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I am in the final stages of preparing to launch a new community. One of the things I keep reading about is how "gamification" helps to improve engagement in a community. I'm going to start small on this and just have badges/level up rewards that users can earn by doing "things".

That leads me to my question - What kind of "things" are useful for badges that a community member can earn, especially in a young community?

I've thought of a few, but that don't seem to encourage long term engagement.

  • Beta Users can earn a badge by registering and participating during the beta period
  • First X - Where X can be post, valid flag, event win, etc

What other activities are 'simple' enough for a badge, yet encourage community involvement?

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The place to start is with the behaviors you want to encourage. You don't just want engagement (probably), you want engagement toward some goal, so build your rewards accordingly.
Badges for registration etc. are fine because they make people aware there are awards out there. Some folks have great luck with scavenger hunts that reward exploring the new community. But once they're in, what's your hope for them? Asking a question? Answering one? Contributing an idea?

Don't overthink it - especially when it comes to long-term community involvement. In most cases, gamification won't provide that for your most valuable members. But it can be great for giving a jump start, highlighting new/important features, etc.

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If you want examples for badges, you only have to look here, literally. Like Ted answered, pick those (first) that fit the goal you want to accomplish, and that you can implement easy.

I suggest the question badges Scholar, Student, Favorite question, the answer badges Explainer, Nice answer, Teacher, the participation badges Commentator, something like Enthusiast, Yearling, and maybe the moderation badges Citizen patrol, something like Deputy and Civic Duty, Critic, Editor, Supporter.

Note that the badges at StackExchange have various 'difficulty' levels. A new member can get some badges early, but you need ever more involvement to gain more badges.

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I think you have gotten some neat answers above and I have little to add in addition. I would however suggest implementing a badge for proper account security (i.e. registered and confirmed mail, two-step verification and so forth - naturally depending on how your service is designed) simply to encourage this sort of behavior for a young audience unlikely to be seasoned users who would otherwise do this almost automatically.

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