How to Get Forum Reputation Points

Bob Leggitt | Monday, 28 May 2012 |

Reputation points, alternatively known as Karma points, or more universally as +1s, are used as a sort of ranking system for members on a forum or message board. The points rarely benefit members in any tangible sense (they usually carry no financial rewards, extra privileges or whatever), and realistically, they’re little more than a tool used by forum administrators to control members’ behaviour through the medium of ego-massage. At least, that’s the intention. In practice the points system is often counter-productive, encouraging behaviours which run contrary to the forum’s real interests.

In fact, because I’m going to explore some of those behaviours in this quest to maximise a forum +1 score, by the end of the article you’ll see just how flawed and open to abuse the reputation system is. You’ll see that far from encouraging members to work harder for the wider good, the system, if it’s to pay off, encourages some to target their efforts into avenues which don't benefit the public board in any way. Nevertheless, this is an article about netting a high quota of reputation points, and therefore all the tricks, whether morally admirable or not, will be discussed.


The above content can be read in full at Total Satire, in the post: Thoroughly Disgusted With New Adverts.

This piece won’t of course fit every forum. Different forums have different systems, and points will be awarded for different things. But assuming the points relate to overall contribution, much of this piece should be of interest. Indeed, this piece should also be of use to those who post on forums without points systems. It’s a good insight into forum psychology.

Disclaimer: if you do try out any of these ‘suggestions’, on you own head be it. I’ve never used any of the manipulative practices, but I’ve seen others use them and I know they can work. ‘Can’, however, is the operative word. Your forum reputation can equally go straight down the toilet if you start playing the system. If that happens, you have been warned, and it’s entirely your responsibility. That said, the ‘suggestions’ are not all bad. A lot of them are good, and will be of use to conscientious posters…

GETTING STARTED

If you are a conscientious poster, this, I'm sure, won’t be the kind of start you were hoping for… Sadly, it’s a misconception that +1s are primarily given to those who work the hardest on forums. There might be some exceptions, but usually that’s just not the case. No one’s bothered how hard you’ve worked, because that makes no difference to them whatsoever. It’s not what you put into something – it’s what other people get out of it.

Being extremely helpful is a good way to please people on a forum, but again, unfortunately, that doesn’t translate into +1s anywhere near as often as it should. It’s just the society we live in. A lot of people expect free help – especially on the Internet, and they don’t have much, if any, concept of gratitude when they get it. That feeling of: “I’ve subscribed to the Internet and therefore I’m entitled to everything free of charge” is actually pretty prevalent – particularly on forums, which are well known as a reliable ask-and-get source for the never-quite-satisfied Web-rodent. So by all means be helpful, because it’s good to be helpful. But recognise that appreciation will come from the few, rather than the many.

So, what do you do to get reputation points on forums? Well, here are my own guidelines, based on a combination of participation and observation.

STEP 1

The first clue as to what prompts forum members to hand out +1s, is that the points are almost never given to someone who’s not around to reciprocate. In other words, a big part of giving a +1 is the thought that you might get one back in return. If the person you’re considering ‘repping’ hasn’t been around for a while, the likelihood that they’ll return your favour seems very slim, and chances are you won’t bother.

If you don’t believe people look at it like that, log out of the forum for three months, then log back in. See if anyone’s given you a +1 in your absence. They won’t have done, I can guarantee. The threads containing your posts will have had plenty of visits, but your +1 score won’t have moved. In fact, the vast majority of +1s are awarded within a few hours of a post being made – usually less than an hour, and very often within a few minutes. That’s the point at which people know you’ll have an eye on things, will see their gesture, and will consider returning the compliment.

So, step one, make sure you’re active on the forum, and regularly making posts. It’s more effective to divide a major post up into three or four parts, simply because you’ll be ‘bumping’ the thread. Your work gets more exposure, but more importantly, a larger number of members will be able to categorise you as ‘in the vicinity’. Potentially, you can ‘rep them back’, and believe me, that is without any question whatsoever the primary goal of anyone giving out +1s on a forum. Remember this, because it’s the most important line in the piece: if it’s considered by another member that there’s no chance at all of you ‘repping back’, you will not get reputation points. The more you can do to make it look like you’re always around to give back what you receive, the better.

