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February 2, 2012

I got an email from Foursquare a few weeks ago, that started off with:

First off, thanks for believing in our little startup as we try to build an awesome service for you. You were one of the first hundred thousand members of our community (to be exact, you’re member #39,755)! You can tell your grandkids that you were a 21st century trendsetter! They’ll look at you in amazement as they cruise by on their hoverboards.

Actually I am a little amazed that they don’t have a badge or other icon that indicates the (relatively) low member number – unless they are worried about alienating late-mainstream members.

There’s nothing like a having a low badge number in a big company: In companies like Intel, IBM, Microsoft – and perhaps even Google and Facebook, I’m sure it’s a status symbol among employees to possess a badge number under 6 digits (e.g. 20,000).

On social networks, the low member number certainly implies “I’m an early adopter and visionary. I was here before it was cool, and thus I am cool” Online companies using even the most rudimentary game mechanics and gamification techniques should consider leveraging the power of this simple kind of badge of social proof. They can been more inclusive by also having low numbered badges for joining SIGs and other niche sections of their overall network. Later they can borrow some lessons from discussion boards by also tracking number of posts, number of questions answered, as well as typical social design patterns.

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