Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Badges and Social Media

As a young lad I loved to collect things.  It started with the Panini Hockey Stickers back in the 1980’s.  Eventually I moved into hockey cards, trading card games, stamps, and eventually photos of random heart-shaped smiley faces on the side of roads (I’ll talk about the faces later).

Today I’m still collecting, but now I’m focused on earning badges on social media.

Badges are a way to boast about your skill and involvement within a community.  With the ever increasing usage of gamification in social media, you are bound to find those that use them for Good and others, well, Not-So-Much.  Here are two examples from my personal experience:

The Good:  Tookapic

Right off the bat, I want to make something very clear:  I love the tookapic platform.  As an amateur photographer, I find the community to be very accepting and more than happy to help you grow in the hobby.  

As you become more involved with the site you start to unlock different badges.  These twenty-four badges vary in difficulty from fairly simple (take and publish a photo every day for a week) to very challenging (take and publish more than 1,000 days in a row).  Personally, I use these badges as sort of To Do List; what are things I can do to improve myself as a photographer.

Most of these badges are able to be earned on your own; there is no need to be super-popular on the site.  At the same time, there is encouragement to be an active member and actually participate in the community.  Two great examples of this are the Welcoming Committee and Chatterbox badges.

The Welcoming Committee badge is award after commenting on 50 debut photos.  Leaving comments on someone’s first photo not only promotes a since of belonging (who wouldn’t love to get a “Great picture, welcome to the club!” message) but also serves as a reminder that we all started out as a new photographer at some point.

Where the Welcoming Committee is all about debuts, Chatterbox covers the community as a whole.  This badge requires 1,000 comments to be made.  For myself, Chatterbox forces me to get into the photo, read the description, and hopefully provide an insightful and meaningful comment.  Could I game the gamification and just copy-and-paste a generic “great pic” into a thousand posts?  Absolutely!   But would it benefit me as a photographer?  No, no it wouldn’t.  

So many badges… so many opportunities!

The Not-So-Much:  Garmin Connect

Again, being upfront and transparent, I’ve been using Garmin Connect since June.  For the most part, at least as far as gamifying the experience, Garmin is doing an okay job.  Where they fall short, unfortunately, is in incorporating a Pay-to-Win mechanic.

As a fitness-focused community, Garmin’s badges are aimed at keeping you active.  Some badges are awarded for reaching your step goal three days in a row or getting eight hours sleep while others much more challenging (run a 100 miles in a single activity or bike 40km in less than an hour).  The 108 different badges certainly help to set a goal for your personal growth.

Unfortunately, 14 of these badges are, in part at least, Pay-to-Win.  Garmin as four special -edition smart watches that can be used to unlock their own, unique badges. The I Can Do This All Day badge, as an example, is award from simply adding your First Avenger watch to the platform’s app.  Other badges are award based on owning a certain watch and completing a physical activity.  The Try to Keep Up badge is earned, for example, by owning the Captain Marvel watch and finishing an activity that is at least 90 minutes long.

$2,200 of Badges in a single image. Motivating or Money Grab?

In total Garmin has four watches that earn unique badges.  The Legacy Saga Series features a Darth Vader and Rey watch while the Legacy Hero Series has a Captain Marvel and First Avenger offering.  Oh… and each watch is about $550.00

Would you Like to Learn More?

Medium’s article “3 Ways Gamification on Social Media…” provides a short read on how to increase engagement by gamifying the experience  https://medium.com/surge-tactic/gamification-on-social-media-and-audience-engagement-aaaa81185716  

Mashable has an interesting article about how Social Media can use badges and provides examples of those who do it well and others who don’t:   https://mashable.com/2011/08/19/badges-gamification-Mtips/  

Final Thoughts:

Like it not, the world of online collecting is here to stay.  Some organizations seem to be using badges in an altruistic way; by creating rewards for being engaged in a community of like-minded people.  Other’s, it would seem, are trying to leverage the power of collecting to increase sales.

What about you.  Do you collect badges from your online experiences?  Are badges a reward for completing a task?  Would you ever make a purchasing decision based off earning a badge?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

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