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Valued Contributor

The Great Badge Debate

Ok, that may be a little extreme. But here's my question:

I'm wondering how other communities have approached their badging structure. There are multiple schools of thought around it according to the discussions I've had and I'm debating which way to go with our own community.

A bit of a summary of some comments I've heard - 

Badges are primarily for onboarding activities - by granting a predictable set of badges and showing what's next, you encourage the repeat behavior. 

Badges are for collectors - I always liked the Stamp Collector analogy that while they trigger extrinsic motivations by providing a 'reward' event, they also tap the intrinsic motivation of the end user collecting allllllll the things and thereby feeding their needs for accomplishments. 

Only showing the latest badge set - some communities only want to show the last badge achieved because, as i heard it put once, if you have a university degree, it's assumed you graduated kindergarten.

Don't want to show too many badges - the rationale I've heard here is that the page can start to look messy. (hence only showing the latest one achieved)

So I guess my question is largely around any other various perspectives there might be on this. How do you manage badging in your community? Have you engaged your users for feedback? Or maybe done some deeper analysis on the impacts of your badging system? Is there a variant by audience type? consumer vs b2b or enthusiast vs support?

I have my own ideas of course, but am curious where the masses are sitting these days, if there's any consensus. 


8 Replies 8
Honored Contributor

I think it's always going to be hard to understand the motivations of different types of members unless you do some interview research with them. However, I think its true that badges are only going to motivate some users, and that they are generally more useful at the start of a community member's lifecycle to encourage/reinforce certain behaviour. 


Valued Contributor

@JasonHill  thanks for the reply. Eventually I’ll be looking to do exactly that - user feedback. While data can’t tell the whole picture, together with qualitative feedback I would hope to see some directional indications at least.  

Is that how you are approaching on the Workshop community - onboarding mainly? Curious as well, how much do you stagger them with rank? How much is assigned badges vs automated? 

Honored Contributor

Here's a couple of examples of users with plenty of badges so you can see ours @Kerri


We certainly have badges that are very hard to obtain so would only be applicable to members that have made a significant and long-standing contribution to the community, but I seriously doubt whether such people are motivated by a badge. The effort vs reward is obviously massively stacked in favour of the former.  That said, there might be some users that feel that badges help prove their standing in the community (the need for autonomy/status/exposure) can be a powerful motivator. 


In comparison, we are generous (perhaps overly so!) with the early badges we dish out because yes, I believe they are more useful for onboarding to encourage and reinforce behaviour. They are an initial novelty. 


Our badges are entirely predictable (eg 5, 10, 20, 50 etc) but our ranks are deliberately unpredictable so users get some surprise and delight when they rank up, aren't tempted to game the system, and that rank ups don't coincide with a new badge.   


Hope that helps.





Frequent Advisor

Hi @Kerri 

We are struggling a bit with badges - ours are fairly vanilla and uninspiring.  We have an item on our roadmap to look deeper into it so I'll be interested in what you find out.  

One site I do like is the Telstra (Australia) community.  Here's a link to a random user with quite a few badges:

I don't get the number thing (you know, 1 like, 3 likes, 5 likes, 10 likes). I don't see the point of having them all -- just the highest one! Telstra have done away with the number -- they have given each badge a catchy (sometimes colloquial) name with a matching image. 

Personally, I don't care if I have the 1 like, 3 likes and 5 likes badges if I've also got the 10 likes badge ... BUT ... I would be happy to have four different badges because the redundancy is hidden.

Anyway, that's my two cents worth ... I'll be following this thread with interest.

Regards, Paul Khoros CertificationsIf my answer helps, please accept it as the solution or give it the thumbs up!
Honored Contributor

@Kerri I think you will find that all three approaches you have mentioned motivate slightly different users. Early badges are easy and help embed behaviour, harder to achieve badges are there for the collector types and keeping it tidy by only showing one of each type is a more stylistic approach that makes it easier to view.

