By any numeric measure, SAP’s community is a success. Millions of members, thousands of posts, advice freely given by the armload. From what I can gather it contributes to reducing SAP’s cost of service. One of the outgrowths has been the emergence of a new style of influencer in the shape of the SAP Mentor program. So you’d think it represents a win for everyone. Maybe so. Yet how could it be made better?
Motivating people to provide content to the community is easy. Make it a condition of their job. Score points and that becomes part of your performance evaluation. But that sort of carrot and stick is much more stick than carrot. It doesn’t work in the long run because people end up posting a ton of material with limited and decreasing value.
Another source of motivation comes in the indirect recognition people get for putting out great stuff. That’s nice if ego inflation floats your boat or if you need the occasional validating slap on the back.
Still others see that putting out content is something that can bring them attention when a company has a particular problem to solve. Kerrching!!
And yet others like sharing for the sake of it and happen to believe SCN provides the right forum for them to do so. That’s a kind of altruism that has the joy of sharing as its own reward
The problem with all these forms of motivation is that you can never be sure what the mix of factors is likely to be across points in time. That in turn means you can never be certain whether content is consistently delivering quality or being improved.
SAP doesn’t provide a particularly strong set of motivators beyond the points recognition system. While that works reasonably well I wonder if we’ve reached a point where that could usefully be enhanced. I’m thinking of adding in the notion of ‘gamification.’
Gamification has become one of the latest hot topics in Silicon Valley. As I’ve said elsewhere, it is a rotten word but one that adequately describes the notion of taking ideas behind gaming theory and applying them to community. It works something like this.
As you contribute, you become entitled to rewards. Those rewards are random and unknown so you don’t for example know what reward will be given at any point along the way. However, this system has proved useful in gaming communities (sic) and elsewhere as a way of driving value. Best Buy uses this theory as does BT.
One element might be the voting up of content considered to be valuable by the rest of the community that in turn leads to a reward. This changes contributions from being a volume game as it is played out now on SCN to a quality game. That makes a lot more sense because it forces contributors to up their game, give away more but provides tangible rewards for doing so.
From what I can understand, there are measurable upsides for the community owner. That could in SAP’s case be the further lowering of support costs, it could be the exposure of valuable innovations that can in turn be developed. It could be as simple as SAP learning more from its users than is currently possible and from which it can take development forward or in a previously unthought of direction.
Why am I excited by this idea? Simple. I have had solid discussions with folk ‘in the know’ on this topic who are pointing me to cases of success that can be both replicated and scaled.
Of course not everyone agrees. My good friend Sig Rinde for example thinks of this as applying perfume before using soap. But what do others think?
Would SCN benefit from this style of interaction? If so then how might it work in this case?