Building a user community is one of the most valuable things a business can do for both its brand and its customers. When you bring customers together to learn from each other, everyone wins. Creating an online community space is one thing, but actually getting people to show up and use it regularly is the harder part. Badges are a powerful tool for increasing engagement in an online community.
What are badges and how do they work in user communities?
Digital badges are a visual description of people's interests or level of expertise within an owned support community. For example, Yelp Elite badges for power reviewers. They identify the most active or knowledgeable users in a community, which can help streamline the conversations.
Badges give community managers a way to recognize and reward members for their contributions. They give invested community members something to aspire to, and thus an extra incentive to stay engaged. By creating different types of badges to signify users’ levels of expertise, participation, and more, they can provide additional context to users about the type of help particular members are able and willing to provide, as well as the validity of their responses.
Badges are a versatile tool. You can use them to identify company employees and create badges for official positions like community moderators. You can also create badges to bestow titles like “Conversation Starter” or “Verified Problem Solver,” based on specific ways a member commonly contributes, or to recognize expertise or experience with a particular product or subject matter. You have a lot of room to figure out what badges will work the best for your community.
4 benefits of using badges in your community
Badges provide real value to both your brand and the members of your community in four main ways.
They help you recognize your most engaged customers.
Whether a community fizzles out or thrives depends entirely on how active its members are. Most communities have a few main members who keep the conversations going and ensure others get what they need from the group. These members are your community’s greatest asset, and it’s important to give them recognition in the community.
Badges are a great tool for providing this kind of recognition. They make it easier for other users to spot the people who are most helpful, knowledgeable, and consistently responsive.
They increase customer engagement.
For your more competitive users, having a goal to work toward can serve as a powerful incentive. When community members start to see that some of their peers have badges, it alerts them to the possibilities of earning one (or more) themselves. For some, it will become an aspirational milestone, something that drives them to participate more—either out of competition with others or their own internal motivation to be a star helper.
When a user earns a badge, it immediately gives them more of a reason to stay invested in the community. It helps give them a sense of ownership within the community, and provides a clearer sense of their role and relationship to other users. Once they’re officially recognized as the resident expert on solving a certain type of problem, they won’t want to let people down.
Having visible confirmation that they’re a valuable part of the community gives people a reason to come back again and again. Badges create “stickiness”—an overall measure of how much time visitors spend on a website and make repeat visits to it—which gives your community more staying power. Members with badges have that much more of a reason to stay active and continue adding value to the community.
They provide a way to reward community members.
By bestowing badges onto customers who participate the most often and in the most valuable ways, you provide positive reinforcement for their actions and incentivize them to do more. A badge is a relatively easy way to show your appreciation for the work active members are putting into your community, and the value they’re providing to both you and other members.
People awarded with badges get to feel the pride of being recognized for their contributions. They know their peers will also see the status they’ve earned, raising their profile in the community. By showing community members that you see them, you earn their goodwill and give them more reason to keep showing up.
The rewards can go beyond the satisfaction of helping others. They include gaining valuable skills badge-holders can add to their resumes, particularly those who want to expand their careers in support or software.
They help scale support even further.
One of the greatest benefits of a customer community is that your customers can help each other. Badges can help scale these efforts even further. The Verified Problem Solver—or whatever label you choose—helps take work off the customer support team’s plate. As a customer themselves, they may be even better equipped to help out other community members than your team, thanks to their real-world experience or unique insight into specific verticals or use cases. While employees have in-house expertise and best-case scenarios about how the product should function, customers know what it’s like to work with the product every day.
Signaling types and levels of expertise is especially important when a company depends on the community to help scale support. Seeing a badge next to someone’s name adds that layer of trust and credibility, assuring other community members that they are talking to someone legit. Whether a badge identifies them as an employee of the company, one of its most respected members, or a speaker at an upcoming event, it quickly conveys expertise. Community members will feel more comfortable taking that person’s advice, which makes them less likely to feel unsure and initiate a customer service interaction to handle the issue. These efforts free support agents for issues that require 1:1 support while customers enjoy satisfactory resolution. Cultivating a high-functioning community can ultimately lead to a better agent experience and customer experience.
A simple way to give recognition and foster engagement in a community
Badges are a simple feature you can employ to great effect, in the right community software solution. They provide community members with extra information about who their fellow members are and the skills and expertise they bring to the table. They provide the people doing the most to make your community valuable with the recognition they deserve, and they motivate members to keep showing up and participating for the chance to earn the clout that badges bestow.