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MaturityThis article is about the customer community penguin manager John who is leading his customer penguin community through the four steps of the community lifecycle*. Within the article the reader will learn what customer community tasks a community manager has to do in the fourth step of the community lifecycle: the mitosis phase (learn more about our customer community approach here).


John, our Penguin Community Manager, has done everything right thanks to the expert advice and assistance from Pokeshot///SMZ. So far, he has skillfully navigated his customer community through the Inception and Establishment phases. He has also recently observed that user growth was dropping off as the community entered the Maturity phase, and that he needed to ramp up his efforts on other fronts.

Meanwhile, John’s customer community has become very stable. There is a high level of interaction among members, many of whom are now starting discussions and writing posts on their own initiative. The numbers are quite impressive. But for a while now, some of John’s penguin colleagues in the customer community have been telling him that the community is getting too big. Veteran community members, in particular, complain that the community no longer feels like a family and that too many different topics are being discussed. John now has to decide if splitting up his customer community would be a good idea.

This step must be considered very carefully because it could involve a number of risks:

  • The divided communities would return to the Inception phase, requiring them to attract new members. However, it is by no means certain that all of the newly formed communities would reach a critical mass.
  • A split-up would also entail the original customer community losing some of its members.
  • Multipliers could feel misunderstood due to their diminished influence within the community.

Because of the increasing size of the customer community and the prevailing sentiment among members, John makes the decision to split up the community. This is a very critical step for him since it means undoing existing structures. So it’s important that he proceeds carefully with the split-up, keeping in mind the following points:

  • The creation of new independent customer communities should not occur along topic-specific lines only. He should consult closely with his multipliers in order to identify what members are mainly interested in and where the division should be made.
  • It is essential to prepare the split-up in the same way that the original customer community was planned (conception – implementation – monitoring using change management principles – KPIs).
  • It is absolutely necessary that the community managers of the individual communities receive training.
  • The newly formed communities should be promoted in the original community so that its members learn about the new possibilities.


John can’t expect to accomplish all of this overnight. It will take some time to identify the right groups for the split-up, to conceive and implement the communities and to get members accustomed to the new structures. This new project marks the end of the penguin community series. John has already come a long way, but there’s still no telling how much further he has to go. His great degree of commitment, his creative ideas and his knack for knowing what penguins want, will hopefully translate into enduringly loyal communities.

Summary of the penguin community series and a critical assessment of the community lifecycle

John’s community passed through a total of four phases: Inception Establishment Maturity Mitosis. While his community tasks in the first phase mainly centered on attracting and retaining members (Inception : building personal relationships), his focus in the following phases (Establishment , Maturity ) shifted to moving the community as a whole forward. But at some point his community became so big that it began to undercut the sense of familiarity. Members can no longer follow activities and events because there are simply too many of them. This is when John decided to split up his large aquatic community into smaller communities (Mitosis).


It should be pointed out that John is portrayed as someone who can do no wrong when it comes to the customer community of penguins. In real life there are additional factors that a community has to deal with (e.g. cost pressures, competition for members). These issues were omitted from this model example in order to reduce the complexity. The main aim here was to provide a good understanding of the community manager’s duties and responsibilities.

What’s more, a customer community usually takes a trial-and-error approach. You need to try out a host of ideas and then continue more intensively with those things that promote user engagement. It can take a considerable amount of time before you discover what works in your particular situation. You also need to re-examine your activities every so often because a customer community is always in flux (members come and go). The chronological order of the posts makes it seem as if everything proceeded like clockwork. This is not the case in the real world.

It should also be noted that not every customer community will pass through all four phases of the community lifecycle. Lots of communities will never reach the Mitosis phase simply by virtue of their niche focus.


The focus of the community is also critical to determining the community manager’s community tasks. The activities described here have been generalized and will vary greatly from community to community. The community manager of a support community, for instance, will not have to plan as many events as the community manager of an interest-based community.



About the author:

Sandra Brückner, who studied business informatics at the Technical University of Dresden, has worked as social business consultant since 2012. She recently joined the Berlin-based social business consultancy and technology provider Pokeshot///SMZ, where she leverages her extensive intranet and community expertise to consult organizations on how to optimize their change management and community management processes.


*The community lifecycle model presented in this article is based on the works of Iriberri, A. & Leroy, G. (2009): A Life-Cycle Perspective on Online Community Success and Millington, R. (2013): The Online Community Lifecycle.

Patrick Fähling und Sandra Leupold recently conducted Pokeshot///SMZ’s Gamification 101 Workshop for one of its clients (a large German sports apparel manufacturer). Pokeshot///SMZ offers this service as a basic module in its community management consulting portfolio.

Gamification can be defined as the “use of gaming functionalities in a company-based environment” and refers to practices such as awarding points for particular actions or enabling users to level up. Karl Kapp describes the basic principles of gamification in his video tutorial “What is Gamification? A Few Ideas“ on YouTube. Our Jive customers have been able to take advantage of the Advanced Gamification Module since fall 2013. This important strategic partnership with Bunchball (see “Jive Gamification Module Powered By Bunchball” on YouTube) makes it possible to tap into the full potential of gamification.

