We've covered a lot of ground, and I've introduced many design principles for building an optimal ranking ladder for engaging your superusers. I must emphasize that it is very important to implement these rank design principle in the order that they are presented. It is meaningless to flow with your superusers, if you don't know your superusers' capability. And it is useless trying to surprise your superusers with special privileges if the gaps between your ranks are so large that it takes them years to get a promotion. They will never get there and never be surprised! However, the first two steps do involve some analytical work, and they are the most difficult and most important step (especially step 2). Once you know your superusers, everything that follows is easy.
Building a complete ranking structure
Until now, I have been talking about the principles for designing a single ranking ladder that rewards the posting behavior of community members. Although message posting is a common participation within online communities, modern community platforms now furnish their members with a host of activities. Consequently, superusers may come in many flavors depending on the kinds of activity they participate in. The superusers that we've considered so far are content creators who excel in posting messages. But superusers may be critics who rate contents by giving kudos and report inappropriate contents, and others may be organizers who label and tag contents. Therefore, an ideal ranking structure should have multiple branches for rewarding different kinds of participation.
To create a multi-branch ranking structure, you simply juxtapose everal ranking ladders together. Each ladder has a set of ranking criteria that is based on different participation metrics. For example, rather than post requirement, some ladders may use kudos requirements, and others may have a tag count requirement. Based on the superusers' participation, they will climb different ladders. Some well-rounded superusers may even excel on several ladders. Moreover, ranking ladders can be merged by creating participation criteria using the logical AND.
So how many branches should you have? According to Forrester Research, online participation pattern can be segmented into 6 categories via the social technographic profile: inactives, spectators, joiners, collectors, critics, and creators. Since inactives do not participate, and spectators only consume contents passively, there are at least 4 categories of active participation that you can reward. But in theory, there is no limit to how many branches you could have in your ranking structure. The more ladders you have, the more unique your superusers will feel about their contribution (and reward). But more ladders required more management. A multi-branch ranking structure should be the last step in the design of your ranking structure. Having many poorly designed ranking ladders is much worse than having one that is well designed. My advice is to start with one ladder for your creators. When you are able to manage steps 1 to 4 with all the yearly adjustment, add one for your critics, then collectors, and finally joiners.
Congratulation! This concludes my miniseries on the optimal design of your ranking structures. Next time we'll explore something different. Have a great weekend.