forum communities come in different shapes and sizes. Or to put it more accurately, email alerts can be short bursts that are sent instantly or they can be a bit longer and contain a summary of hot content from the day, week, or month.
1. Examples of instantaneous alerts are:
- When someone adds a new thread to the community.
- When someone replies to a thread you’re participating in.
2. Examples of summary alerts are:
- A monthly newsletter.
- A daily digest.
Sending too many emails causes users to unsubscribe and disengage completely. If you don’t send enough emails, users will forget your forum exists. It’s necessary to strike the proper balance. We have found that it’s crucial to let users choose how they consume content like email alerts because each user will have a different preference.
In any case, we believe email alerts are opportunities to encourage users to participate. Sometimes users need an extra nudge to share their $0.02. Our goal is to inspire more activity and spicing up the email alerts with an ask or a trigger is an easy but often overlooked way to get users to contribute to the forum.