Three Gamification Tactics for Content PublishersBy Brianne Walter

Companies such as BigDoor, Bunchball, and Reputely are giving content publishers the ability to provide authentic and relevant rewards to their users through a game experience.

Rewards such as access to exclusive content, unlocked features, extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, and heightened community status encourage deeper engagement with a site’s content.

When you apply gamification to your website, audiences earn small, incremental rewards for basic actions on your site, such as signing up for an enewsletter, participating in an online demo, downloading a white paper, leaving comments on your most recent blog post, or liking your Facebook page.

The good news is you don’t have to redesign your website to implement game mechanics. There are a number of turnkey solutions to plug a reward system right into your current site design.

Let’s take a look at several different gamification tactics for content publishers.

Gamification Tactic #1: Points

Points are an essential part of any gameplay, and a great starting point for implementing game mechanics into your site. Points allow you to analyze your readers’ activities and make it easy to shape their behavior. They also are the basis for rewarding badges and unlocking new levels.

Experience points: Experience points are assigned to a reader depending upon his activity with your content every time. The more activity, the more experience points you earn. For example, every time you comment, like, retweet or share on the site, you earn points.

Experience points get added each time, but they cannot be exchanged for extrinsic rewards.

For example, Moz assigns experience points to increase user engagement and contribution.

More activity, more points.

Redeemable points: These are points that can be exchanged for virtual rewards or prizes.

Unlike experience points, redeemable points vary depending on how much a user has exchanged his or her points.

Skill points: These are bonus points assigned for a reader’s activity on your site.

Publishers who run a forum assign skill points in addition to experience points.

Treehouse offers skill points for its users, enabling potential employers to quickly access Treehouse users categorized with their skills.

Reputation points: Reputation points are one of the most interesting within a gamified system.

Reputation points are assigned for completing great tasks.

Stack Overflow assigns reputation points to its users for helping others in the community. Make it easy for readers to see and compare their scores against others with leaderboards.

Gamification Tactic #2: Leaderboards

Like the scoreboard at a sporting event, leaderboards are a way to convey to a user where they stand within a site’s game layer. The main purpose of a leaderboard is to motivate users through friendly competition.

Leaderboards designed to show the top global users of your site are called absolute leaderboards. However, this tactic runs the risk of demotivating users to trail the power users of your site.

Design relative leaderboards to show how a user stands when compared to their network of friends.

Site’s with thousands of active readers see the most benefit from relative leaderboards. If you are new to implementing game mechanics on your site, absolute leaderboards are a better choice.

Though points and leaderboards are effective, they lack the ability to offer social rewards for parallel or tangential activities. This is where badges come in.

Gamification Tactic #3: Badges

While points-based gamification can attract new readers to your content, there is another factor of good game design to consider: Badges.

The best way to think about badges is they are fun rewards for rich actions with a social component.

Social sites such as Foursquare are classic examples of organizations using badges to incentivize the checkin. These social rewards motivate users to not only participate, but to keep coming back.

The Huffington Post was one of the first publishers to offer badges to its community members, based on their actions on the site.

While rewarding the winners is essential, it is also a good idea to consider rewarding those further down the leaderboard as well.

Consider the food-ordering site GrubHub, which offers users the choice of one of the four options.

All the options assure rewards of free drinks or desserts. GrubHub even rewards those who don’t win outright with consolation prizes. This feature builds community around what could be a simple point-and-click affair.

Rewarding visitors for engaging with your content keeps them coming back, and more importantly, can turn them into valuable customers.

Brianne Walter

Brianne Walter is a freelance journalist who has been writing about mobile technology, customer relationship management and women’s health for more than a decade.

View all posts by Brianne Walter