Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

July 15 2011

5 Best Practices for Applying Game Mechanics to Your Website


Craig Ferrara is a senior gaming & UI expert at Gigya, where he designs the integrations of Gigya’s technology into clients’ websites. Gigya makes sites social by integrating a suite of plugins like Social Login, Comments, Activity Feeds, Social Analytics and now Game Mechanics into websites.

Conversations about game mechanics — the rules that govern how enjoyable a game is — are changing. Formerly a topic mostly discussed by game designers and gamer geeks like myself, gamification is now part of the business discussion as marketers look to apply it to websites.

One concept that has remained constant, regardless of who is having the conversation, is to identify ways to keep players engaged and games fun. This applies to your site as you encourage social user participation via gamification tactics. Let’s break websites down by their common social tools, and target ways to effectively gamify them.


1. User Generated Content


Increase content generated by users on your site. By incentivizing content creation, the user becomes more engaged, thereby making your site richer and more dynamic, as well as improving its SEO. Content is mostly submitted through simple vehicles like comments, ratings or reviews. These are basic ways to get feedback from users based on the content you produce and present.

For example, reward top commenters, but also look for alternative ways to reward commenting on pages. Perhaps allow “weighted commentary” — that is, permit users to sort comments based on each commenter’s respective “rank,” with the most highly ranked users’ comments appearing at the top of the feed. While this kind of reward falls outside the scope of badges and points, it gives the most active users something just as desirable: clout.


2. Sharing


Aside from being both repetitive and easy, sharing can prove incredibly useful in syndicating your content. With gamification elements, users feel even more compelled to syndicate your content. While sharing naturally lends itself to gamification, content publishers should be aware of one potential pitfall: rewarding the user simply for sharing is in violation of many of the major social networks’ terms of services. Social networks prohibit immediate incentives for clicking the share button in order to prevent users from spamming their feeds with random content to earn points.

One way to work within this system is to have users work toward a larger overall goal or ranking as a result of sharing. Instead of prodding your visitors to “click to share and earn ten points,” sharing can be a means to bring users toward an achievement. Doing so gives visitors the idea that sharing has value, but does not drive toward mindless clicking. Instead, they’ll share what actually matters to them instead of just spamming their networks.


3. Feedback


The Facebook “Like,” Google’s new “+1” and other reaction buttons serve as both content contribution and sharing tools. They allow users to express an opinion with just one click. Furthermore, you can incorporate gamification by rewarding users for “liking” content on your site — prioritize the opinions and feed activity of highly ranked users. For example, when a website’s activity feed displays popular articles and top user reactions, a visitor will likely feel more compelled to click. Think in terms of Roger Ebert giving “a thumbs up” to a movie versus relying on someone less influential.

The benefits of showing ranked reactions in the activity feed are two-fold here — not only will the user expose content to others on the site, but they will also showcase their rank, thus encouraging others to achieve the same status.


4. Social Login


Social login brings an invaluable layer into the game: a user’s social graph. A basic principal in game mechanics states that users are more inclined to participate if they have some real world benefit behind the rewards. This can be as simple as increased reputation within a community. Once a user logs in via social APIs such as Facebook Connect or Twitter, she can then compare herself with gaming friends as well as social network friends, all in one space.

Now your visitor knows some people in the site community — but they’re still new to the game. How can we encourage participation? Maybe award them small amounts of points just for clicking around, or more points for remaining on a page and consuming content. Therefore, a user who may have no initial interest in earning badges will still be able to advance in the rankings given their increase in participation points. As soon as they recognize the value in earning points (perhaps their comment appears higher in the activity feed), they’ll get hooked and consciously participate. Keeping users involved in the game without any effort on their behalf is a great strategy for converting them into active gamers.


5. Keeping Score


Any good game mechanics implementation goes out of its way to educate users on achieving and advancing within a system. For instance, offer instructions alongside every badge, and show an indicator of their progress within that achievement. At the same time, you don’t want to bombard site visitors with constant, blazing reminders. Instead, consider using simple JavaScript notifications that don’t monopolize valuable site real estate.