In practice, gamification should always be accompanied by a strategy definition process. Thus the content of the Gamification 101 Workshop closely follows Pokeshot///SMZ’s strategy framework: Principles – Technical Aspects – Strategy Definition. To give future clients an idea of the workshop’s content, we will now describe in the detail the different components of the Gamification 101 Workshop:


This part of the workshop introduces participants to the topic. They learn that gamification is not just about motivation, but also builds loyalty, enhances interaction and even changes behavior – while also learning how to align these goals with different gamification mechanics. These mechanics include:

  • Points – awarded for a specific action
  • Badges – earned for a specific action or different actions
  • Status bar – visualizes the progress of a specific action
  • Missions – bring together several actions and also connect points, badges and the status bar
  • Levels – show the activity and membership status of a user
  • Teams – enable users to work together to complete challenges
  • Rewards – give users something special, online or offline, for their successes
  • Leaderboards – recognize active members for what they have achieved

The workshop is strengthened by lots of real-world examples and insightful tips. For example, we show our clients which mechanics work best with which types of people and how important it is to give your gamification badges an unambiguous and appealing design.


This part of the workshop closes with a discussion on how the mechanics are incorporated into a gamification strategy and how this reinforces the larger community strategy: IntegrationFigure 2: Integration of a gamification strategy into a company‘s community strategy

The second part of the workshop teaches participants how to use the Advanced Gamification Console. This gives them the knowledge they need to implement mechanics on their own after the workshop.Customer_Feedback_1_1

Technical aspects

To be able to effectively present the technical aspects of Bunchball’s Gamification Module, it was very important for all employees that were to be involved in the company’s gamification initiatives to attend this part of the workshop. This ensured that the various staff members working together on gamification had a common understanding of what can be achieved with the Bunchball Gamification Module, while showing them where it is necessary to take a different approach for special requirements.Bunchball’s Gamification Console brings together the strategy and the actual implementation of gamification mechanics on the platform. It can be used once the module has been purchased and installed in Jive. Before delving into the new console and all of the features it offers, participants first learned what types of general settings are available in the Jive Admin Console. This covered the rights concept for the Gamification Console and the new tabs in the Jive Admin Console that provide several new capabilities. Once the first settings were made, which included assigning rights to workshop participants, the following elements were presented and explained:

  • Structure of the Gamification Console
  • Team formation
  • Creation of actions and missions
  • Catalog set-up
  • User management

Bunchball Console

Figure 3: Screenshot of the Advanced Gamification Console

The Gamification Console is divided into five main areas, which are:

  • Site (general overview of settings, security options, levels, teams, etc.)
  • Actions (overview of all actions and missions)
  • Catalog (overview of items that can purchased)
  • Users (detailed information about individual users, e.g. completed missions, point totals, action tracking)
  • Analytics (data on real user actions to help measure the success of gamification initiatives)

These items were especially stressed at the workshop, because in actual work scenarios employees have to be able to navigate quickly and easily through the console to find exactly what they’re looking for. The learning process was reinforced by having participants create some workshop materials themselves, which helped them to become familiar with the Gamification Console and learn how specific changes and individual settings play out on the platform.After this introduction we explored the technical possibilities in greater detail in order to show participants how to implement special scenarios and complex missions. They now had the chance to put the theoretical knowledge they acquired in the first part of the workshop into practice by creating custom missions (with complex rules and interconnections). These requirements, which were planned in discussions prior to the workshop, were to some extent client-specific. Here it became clear where theory and practice diverge and where it’s necessary to adapt one’s own approach to realize a particular scenario with the Gamification Console. Participants were taught, for example, how to:

  • Define rules for accomplishing a mission
  • Create missions for teams
  • Assign missions to a particular area
  • Integrate new point categories

This method of instruction and the fact the workshop took place on-site turned out to be very advantageous as it made it possible to quickly clarify difficult points through immediate feedback and develop new solutions together.


Strategy definition

It is crucial to view gamification as a supportive measure; it should never stand on its own without any connection to the larger community strategy. Why is this so important? Gamification itself can have a number of functions, whether it’s increasing motivation, building loyalty, enhancing interaction or even changing behavior. The company that wants to leverage these possibilities must first absolutely sure what the overall objective is. Implementing badges and points in the wrong area won’t create added value for the company. In fact, this could have a negative effect by encouraging undesired activities. Our client recognized this as well and re-examined in detail its gamification strategy, prompting several changes to the mechanics. A good example is the “following people” feature. The client originally planned to award points and a badge for this activity. Over the course of the workshop, however, it became clear that this does not support any of the community’s goals and that the emphasis should instead be placed on encouraging sharing and interacting – not motivating users to keep track of what other users are doing. This approach ultimately brought about a strategy that was consistent with and complementary to the goals and use cases of the sports community.


Summary and outlook

The workshop gave the client a deeper understanding of the concept of gamification and its various mechanics. This enabled it to then acquire a good grasp of all technical aspects and appreciate the importance of incorporating the gamification strategy into the larger community strategy – before working together to craft a strategy for the client’s specific situation. Building on the topics covered in this workshop, Pokeshot///SMZ offers further modules and support as part of its community management consulting portfolio. This ranges from strategy development assistance to implementation services and the definition of custom KPIs.

If you want to learn more about our Gamification 101 Workshop or other clients’ experiences with this workshop, please feel free to contact us.