@PAULEM as one of the team who created and put those badges in place for Telstra, thanks for the callout 😄

There are also hidden badges in there that are awarded as a surprise and, due to having a really lovely but slightly cranky superuser, there is a badge that is only earned by a single user "Stinkin' Badge" due to his comment that he doesn't need any stinking badges when we discussed with that group ahead of launch. Turns out, there was one badge he really liked getting 😄

We originally had the tracks 1,5,10,25,etc and found them uninspiring. Giving each badge a unique name keeps it fresh but realistically I think that Khoros needs to invest more into making the badges (and other gamification) more customisable, eg;

Honored Contributor

Here's what we have done (B2B community, publicly-available content - 

(TL;DR: Started with few badges, rolled out more over time based on reaction to initial badges. Variety of badge types to appeal to a variety of people.)


  • We started with very few badges - just a "Founding member" badge that was granted to people who joined during our first month. 
  • We badge for certifications/trainings (which happen outside of the community). This is done via a manual upload 2x/week but will (hopefully!) be done in an automated way once we build a custom Khoros-Salesforce integration. Our members really like having their formal training-based expertise recognized like this (based on the number of support emails we get when people DON'T get badged!). We also encourage our members to indicate their certifications on LinkedIn and to link to their community profile as proof of certification (here is a post about that). I'm not sure how many people actually link to their community profile on LinkedIn, but the email we send a week after the training that encourages them to do this gets about 60% open rate / 20% overall click rate.
  • We created our first automated badge (based purely on activity in the community) after the community was about 18 months old, and the feedback was so positive that we decided to dive in further to the "automated" badge land (which we had previously resisted a bit, wanting to make sure our badges were meaningful and not just a "sea of badges"). Read the comment thread here to see why we were so encouraged.
  • We rolled out our "activity" (post / kudos / solutions) badges slowly, over a few months, to give us more things to announce / email about. Here's an example announcement of one of our new badge sets.
  • We now have a variety of types of badges to appeal to different people / encourage different kinds of behavior:
    • Onboarding: "Lift-off" badge is granted after you post, kudo, and log in > 1 time
    • Certification / training
    • Activity badges: for posts, kudos, solutions at different levels (These are both for new members and moderately-active users. We also added new super-high levels when our super users asked us to! They like having things to strive for :))
    • Awards: for our members of the month, VIPs, & other special awards
  • We maintain a running list of our badges, manually (here)

Phew! This list got long! Thanks for reading, and I hope it's helpful!

Valued Contributor

Thanks all for the super helpful insights - I find it fascinating that everyone has taken slightly different approaches/has different personal feelings about how things might work. But it makes me happy to because it suggests to me that communities are doing the right things for their end users and trying to understand how to motivate them best. 

So after all that great feedback, I'll share my thoughts on it. Only slightly validated, and largely anecdotal, but here's my take for the time being (to possibly proven wrong once I get a chance to do some real analysis): 

Largely my thinking is in line with @DanK in the sense that different approaches will motivate different types of users. Onboarding badges are important to reinforce initial behaviours (but I'm hoping to do a bit more of a nurture approach with the email copy to drive engagement at some point). 

I go back and forth on the numbering thing. If I'm a coin collector, and I have a new penny, do I get less satisfaction from adding my 50th penny? Depends how unique the penny is. For instance, the 50th accepted solution badge has only been granted to six users, that's a pretty special badge i think. If I get my 100th AS badge, I don't think that diminishes the value of the 50th one if it's still unique.

I see badges as inspiration to the user who earns them - not so much as a reputation aspect, unless perhaps they are included in the users hover card. I would be curious to see page stats on the badges page as I have my suspicions very few users look at what others have achieved. 

So IMHO, if there are 5 pages of badges, what does it really matter? If it's driving the users behaviour to achieve the next level (which I also think is a helpful motivator - understanding how far i have to go), then maybe it's okay that it's a crowded space? 

All this to say, I don't have a firm stance, but I think that's okay too. I'm willing to learn from my users what they'll be motivated by. So to start with, we've gone with a set of 23 or so badges, 20 auto-assigned, 3 role based. And we'll see where we go from here!  Really helpful discussion here for me anyway, so thanks to all who've taken time to chime in! 


I love this thread. +1 million kudos. I am just about to publish a blog on Gamification - where I used this info and the discussion of three Community leaders from Domo, SAS, and Videotron.  You can watch the video here to see what they say about gamification and super users.

Please ask questions!