Of course what good are all these badges and points if you can’t show them off? By integrating game mechanics into activity feeds and leaderboards, you allow your users to do just that — all while putting a human face to the game. Activity feeds not only allow users to find their friends within their social graph, but also to view their friends’ badges. In turn, those participating in the game learn how to unlock badges for themselves. Any good game mechanics implementation should go out of its way to inform the user about how to level-up.


Follow these pointers to connect your site’s social elements with game mechanics that allow you to reach both your passive and enthusiastic “gamers.” Keep in mind that tying rewards to your existing social elements is just as important as the rewards themselves. Just as with social games like FarmVille or World of Warcraft, participants should feel as if they’re part of a community through which they can proudly syndicate their achievements.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, yurok

More About: business, game mechanics, gamification, incentives, social media, web

For more Business & Marketing coverage:


July 12 2011

5 Ways to Encourage Customers to Share Your Content


Sanjay Dholakia is CEO of Crowd Factory, the leading provider of crowd-powered marketing applications that add a quantifiable social boost to every digital interaction.

Nearly every brand has realized that integrating social elements into most or all of its marketing programs is essential. Companies are also thinking about social media as an integrated element that spans all of its campaigns and channels – not as its own silo. But enabling people to share a campaign with friends is only half the battle; you’ve got to give them a compelling reason to socialize.

Here are five creative ways to motivate social sharing. We’ll provide insights as to how you can structure campaigns to encourage more people to share, alongside examples of brands that are getting it right.


1. Increase the Payoff When People Share More


With the advent of DIY group deals, you can create campaigns in which the more people share among themselves, the more they all save. The idea of collective benefit also plays to team dynamics: people will mobilize when lots of folks can get a benefit.

Oscar Mayer’s recent program for its new Oscar Mayer Selects hot dogs provides a good example. Oscar Mayer offers consumers a coupon to try the product, and encourages them to come back to share a “Taste-a-Monial” (essentially their personal review of Selects Hot Dogs) to get a second coupon. But this second coupon is progressive in nature: for every 5,000 people who share their Taste-a-Monial, the value of the coupon will increase by $0.50. The value continues to increase until the deal becomes a free pack of hot dogs, or until the promotion ends on August 15. At that point, everyone who shared a Taste-a-Monial will be rewarded their coupon.

Snoop Dogg made headlines recently for the progressive group deals he runs from his Facebook page’s “Shop Snoop Now” ecommerce tab. Each day, one product is featured for a special group deal – the more “Likes” the product gets, the lower the price for the product.


2. Give Them Something Exclusive


Giving people something unique or exclusive in return for sharing can be a powerful motivator — we all want to feel privy to something special.

For example, in a recent campaign to build awareness for recording artist Cady Groves, RCA offered fans a free song download for registering on the Cady Groves website. RCA also incentivized fans to share Cady’s music with their friends by offering a free merchandise pack to every fan who convinces five people to download the song.

Many brands are also rewarding fans by providing early access to content. For example, a big trend we’re seeing in the music industry is “share to reveal,” where fans get advance access to music videos or song tracks in return for sharing with friends.


3. Appeal to Their Altruism


People are inherently good. If you make it easy for them to help, they often will — and your brand will get a major boost along the way.

For example, Clarisonic recently ran a fundraising campaign for “Look Good, Feel Better,” a program that helps women battling cancer cope with treatment-related skin changes and hair loss. It contributed a $1 donation for each new “Like” on its Facebook page. The campaign made it fun and easy to share the program with friends by designing different “calls to action” that visitors could choose to share. As a result, Clarisonic generated over 30,000 new Likes on the page.

Of course, many fans will share simply because they love the cause and want to spread the word — so make sure you’ve at least added social elements to all your customer touch points.


4. Let Fans Help Create the Offer


Giving fans the ability to choose which version of a product should be offered, or to vote for the discounts or special offers they want to receive, helps ensure they’ll share it. For example, HarperCollins’ Bookperk website, which keeps readers up to date on new books and special deals, lets members select which books will be offered at a discount. Once members have chosen a book, they have the option to log into Facebook and share their selection with friends, therefore spreading the word about the discount.


5. Identify, Recognize and Reward Superfans


Humans are inherently social beings, and like to be recognized for their expertise and achievements. Recognition can be a powerful motivator for social activity.