Turning the situation round, make sure that when you award points, the recipient(s) is/are around to potentially return your favour. If you’re going round handing out +1s to people who haven’t surfaced in six months, you’re wasting your time. They won’t return the compliment, and indeed you’re not even paying them a compliment, because they probably won’t ever be back to read what you’ve said.

A SERIOUS NO-NO…

It’s very, very bad practice to take back reputation points when the gesture isn’t returned (it’s not like following and unfollowing on Twitter), so you need to make sure when awarding points that you’re happy to stick by your decision. It’s a different matter if the recipient does something negative to warrant you taking back your point, but normally, forum members don’t take back their points unless someone does something major to upset them.

POST TYPES

Reputation points are supposed to represent someone’s overall contribution to a forum. But actually, most +1s are awarded with regard to one specific post. Typically, the +1 will be awarded when a mere click of the ‘Like’ or ‘Thanks’ button is deemed insufficient recognition. In other words, to get reputation points based on a single post, that post needs to be pretty damned important. Once again though, don’t confuse effort with importance. You may get multiple +1s for posts which pop into your head in seconds and take less than a minute to write. At the other end of the scale, you can post content which took you literally weeks to create, and not receive a single point. It’s what your post means to others – not what it means to you or how much of your life you’ve dedicated to it.

The types of post which I’ve found most likely to elicit a +1 are:

Brave posts which contradict a strong consensus. Convincingly arguing against something most of the forum believes in, has good potential to attract +1s from the few who think the majority is wrong. Not only is the minority pleased to see someone taking a stand on their behalf – they’re also a lot more in need of support for when they make their own posts. Minorities are usually much closer communities than majorities, They understand that they need to stick together and help each other out. The danger with brave posts, of course, is that they can backfire, and annoy some members of the majority into giving you -1s (if -1s are an option). However, if you reason your argument well and you respect those who don’t agree (i.e. don’t call anyone an idiot or imply they’re stupid – just say you disagree), then this type of post is a good bet for a point or two.

Posts which acknowledge all sides. Acknowledging that everyone thinks differently is a great practice, and I certainly feel it's worked for me. It can work immediately, in the moment, but I believe it also works in a longer term sense. Acknowledging other people’s opinions as valid, even when you don’t share them, avoids creating a barrier when it comes to future interactions. A member may very strongly agree with you on an issue next week, but if you’ve called him/her an idiot this week, is he/she gonna give you a +1? Almost certainly not. So unless they’re doing real harm, respect everyone – even if you think they’re wrong.

Funny/random posts – particularly if you can be original. I’ve found making funny posts to be my most consistent source of ‘forum rewards’. I think the reason funny posts work is that they rarely contain anything people can disagree with. Making people laugh also inevitably puts them in a good mood, which is conducive to them making positive gestures – like giving you points. Scripted jokes don’t seem to work at all, but utter, random stupidity has proved very effective for me.

The only hazard is members who have no concept of humour. On one occasion I joined a forum, made a really daft post as my opener, got two almost immediate negative reps and a slamming to end all slammings. I suspect, based on a little investigation, that the two negatives came from the same person, operating two different accounts. This member also happened to be paying the forum for 'VIP status', and so had highly sycophantic support from the administration. Short of signing up for some sort of 'double-VIP-"I'm-paying-more-than-you"-status', there was no way I could have won in a situation like that (and I'll never, ever pay money to post on a forum!).

But my post wasn't in any way offensive - it was just very ridiculous, and I kind of thought the fact I was posting in the Humour section would be sufficient to denote that it was... well, humour. But as I've said on here in the past, there are a lot of incomprehensibly stupid and/or jealous people on forums, and certainly the concept of an individual member paying to be the 'Big I-Am' created an unnatural bias. That, then, was an exception, and totally untypical of what's happened elsewhere. Turning issues upside down and looking at them from unusual angles also works very well – particularly in the middle of a heavily polarised debate which is becoming stale through repetition.

Posts which make one point and one point only. The more singular and focused you make your posts, the more chance you have of attracting +1s. That’s because posts which try to cover more than one element of a topic stand more chance of saying something someone doesn’t agree with. A member might very strongly agree with you on the first element, but not the second. So save the second element for a separate post. That way you avoid immediately losing a +1 you’ve just earned. This doesn’t, incidentally, mean interminably posting single sentences. You need to properly illustrate your point, whatever it takes. But once you’ve made your argument, leave it there, and don’t start on something else. It’s like being a politician – what you don’t say is just as important as what you do.

