Want to show your support to your favourite brand, cause or event? Wish to reward your frequent customers and increase brand loyalty? Find a way to endorse your friends and colleaques?

Don’t worry, there’s a badge for that!

What Foursquare and Gowalla didn’t know, when they first created badges to reward user check-ins, was the massive snowball effect of badges they were about to start, now swiping over the social web like there’s no tomorrow. Everybody’s gotta have one.

Brand Awareness and Loyalty

As Loic Le Meur,  founder and CEO of Seesmic, reminds us, building your online brand is NOT about you, it’s about highlighting others. Badges work as a great vehicle for endorsing and highlighting others, while at the same time strengthening ones own online presence and brand.

Brands are quickly catching up on combining marketing efforts with game mechanics and social networking. One of the interesting companies in the space helping brands to achieve their goals is GetGlue, a social network for entertainment. Users can check-in and rate tv shows, movies, music and books to discover new favorites, see what friends are into, earn badges and even get a free copy of the sticker sent in the mail, for free. In September, over 500 000 users had created 10 million new unique ratings and check-ins, the official and authorized badges coming from major brands like HBO, FOX, Showtime and PBS.

As GetGlue explains it: It’s about emotions, enabling users connecting with the content. Check-in to Mad Men, anyone?

Connect with content, reward engagement and frequent users is also something CNN iReport aims to do by launching “On the campaign trail” badge for those participating in the iReport Election Challenge. More badges and surprises are reported to be released.

Even Q&A service Mahalo Answers has hopped on the train of badges, finding them a great and complementary way to engage and reward its frequent users.

Besides from encouraging user activity and increasing brand loyalty, badges can also be a way to create scarcity around, as to increase search engine ranking, of a brand, company or an organization.

Basno is a new platform that offers authenticated badges either to be sold or given away to users. With help of unique serial numbers, embedding unique invisible watermarks, and creating 2d bar codes for each instance of any badge on the platform, Basno aims to increase the value of digital goods through limited issuance of badges. The badges are stored in a vault, but can be shown on all major social networks.

Social recruiting

As many other industries, recruiting is also being disrupted by the social web, offering new ways to find, refer and match talent with job openings. In addition to competition from professional social network LinkedIn, now listing over 70 million members and one million company profiles, there is an increasing number of niched services like Endorse, helping people connect through friendly recommendations, and Twitter stream filling up with hashtags hunting for talent. How the yet to be launched Work Market, a marketplace for employers and workers with promise to make work work, is to disrupt the recruitment business, remains to be seen.

Founders of Estonian Emp.ly, a social recruiting service expanding the reach of job postings via social networks, are also creators of Talentag, your social CV online. Talentag makes it easy for people in your network, professional or private, to give you career boosting kudos in form of badges and thumbs up. By answering questions and giving thumbs up, or down, a chart with personality traits, such as cheerful, friendly, sophisticated, trustworthy, or giving, gets added to ones profile. Fast, easy, and yes, a playful way to endorse someone in your network. All endorsements can then be displayed and distributed on Facebook. Sign up with your Facebook or Linkedin account and see whether you also are to be endorsed as a Social Media Rockstar?

Talentag also offers event organizers a possibility to let event participants claim and display event badges on their profiles. A quick and visual way of listing my past events from Plancast or LinkedIn, for example.

As a good general rule of thumb when designing to include any type of social endorsements in your service, neither badges nor recommendations are simply just to be given away, they are to be earned.

Paula is online strategist and startup evangelist. She is also a mentor for startups at Seedcamp. She blogs at paulamarttila.com and here at Bub.blicio.us.
Connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn,
Drop her email at paula.marttila[at]gmail[dot]com

About the Author:

Paula Marttila

Visit Paula's page at http://paulamarttila.com/

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