How Gamification Increases Developer Community Engagement  

Incentivizing developers to participate creates a sense of belonging.

To build a successful developer community, you need your target users to engage, contribute proactively, and create a meaningful dialogue that builds an online entity truly worthy of the title community.

People do like to contribute and appreciate recognition. And for developers in particular, celebrating their knowledge is a huge motivator. Four out of 5 developers feel a sense of kinship or connection to other developers — even when a developer works for a competitor (Evans Data Corp. 2017).

In the world of knowledge-sharing communities, developer relations and community managers can motivate developers through gamification — motivating employees to participate in your community through reward opportunities, such as earning:

  • Points, badges, and ranks.
  • Enhanced permissions and access.
  • Credit to spend at their company store.
  • Donations in their name to a favorite charity.

But your goal shouldn’t be encouraging short-term engagement. Instead, the recognition should be geared toward rewarding users who behave and participate as positive role models, rather than incentivizing actions not yet taken.

Community managers should tap into the altruistic nature of members and mete out recognition with an eye on the long-term success of their developer community.

“In open, public communities, up to 90% of users who visit the site may just passively consume content, while about 10% are active, and perhaps 1% (or less) will become super contributors,’’ says Mark Hopkins, AnswerHub’s director of customer success. “Gamification targets this 10% of the population with the goal to shift them up the participation curve.”

Hopkins helped start Lenovo’s developer community of more than 1 million members and led its growth for the first seven years.

How Well Does Gamification Work?

The Community Roundtable’s The State of Community Management 2017 research shows that 47% of best-in-class communities use gamification as compared to 21% of communities overall.

Gamification for developer communities should be tied to goals such as growing engagement in product development, reducing one-to-one customer support needs, and nurturing product champions. Done correctly, gamification in your developer community promotes solid, credible answers and fresh ideas, helping to streamline the time it takes for developers to find what they are looking for.

Managing Gamification Doesn’t Have to Be Tedious

Determining reputation scores, awarding badges, and identifying users who deserve increased permissions should not be a tedious job. Your developer community needs automation components that manage these processes or alerts to take action. Ultimately, managing your community shouldn’t involve daily heavy lifting.

Automated reputation score calculations are particularly helpful as they reward community participants who provide relevant and accurate answers to questions. Their solutions and responses will automatically rise to the top of the answer thread, inspiring others to achieve similar status within the community.

Gamification in Action

The best way to get started is by exploring how other companies use gamification in their online communities.

Karolina Linda runs three recognition programs within the Dynatrace Community:

  • High-five award. A special shout out in the Open Q&A that comes with extra reputation points).
  • Member of the Month. Winners from two categories — customer/partner and employee — receive $50 to spend in the Dynatrace store.
  • Community Rock Star. An award that’s given out annually at the Dynatrace Perform conference.

“We sometimes see members compete to win Member of the Month. And, the neat thing is that their increased activity doesn’t end after they win the award,” Linda says. “I just love the spirit of the community.”

That enthusiasm decreases costs in a subtle, but important way. “I don’t have to spend time looking for someone to answer each IT specialist question. The community has evolved to the point where someone — a Dynatrace employee or customer — will jump in and answer the question,” Linda says.

And it’s a lot of questions. In the past year, Dynatrace’s 26,000 developer community members answered 4,400 questions and service tickets have decreased 10%.

Badges for Every Type of Contribution

Gamification is built into the AnswerHub platform, offering community managers multiple ways to award their users. In addition to reputation points and expert status, moderators can issue badges that encourage community participation like:

  • The Thinker. Contributes an idea with a lot of views.
  • Civic Duty. Upvoted on quality of answers multiple times.
  • Bright Idea. Contributes an idea with several upvotes. encourage community participation.

AnswerHub also offers badges that encourage thoughtful engagement, including:

  • Organizer. Received their first retag.
  • Good Question. Upvoted for a question multiple times.

Rewarding community members for providing accepted answers that are upvoted (i.e., the Alex Trebek) can decrease the number of tickets submitted — and also helps new users find participants who share the most knowledge.

Community managers can choose which badges to offer and the individual criteria for earning them.

Customizing Gamification Features

AnswerHub lets community managers adjust how many reputation points various activities are worth. Managers can select the number of points earned for answering a question correctly, accepting an answer (good for encouraging participating from internal members), and receiving and giving a vote. Community managers can also assign negative values for answers that are downvoted, downvoting (to discourage excess downvoting), and reported posts.

Promoting Engagement with Gamification

When you have a question about how a tool or solution works, would you rather control + F your way through pages of documentation or plug in your question to find an Alex Trebek who provides a clear, visionary answer?

Gamification makes your community attractive and engaging, increases site visits, encourages Q&A, supports ideation, and help keep customer service tickets at manageable levels.

Automated gamification is just one of many tools in a community manager’s toolbox — but it’s an important one.

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