Badges and what's best to reward

Userlevel 7
Badge +2

I’ve been building out our gamification approach for badges, ranks and points (doing it all in a spreadsheet first before I bring it into our community implementation) and have read all the content on best practices in the KB and various articles. Frankly feeling a bit confused overall about when to use one vs. the other and how the two work together.

But I’ve narrowed it down to this: badges are best to recognize expertise and to support what we want to achieve in the community, while rank is best to reward and stimulate engagement.

With that in mind, I’ve noticed some contradictions in content and wanted to get some input:

  1. In this thread  @Frank suggests rewarding badges for things like creating topics, answering questions, and in this one it says to hand out to community members when they reach certain levels of activity in the community (and a reply in that thread from @Julian says to break into general engagement and top user badges (e.g. “using a badge for posting your first reply or for starting 3 topics OR “posting 20 replies to a question which have been marked as a correct answer”) while in this article it says to use badges to reward and show expertise and that activities aren’t as meaningful. As such I’m considering leaving out badges that are simply based on thresholds (e.g. posting 3 topics) and instead emphasizing particular actions in specific categories (e.g. posting first topic and 3 replies in a particular category)
  2. I’ve seen a mix of approaches across some of the inSided customers -- with a lot using predicable tiers of badges (e.g. 1, 5, 10. 25, 50 topics) which according to this article should be what we reward with a rank rather than a badge as outlined in this best practices article

Curious what’s the what’s the best practice here -- badges or ranks? Can someone provide some more clarity on one vs. the other?

4 replies

Userlevel 6
Badge +4

First: I don’t think there’s a correct answer and (even though I hate this phrase) “it depends”.

Both the ranks and badges can be used to reward quantity, quality or both. If you have a new community, you might want to follow the quantity approach in order to motivate more users to contribute more in the early phase. If your community is more mature and you already have a decent amount of daily activity, you might focus more on rewarding outstanding engagement and activity instead.

I was part in creating ranking structures and badge concepts that covered all approaches. In general - without taking a look at your community strategy - my starting point would be this list (and then I’d challenge it by taking a closer look at the goals and objectives at hand):

  • I use ranks to show what kind of “career” a user can have in the community, meaning they start as a newbie and can end up being a CEO / General / Chief Surgeon / you name it
  • I use badges to award extraordinary engagement / achievements, no matter which rank they own


Userlevel 7
Badge +1

Thanks for sharing this here, this is a really interesting topic and I am happy to share my perspective on this! While all of these features allow you to reward users based on activity, opinions can sometimes differ as to which feature should be used for what. I have seen many different implementations of these features and still discover new opportunities, so also my own standpoint might shift from time to time.

I personally recommend to use Ranks for all users, purely based on activity. This is the most common gamification feature and implemented across at least >90% of our communities. It mostly helps with activating new / returning users but also is a sign of expertise when you’re a top user.

Badges are sometimes used in the same way, however I am not a huge fan of that (at least if you are also using ranks): I’ve seen communities where each user get’s a Badge for their first topic or reply, resulting in virtually all users owning this Badge. This in turn undermines the “value” of all Badges and makes achieving Badges less attractive.

As Badges can be limited to specific categories and ranks cannot, I would focus more on rewarding expertise with Badges. Also, Badges can now be rewarded manually and even be connected to external data via api, which opens more different use cases than ranks. This together can form a very nice addition to your ranking structure.

When we speak about threshholds for activity-based Badges, I would just look out to not have a higher risk of users receiving a Badge and a rank at the same time (e.g. a Badge with not category limitation that has the same activity levels as a rank). This confuses users, especially when you send a message for each.

As a note to your second point: I would personally not choose to have multiple levels of the same Badge. As there is no logic to remove a “lower” Badge after receiving a new one, this would increase the list of Badges over time and make things messy. However I know that there is a community out there planning on implementing some logic with custom CSS to hide these lower Badges.

I hope that this helped you a bit, I see that Yoeri shared your document with me so I will go have a look and provide a bit more concrete feedback. :)

Userlevel 7
Badge +3

TL;DR - I think of Ranks as more persona based: what’s the one bucket they fit into that others might benefit from knowing? And I’m  using badges to reinforce the behaviors we want from our users within specific areas of expertise (groups in our case, community categories for most others).

Here’s how we’re looking at them 2 months into being live: 

  • Badges based on “expertise” using activity in a specific location as a proxy. We use Groups and have badges based on driving new topics, replies, and answers for those groups. 
  • Ranks based on a mix of persona and the career example @bjoern_schulze. The persona’s we’re calling out are people at a certain company / type of company like our staff, Google staff (we’re a community for Google Cloud customers), and partners who are sponsoring and supporting our community. We also have a “new to the community” rank based that they have for the first 2 weeks (set based on “age” of the profile) before the average user moves to “community member.” More super user type levels are planned. 

For badges, we have a messy approach that @Julian described: multiple tiers of the same badge, the ability to earn that same badge for a specific group/expertise. The result is a very large list of badges that can make a profile somewhat messy, yes, but also gives us a very long “tail” of these badges rewarding activity in group. The many badges allow us to give positive reinforcement for the types of activities we want to drive, and identify/recognize which users are most active in each group. I’m not too worried about the messiness, as it’s mostly staff earning badges across many groups, whereas our users will likely earn them in 1-2 groups and 5-10 badges max. 

As I’ve had it told to me by a few CSMs, Ranks is slated for an upgrade to allow configuration based on points, rather than X topics, replies, etc. That even more fits with the “career” approach Bjoern described: a way to move super users up the ladder with recognition based on total contributions, rather than locking it into X topics, replies, answers, etc. 

Userlevel 7
Badge +2

Thanks @bjoern_schulze @Julian and @ddpancratz helpful inputs. We’re still working to see where we land but this is super generous of each of you to share your perspectives and pros/cons.

@Julian you have access to the actual working draft of the spreadsheet I’m using to plan this out. Feel free to DM me any thoughts.