Taking a page right out of Foursquare's rewards playbook, the popular news site The Huffington Post has also decided to reward its faithful readers who comment regularly with badges that will separate them from the typical lurkers.
The key to today's successful web campaign is not to just keep visitors informed, but to also get them involved. The best way encourage involvement is to get visitors to crossover into actually adding content to the site. Now I am speaking for myself, but sometimes the reader comments that follow a story are just as insightful and entertaining (and sometimes just flat-out weird and crazy) as the actual story itself.
I am assuming my theory has some legs to it. Case and point, 'HuffPo' has decided to make the site more interactive for its readers via rewarding them with badges based on activity and interactivity. There is a "Networker" badge that rewards readers for their ability to socialize with other readers (translation: has the most friends and followers on the site). Conversely, you can lose a badge or get demoted to a lesser badge if you for instance, lose too many friends or followers.
If you really want to stand out, HuffPo offers a "Moderator" Badge where you can use your crime-fighting abilities to help manage the sites' comments and keep the convos civil and make sure everyone plays nice. That is if you are not one of those biased mods who flags folks who disagree with your comments (we all know the type). Let's hope there is some sort of checks and balances on this badge.
If you just want to throw in a comment here and there without trying to "rank up", you can simply opt-out of the badges and not have to worry about maintaining any sort of post count to keep your status.
It seems like it's working too. Before the badge feature, HuffPo was already clocking around 23 million U.S. readers per month. When it rolled out the feature, HuffPo recorded over 100,000 comments in one day. As a result of the badge rollout, community members are now leaving over 2.3 million comments a month.
Time will only tell if rewarding site visitors with status rewards will add to the sites' popularity and social reach, thus making it a more interactive site where the readers feel involved. Or transform the sites' commenters into a cliquish, attention-hungry, turf squabbling, group-think community where your status is king. Just think of high school and you can see where I was going with that.
To read up on all the badges visit the Huffington Post Badge's FAQ.