Incentives for users in a community?


I'd like to brainstorm with some others on what you think are options for "incentivising" users to use a site in a community. eg. things like user retention, and increasing the odds that people are active on a site.

Other than a point system, what other options are there?

I see this site uses points... but I wonder, does that really help? For instance, I use this site more for the sake of helping others, learning, and thinking... than for the point buildup.


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asked Dec 25 '09 at 08:56
460 points
  • The StackExchange point system also confers privileges, like voting, commenting, and editing. That creates an incentive beyond just vanity. – Joe 14 years ago
  • Good point, thanks Joe – Matt 14 years ago

4 Answers


Some ideas:

  • Feature user-generated content. Reward good content, draw attention to your community, and help keep your homepage (or other main page) fresh with content (good for Google rankings).
  • User rankings and scores. Mostly covered by other posts.
  • Gifts. Sometimes it's worth your while to give big contributers gifts like hats and t-shirts, especially if your growth relies on word-of-mouth advertising.
  • Personally thanking and interacting. If you're small enough or have a small volume of user content consider thanking and talking with your users. This may also help you getting feedback and discovering why they contribute and what you can improve.
  • Give users control/ownership. Let them feel like what they're doing is important and having an impact. One example: let users vote and help you decide what new features to add.

Ask yourself what you're trying to achieve with this. Why would a user want to visit your site? Why would they take the time to contribute? Why would you take the time out of your life and contribute to some other site?

answered Dec 26 '09 at 07:46
Greg Belote
798 points
  • +1 Great tips. Thank you! I like the personally thanking and interacting one. – Matt 14 years ago


Making people feel like part of a community is the best way to keep them in it. Points are as much a way of recognizing contributors as they are a reward for activity. You can enhance it with leaderboards (monthly, then weekly as the community grows, so the barrier to achieving a spot on it isn't as high), blog posts highlighting the best user-contributed content, and other methods of recognition.

answered Dec 25 '09 at 09:44
Jay Neely
6,050 points
  • Good point. Maybe points doesn't hurt... or maybe I can make them hidden to the user, but only available for administrative folk who can gauge who is the most active. Thanks for the two cents Jay. I'll reflect on ways to make people feel a part of something. – Matt 14 years ago


I think the points on this site serve two different purposes. The case you discussed is where people contribute because they want to see their points increase. On this site though I think the points also serve as a feedback mechanism on answers so contributors can see which of their answers are considered valuable and which are not.

Even if you don't like the points mechanism a feedback mechanism is still valuable.

answered Dec 26 '09 at 02:28
1,866 points


I see the points as a way to quantify doing the activity you enjoy (answering, voting, showing approval, etc.). I enjoy playing basketball and find it more interest when we keep score, but I can't say I like seeing numbers on a scoreboard.

If the nature of your site is more social/collaborative, the number of associations made could drive the points/levels/badges/etc.

This site also awards users with additional capabilities as they use the site more/obtain a higher score.

answered Dec 26 '09 at 09:47
Jeff O
6,169 points
  • +1 Good analogy with basketball. – Matt 14 years ago

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