What’s The Best Compliment You Can Receive?

Last year, I sent an email to 10 members of a forum-based community who had been named member of the week (MOTW) in the past 6 months.

Can you guess how being a MOTW made the winners feel?


It didn’t feel real. It felt like a “made up thing” (two people used this exact phrase).

We’ve tried to optimise and scale recognition in a really bad way. When you send people a badge, thank them without being specific, and automate messages of gratitude, it does more harm than good.

Imagine giving a digital badge to a professor who published a groundbreaking paper. It would be remarkably condescending. Like the professor most of us over the age of 10 care far more about appreciation and respect.

Recognition is an important competence factor. We can do it much better if we focus less on the recognition of the act and more on making the recipient feel appreciated and respected.

Think of the best compliment you have received recently. Who would it come from? What would it say?

It would probably:

  1. Be from someone you respect or who was highly impacted by what you did.
  2. It would acknowledge the amount of work/struggle you put into the object.
  3. It would highly in detail how you helped them.
  4. It would be very personal. One to one, not a mass-announcement.
  5. It would feel sincere – not forced or created to fit a quota.

Yesterday someone explained how Buzzing Communities became the framework for community activities across the organisation. That’s probably the most powerful compliment an author can receive.

It’s powerful because it’s personal and detailed. It’s not a polite “thank you for the book” it’s “this is how your book helped us”. The impact matters far more.

At the moment we’re blowing the recognition factor on points, badges, and content-driven mass-announcements regardless of quality. Respect should come from someone we respect. Appreciation should include clear details how it helped them. We shouldn’t recognise people to fill slots in a content calendar. Mass announcements and automated messages help no-one.

I can’t remember many compliments made in a big, public, announcement. I rarely forget the private, meaningful, messages from people I respect.


  1. Michel Vandermeulen says:

    Hello Richard.

    So true . I like it how you set and say things right, despite common practisess.

    Thank you

    Michel Vandermeulen

    Retired HR manager

  2. Jeanne Carboni says:

    That’s sad that “members of the week” felt patronized. I hope (and I’m pretty sure) that our SCN Members of the Month (MoMs) have a better experience. In part because of our process, and also because of the person who drives this process, Caroleigh Deneen. First, Caroleigh is such an awesome, caring person. In addition to her full tine role as gamification expert on my team, she is also a young mother of 4 (that’s right, FOUR) adorable pre-teens. Regardless of her busy schedule, she takes the time to comb our huge community, with millions of unique visitors and hundreds of thousands of contributors to find that special Member of the Month. She engages with our moderators to make sure she’s got the top candidate, and then she reaches out to write and record a wonderful interview that includes both the personal story as well as the motivation of the person to contribute (I like to call it, Pay it Forward) in the community.

    Once we publish the blog and video of the respective Member of the Month, we give them a little boost on their LinkedIn profile as well.

    I know that our gratitude to the MoMs is genuine. I always tell them, our mentors and our space editors and moderators that we could not do what we do without them, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart. <3

  3. Gear Buzz says:

    We are looking at this right now.

    I think in our community MOW or MOM might like

    • A free software gift (worth several hundred $$)
    • A free run of ads and or an editorial feature on their business
    • A message from the community admin / myself as founder

    Tangible + Tangible + personal

    But some may not have use for the software and have no business to promote - so the personal thanks will just have to suffice!

    I am sure there is a joke in here somewhere…!

    Sincere thanks for your contribution - now get the hell out of my office and go post some more content! AND TAKE YOUR GIFT WITH YOU! Goodbye! Please close the door on your way out.

  4. Sarah Hawk says:

    I also have mixed feelings about this. I’m interested as to what approach was taken in the community that Rich describes. In my past experience, people have been really honoured to receive MOTM – at least that’s what they said!

    I’m actioning a Member Spotlight here. The idea isn’t so much to reward the person or to extol their virtues, but more to focus on something that they are particularly good at or passionate about, so that the rest of us can learn from them. and have someone they can contact if that particular subject becomes something they need advice on.

    I’d be interested in your feedback once this gets underway. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else.

  5. Nick Emmett says:

    I guess a lot of it depends on how it’s positioned and communicated. I don’t run a Member of the Month feature but I do run a monthly spotlight on some of our prominent members. This isn’t quite as in depth as how yours is positioned @HAWK, but we have a quite broad group of users from different industries, different roles (from company accountants right through to CEOs) and different product usage, so they answer a fairly standard set of questions. From experience so far, those that have featured have felt quite honoured to be asked and I know the members enjoy reading the responses, as they’ve told me so. I usually post an abridged version in the Community as an exclusive look, and then the full feature is published to the company blog. You can see the collection so far here.

    I also post each month our leaderboard, showing who our top 10 most influential members are. I’m looking to change this slightly when I re-implement, as at the moment it shows the top 10 of all time and I want to show the top of the month. This gets good feedback though and the members that make the list are always pleased to be mentioned.

  6. Sarah Hawk says:

    Do these change fairly regularly or is it pretty much the same 10 people all the time?

  7. Nick Emmett says:

    At the minute the top 4/5 doesn’t really change, but the bottom one’s do, that’s where new people often enter the frame. It’s usually the people who come in and get super engaged and they work there way in to the leaderboard. It’s also, however, the reason I want to switch it to show the same information but on a monthly basis - that would change more often for sure.

  8. Jen Blanford says:

    Nick - Are you still using leaderboards? When you post the leaderboards, what kind of wording do you use to introduce these lists?

  9. Nick Emmett says:

    Hey @jenilene - apologies for the delayed response.
    I still have a leaderboard although I don’t have to screenshot it and post the image any longer, we have a dynamic feature now. There’s no real lead in for it, it’s featured on our home page and just titled “Influential People”.

    Do you have a leaderboard in your community, or do you feature your members?

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