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Social Edge Consulting

2 Posts authored by: Oliver Beirne

On occasion, you may come across a user(s) in your community who look to be 'gaming' the system by completing activities only to gain points. This can take the form of


  • Liking everything in sight
  • Following a ton of people
  • Creating a secret (or so they think) group and creating/participating on their own or with others


Before removing the user(s) from the gamification system, here are some recommended steps:


  • Have a conversation with the person(s) involved and find out why they are doing what they are doing
    • It may be because there is no real use case to fulfil the user's needs so they are using the system in a casual way. Try to redirect that energy into productive activity
    • They may not understand what they are doing is wrong or even think that is what they should be doing ('you're supposed to collect points right?)'
    • They don't understand the impact it will have on their experience in the community. Following 500 people is going to seriously clutter your Following stream, rendering it almost useless in busy communities.
  • Look to see if there is a use case waiting to be developed.
    • Is this person representative of a dept/team/region that has not been developed yet? Could this be an opportunity to create some advocates and use case owners? Where is the opportunity in this situation?
  • Ask the person(s) to stop because people shouldn't be gaming, so monitor the person(s) involved to see if the situation has stopped/is continuing.
  • Take action - if all the above fails because, well people are people, and it's still happening then deactivate the user from accumulating any further points. It's not fair to your other members and distorts the value of achievements.
    • If you can remove the points gamed by the user(s) then do so and let them know why.
    • Bring them back in after a time. Don't blacklist a user forever after, everyone deserves a second chance.
    • Never name and shame or give some kind of badge to identify the user as a cheat. Like minus points, this is negative reinforcement and overkill to be honest, removing points and making a user inactive is punishment enough.


As mentioned earlier, take the time to see if there an opportunity to score a win when someone games your community. They are playing the game, almost the way you want them to.


If you have any advice, experiences to share on how you've dealt with users gaming your system or any feedback on this blog then please leave a comment below.



Recently I was fortunate enough to be invited onto a podcast with the Digital & Social Media Leadership Forum to talk about the impact of gamification in online communities. You can access the 15 minute recording here.


Through different client engagements with Social Edge, I've come across a variety of perceptions on gamification. I truly feel that gamification can support and amplify the success of online communities, and I thought the podcast would be a great opportunity to share my experiences. Equally important is the flip side of misunderstandings/common pitfalls of the field. When thinking about the term itself, gamification comes across to some as non-work related or not important activity. In reality the term refers to game-like mechanics being used to teach and engage users through mechanics like instant feedback and transparency to drive desired  strategic behaviours.


Designers of social software systems have long employed aspects of gamification to encourage repeat usage, increase contributions, and establish user reputations. For anyone that has ever played a game, from freeze-tag to Candy Crush, you will be familiar with the idea of being rewarded. Things like points, extra lives, upgrades or successfully freeze-tagging all your friends, all let you know you are playing the game correctly. As you progress you become more proficient at games, leveling up until you eventually complete the game (or until no one wants to play freeze tag with you anymore). All the while, the game tracks and reports what you are doing well, what you have completed, what you still have to complete and so on.


When implemented successfully gamification can help to:


  • Teach - onboarding users into new systems and ways of working reduces training time and increases time to valuable participation
  • Motivate & Engage - tapping into intrinsic & extrinsic motivators results in increased participation and repeating activities/user retention
  • Reward - successfully understanding your audience and rewarding them in ways they care about creates engagement and ownership in the community
  • Measure - understanding the objectives for your community


Turning on badges, points and levels is only the beginning; gamification will not become self aware (that's pretty much Skynet and that scenario did not end well for anyone). So diligence on reviewing strategy is definitely required, and key to success. Also, look at the elements that you believe will make your community valuable to your organization; think about how can you get your audience to that definition of success as quickly as possible. Then think about the techniques available with gamification and how it can help you engage your audience so both you and your audience can ultimately succeed.


Gamification should be a tool to measure and evaluate the success of online communities. The next time you think your audience isn't familiar with gamification, just remember we've been gaming all of our lives and they just need the right environment to get back in the game.