Badges are becoming commonplace on social media platforms. To enhance levels of engagement, badges ‘gamify’ actions and reward users. This ‘gamification’ of experience in turn, motivates further action. But how are badges useful? Why do they work?
In an initial study, Antin & Churchill (2011) set out to answer these questions. I have briefly summarised their findings below.
Challenges are an effective motivator and consuming goals is an end unto itself. Studies have shown the most effective goals are those just out of comfortable reach.
Providing a framework for users, badges illustrate valued activities of the community.
Badges contribute to the identity of users. They allow others to make ‘reputation assessments’ such as a particular member’s interests or expertise.
Acting as status symbols, badges highlight achievement, acknowledging user accomplishments.
Shared experiences increase collaboration in online communities. Badges connect users to these shared actions, and provide ‘perceptions of similarity between an individual and the group’
In short, badges act as social agents in online communities, assisting users to navigate their virtual identity and relationships. Transferring these agents into research communities may help provide another layer of user engagement.