In the Cady Groves example mentioned above, not only was the campaign successful in getting many fans to share with their friends, but furthermore, quite a few “superfans” took sharing to the next level. They generated their own tweets, direct messages and Facebook posts. Some individuals managed to recruit several hundred new fans to the Cady Groves website and Facebook page.

These superfans aren’t necessarily motivated by the incentive; they’re interested in promoting the artist, getting free merchandise for their friends and establishing their reputation as someone in the know. Smart marketers will look to identify and reward these superfans on an ongoing basis, and further provide them with ways to carry on their message.

Once you’ve identified your superfans, make them part of your marketing mix. Give them preferential or early access to new items, and reward them with recognition on your Facebook page, Twitter or your website.


Whatever your methods, find a way to incorporate a social element into every marketing campaign you run by finding compelling reasons for people to share. That’ll make every dollar you spend on marketing look like two.

Disclosure: Cady Groves, Clarisonic and HarperCollins are clients of the author’s company.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Anne Helmond.

More About: business, Contests, ecommerce, facebook, incentives, sharing, social media, twitter

For more Business & Marketing coverage:


July 06 2011

7 Winning Examples of Game Mechanics in Action


Gabe Zichermann is the author of the books Game-Based Marketing (Wiley, now available) and Funware in Action (Manning, Q3/2010). He is also the CEO of professional mobile social networking startup beamME and frequently muses about games and the world at funwareblog.com.

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems. In other words, it means taking the best lessons from games like FarmVille, World of Warcraft and Angry Birds, and using them in business. Whether targeted at customers or employees, across industries as diverse as technology, health care, education, consumer products, entertainment and travel, gamification’s impact can already be felt.

While some have criticized the concept of gamification as shallow or demeaning, the initial findings from gamification specialists are nothing short of astonishing. Regardless of your business model, the following seven gamified innovations should inspire you to strategize via game analysis.


1. Make a Market: Foursquare


The first incarnation of the location-based networking field was littered with carnage, leading many to write off the entire concept. But Foursquare’s founders, veterans of the now defunct Dodgeball, succeeded with an ace in the hole: game mechanics. Exposed to the concept while working at Area/Code (Zynga’s recently acquired New York City-based game design shop), Dennis and Naveen concluded that mobile social networking would work if you were to change the dynamic from multiplayer to single player.

Instead of depending on the action of the crowd to provide intrinsic reinforcement (e.g. “Hey, you’re around the corner. Let’s grab a beer!”), Foursquare overcame the empty bar problem by becoming a single-player game. The user competes for badges and mayorships whether or not anyone is there to meet him. In the process, Foursquare proved that location-based networking wasn’t doomed to fail, that simple game mechanics can affect behavior, and that you can engage 10 million customers — all while raising $50 million.


2. Get Fit: NextJump


When you listen to NextJump CEO Charlie Kim describe his zeal for physical fitness, you immediately understand the energy that has propelled this interactive marketing platform into one of the nation’s fastest growing businesses. But keeping fit isn’t just Kim’s personal goal — he told me it’s also a practice he believes his employees should value as a tool for improving their lives, reducing company insurance costs and preventing employee absenteeism. To achieve those goals, NextJump installed gyms in its offices, and built a custom application that enabled employees to check in to each workout. Ultimately, they rewarded the top performers with a cash prize. After implementation, around 12% of the company’s staff began a regular workout regimen.

But Kim wasn’t satisfied. By leveraging the power of gamification, he retooled the fitness “game” to become a team sport. Now NextJump employees could form regionally based teams, check in to workouts and see their team performance on a leaderboard. Leveraging the game themes of tribalism and competition had an astonishing effect on behavior. Today, 70% of NextJump employees exercise regularly — enough to save the company millions in work attendance and insurance costs over the medium term — all the while making the workplace healthier and happier.


3. Slow Down and Smell the Money: Kevin Richardson


In many countries, speed cameras snare thousands of drivers each year — a quick shutter flash earns a miserable ticket in the mailbox. In some countries, particularly in Scandinavia, ticket amounts correspond with the driver’s salary, rather than his speed. But Kevin Richardson, game designer at MTV’s San Francisco office, re-imagined the experience using game thinking.