Manipulative posts. It’s sad, but it’s true. One of the surest ways to quickly build reputation points is to ask for them. One extreme incarnation of this principle is to promise content, but make the promise dependent upon you getting a certain number of reputation points. The massive drawback with this is that you’ll make a lot of enemies. Plenty of members (particularly those who’ve worked hard for very little back in return) will absolutely hate you, and some won’t be at all shy in saying so. However, I’ve seen this done, and you should be in no doubt: if you’ve got something the forum really wants, and you insist on a certain number of +1s before you’ll post it, you will get your points. The points won’t mean much, obviously, other than the fact that you’ve been lucky enough to possess something everyone wanted, and you had the ‘business sense’ to force other members to ‘reward’ you properly for it.

Naturally, you have to get the points in advance. If you post first and then ask for rewards, you’ll be ignored. Oh yeah, and if the forum has any means for members to retract their +1s, you really do have to provide what you’ve promised. If you don’t, or if what you provide doesn’t meet expectations, the chances of you keeping all your +1s are next to nil, and you may well end up worse off than when you started.

Post variety. Remember that if you keep making the same point, or posting the same type of content over and over again, you’ll only impress a limited section of the forum. Ten members may very strongly agree with you, or love your content, but once those ten members have given you a reputation point, you’ve maxed out on that group. The only way to impress other members, is to post something different, which will appeal to them. The more different types of post you can make, the better chance you stand of legitimately amassing +1s. What makes variety so desperately important, is that the reputation systems are normally one member, one point. If one member could give you unlimited points, variety wouldn't matter a great deal. But with one member, one point, you really do need to please everyone to get a maximum score.

OTHER METHODS

Profile-sifting. One or two forum members I’m aware of have literally gone through masses of members’ profiles to find out who ‘reps back’ by default. They’ve done this by cross-referencing one account with another, noting who gave points to whom, and then whether the recipients of the points reciprocated. The ‘profile-sifters’ rooted out the members who always ‘repped back’, then simply awarded them points for whatever tenuous reason they could come up with. To me, this looks like a hell of a lot of very tedious effort, so you’d have to be pretty obsessed. However, it undeniably does work.

Buttering up members with private messages (especially after awarding them a point). I’ve seen this produce phenomenal increases in ‘forum reputation’ (as in the points – not the real, overall esteem in which the member is held). It's a VERY dicey ploy though – the forum equivalent of ‘get rich quick’. Its success depends on two main factors: 1) the general attitude of the commuity towards social networking, and 2) how good you are at convincing people you’re not trying to ‘game the system’. People have big egos, and they will believe that you like or admire them if you say you do, so buttering up other members with messages may not give you too much trouble in itself. The difficulty comes in the wider picture - when the big contributors start to see your score approaching theirs, then look at your contribution in comparison. If they can't see any obvious justification for your score, they'll sense what you're up to, and it's almost inevitable that one or two of them will try to expose it, and put a stop to it.

If you’ve genuinely contributed a substantial amount of important material and your +1 score can feasibly be justified on that basis, you may get away with ‘rep schmoozing’ to enhance and boost your recognition. But if your reputation score looks out of keeping with your actual forum contribution, you could be in for a very rough ride. Just as the hardworking public hate and display intolerance towards a ‘get rich quick’ merchant in the offline world, the hardworking sections of a forum community will not take kindly to similarly executed ‘get points quick’ practices. If you ‘cheat’, and it looks like you’re ‘cheating’, you can expect your methods to be analysed, pinpointed, and publicly exposed.

Finally, there’s no subtle way to ask for +1s. You either need to brazenly stand there and say: “Yeah, I’m asking for +1s – what of it?”, or just not ask. One guy used to make me laugh with a line or two in his signature about how to give him a +1, and a link to the appropriate screen. In one way it was clever because it made people consider giving him a point every time they saw one of his posts. But it just made him look so arrogant that you’d never want to bother. Like he thought the reason his score wasn’t very good was not because his posts were crap, but because the rest of the members were too stupid to understand how to give him a point. You have to admit, that’s not a good message to be sending out. That territory of asking for points but pretending you’re not asking, should be avoided, I think.

Of course, you could take what’s really the most sensible option of all, and simply recognise that forum reputation points are stupid, needless, manipulative and of no real benefit to you whatsoever. But if you do want them, you probably now know a good bit more about how to get them.

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