Humans by nature are inherently competitive. At some level, we all love to play, compete and win. If you need proof, the top professional sports leagues in North America (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS) brought in just under $200B USD in revenue last year – which is greater than the GDP of the Philippines. We sure do love our sports.
So it may not surprise you to learn that the concept of “gamification” is a big trend in social media right now. If you do a quick Google search on the topic, you’ll find dozens of articles, blog posts and white papers on gamification and how it can increase the level of online engagement amongst a target community.
But what exactly constitutes “gamification”? Does your campaign need to develop a political version of Farmville? No. In the strictest sense, it is “integrating game dynamics into your site, service, community, content or campaign, in order to drive participation”. It means finding a compelling way to turn basic activities into a competition – either as individual challenges or pitted against other users.
The above definition also includes the term “game dynamics”. Game dynamics are essentially the intrinsic, emotional responses that make games compelling: status; reward; achievement; competition; and altruism. These are the intangible elements that prompt your audience to participate and compete.
Another common term when discussing gamification is “game mechanics”. Game dynamics and game mechanics are often used interchangeably, but they are quite different. Game mechanics are the tools and systems used to enable game mechanics: awards; points; badges; leaderboards; prizes; and challenges. Combining these concepts and applying them to your operations is “gamification”.
Using gaming dynamics has been around the marketing world for some time. How long have you had your Air Miles card? Or a Petro Points membership? At their essence, these programs use gaming dynamics to make a fairly routine event (flying to Wichita, pumping gas, purchasing groceries) into a contest to collect points and earn rewards and prizes.
Gamification is now taking the online and social media world by storm. Successful companies like Foursquare, whose entire premise is based on users collecting badges and earning points for checking into specific locations, has over 10 million users and is valued at $600M USD. Meleno Park, California-based Badgeville creates loyalty programs for customers using badges, points and other gaming mechanics and just secured another $12 million in investment capital this summer.
Badges are big business.
Why? As social networking becomes an important element of a comprehensive online presence, brands, organizations and their marketing teams are looking for new and compelling way to keep their target audience engaged. It’s no longer about passive consumption – reading posts, watching videos, clicking on links to other pages on the site – it is about turning visitors into active participants.
And it isn’t just to entertain their audience. Businesses and organizations employing gamification want visitors to take specific action. They want to lead them somewhere or do something; but with the immense competition for attention on the Internet, it is getting more and more difficult to capture a person’s attention. It is even more difficult to maintain it.