His innovative Speed Camera Lottery idea rewards those drivers who obey the posted limit by entering them into a lottery. The compliant drivers then split the proceeds generated from speeders. Richardson used gamification concepts to turn an negative reinforcement system into a positive, incremental experience.

When tested at a checkpoint in Stockholm, average driver speed was reduced by 20%. If the plan were scaled across the U.S., the results could mean thousands fewer injuries, millions of dollars worth of reduced costs and substantial environmental benefits.


4. Generate Ad Revenues: Psych & NBC/Universal.


Psych is a popular program on the USA Network, but these days, creating value for TV advertisers means connecting to the web and social media in creative ways. Enter Club Psych, the online brand platform for the show, and among the first major media platforms to get gamified.

The brainchild of NBC/Universal executive Jesse Redniss, Club Psych implemented gamified incentives to raise page views by over 130% and return visits by 40%. The resulting rise in engagement has generated substantial revenue for the company, bringing registered user counts from 400,000 to nearly 3 million since the launch of the gamified version. The media conglomerate has since embraced the strategy across properties, bringing gamification to ratings leaders like Top Chef and the The Real Housewives.

Other content publishers, like Playboy, have seen similar results. Their Miss Social Facebook app has achieved an 85% re-engagement rate and 60% monthly revenue growth with gamification.


5. Make Research & Evangelism Count: Crowdtap


Getting product feedback is a costly and challenging effort. Therefore, most marketers have come to loathe ineffective surveys and expensive focus groups. Enter Crowdtap, the hot New York City startup launched earlier this year that reached $1 million in revenue and 100,000 users in just over 90 days. The company offers consumers gamified rewards to complete research tasks and to share brand advocacy with others — something mere market research simply cannot do.

Through the use of gamified, virtual rewards, the company has been able to raise average user participation by 2.5 times, thus reducing research costs by 80% or more for key clients. By targeting consumer rewards along a motivational (not demographic) axis, CEO Brandon Evans reports that competition-oriented users are four times more likely to create quality comments and 12 times more likely to refer others to the platform. Instead of competing against the system, they challenge themselves and peers to excel — an extraordinary achievement by any measure.


6. Save the Planet: RecycleBank


Modern life is wasteful, and easy fixes are rare. By tapping into people’s desire for reward and competition through gamified experiences, governments, utilities and entrepreneurial powerhouses are rewriting the rules of sustainability — and making the world a better place.

In a Medford, MA pilot program, households competed in an energy smackdown in which the winning family managed to lower its carbon footprint by 63%. In a program called Putnam RISE, Indiana families are making thousands of pledges to reduce power usage through a competition. The schools whose families conserve the most energy receive a cash prize. And across the country, incentives experts at Recyclebank are using the power of gamification to radically improve home environmental compliance. So far, they’ve utilized game mechanics such as points, challenges and rewards to drive breakthroughs. For example, the project has seen a 16% increase in recycling in Philadelphia, where the recycling rate has broken 20% for the first time in history.


7. Make Teaching Fun: Ananth Pai


As former globetrotting business executive turned elementary school teacher, Ananth Pai has seen it all. But when he inherited his class in White Bear Lake, MN, Pai realized there had to be a better, more engaging way to teach. So he grouped students by learning style, and retooled the curriculum to make use of off-the-shelf games (both edutainment and entertainment) to teach reading, math and other subjects. Students play on Nintendo DS and PCs, both single and multiplayer, for example. Their overall point scores are tabulated and shared using leaderboards.

In the space of 18 weeks, Mr. Pai’s class went from below third grade average reading and math levels to mid-fourth grade. The classroom success is supported by video interviews with his kids, who say “Learning with Mr. Pai is fun and social.”


In addition to these seven great tips, dozens more success stories pour in each week, underscoring the tremendous investment of time and money into gamification. Gartner Group estimates that by 2015, 70% of the Forbes Global 2000 will be using gamified apps, and M2 Research forecasts that U.S. companies alone will spend $1.6 billion on gamification products and services by that same year.

Gamification spans the gamut — from the hundreds of startups that launch with game mechanics incorporated into their products, to the big brands that make gamification a hallmark strategy. Regardless, the message is the same: the future will be more connected, more social and more fun than ever before.

More About: competition, foursquare, game mechanics, games, gamification, incentives, social media

For more Business & Marketing coverage:


Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl