Good question, Grant. The status level system is a great way to encourage and reward community participation. Many of our customers use Jive's default status level settings. But others replace those with Levels (e.g. 1-5) or other easily-identified status structures. For international communities with members from different cultures, broadly recognizable statuses can be especially important.
Still other customers use status levels to express their community's identity with unique schemes such as color-coded stars, conceptual themes (Rising Star, Super Star, Supernova), or fun terms like Hot Shot or "They call me Encyclopedia". Do consider playful, contextually relevant terms that are less clearly hierarchical to keep participation fun and less competitive.
Think carefully about your community's identity. Is your industry straight-laced or laid back? (If you've got a Fun Stuff link under your Resources, chances are, you've got some theming leeway.) Is it kiwis only? Is it appropriate to tie in to the fish theme going on in the ON-Brand Partners site? How do community members view themselves and how might you tie into those themes?
Thanks for posting a great question -- and have fun designing your community!
We are working on customizing Jive's default ones. We are keen - in the names we use - to recognize the level / amount of participation / contribution while avoiding any suggestion of quality.
FYI: I came across a study of using status levels. They came to this conclusion: "Our results will demonstrate that the incentive mechanism had a long-term effect on contribution levels and generated a second boost in contribution levels when released to a new set of users."
The system the studied was "Beehive" and their levels were as follows: