Monday, July 13, 2009

Rewarding community involvement online

Community involvement in an online space can take many different forms. From forum communities to blogging communities; social networks; wikis and IRC. The commonality amongst many of the online communities is that people that associate themselves with the community can place themselves and others in an order within the community based on subjective or objective scales.

Subjectively, people might rank themselves or others within a community based on the number of followers or friends they might have. Others might place themselves on a scale based on the number of contributions they have given. Others still might rank people on a value scale whereby it is not the amount of content given to the community rather the quality of the content they provide.

Objectively, a community might decide to craft the behaviour of its users by providing rewards for users that undertake specific actions. These rewards are clearly defined and people can associate themselves with other reward holders within a community objectively. Community members can also clearly identify eachother and their relative position within a community based on the objective rewards or status symbols received by eachother.

To best understand the variety of rewards and recognition available to members of online communities I have divided the rewards into four distinct categories as illustrated below.

You can see in the chart that the scales of subjective versus objective relate to "who" provides the reward: is it the community owners/moderators (eg reviewer of the month) or the community members themselves (eg Barnstars). To better define the rewards for the community it is probably wise to outline how rewards, if subjective, are chosen.

The periodic versus perpetual scale can benefit community owners in defining how and how often members engage in the community. YouTube, a community that can be somewhat fickle and transient, uses periodic/objective rewards to encourage YouTube-ers to continue to engage consistently weekly and monthly. Likewise, Amazon and eBay encourage consistent participation with their periodic ranking of the most proliferent reviewers. Again, like above, if you rank members over a periodic time-frame it is best to outline how this ranking is conducted and over what timeframes.

This scale has come from researching online and trying to understand the millions of inherent behaviours we all share. I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to define and measure rewards and recognition in online communities. Post me a comment and let me know any other great examples of rewarding communities online.

1 comment:

Helen Mitchell said...

Hi Alex, synchronicity...I was just speaking about how to encourage participation today! I'm going to send your thoughtful blog post on to them.