A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Gamification Summit in San Francisco and had the chance to meet with technology startups who are in the process of commercializing their products. While I have been in the gamification space for quite some time, the level of innovation, progress and analytics in this field was far beyond my expectations and astounded me. So much so that I believe that it may redefine the way we work, live and conduct business.
A. Social Media: Everything is not what it seems
When social media is used for advertising purposes, such as to brand your business or get others to engage with you whether through paid ads or by posting content, its effectiveness gets tricky. The first rule of Social Media is that it is about others and not you. In fact, Facebook’s Timeline is just another ruse to make you believe that Social Media is a recording capsule that you will come back to in the future to reminisce or feel nostalgic about your earlier posts. While this may get you to constantly post about you so your data can be mined and sold later on, you should know that for Social Media to be effective in any way, your content must be of value to others to generate engagement.
At the Gamification Summit, Chamillionaire (yes, the rapper!) touched on something that should be pretty basic but that is often forgotten: find out what your audience wants and give it to them. If your audience comes to Facebook to keep in touch with their friends or in search of entertainment, then your content must be shaped with this in mind. Anything else, and it is very likely to be subconsciously blocked by whoever it is you are trying to reach.
One of the reasons that LinkedIn works without affecting Facebook’s market share is because the LinkedIn audience is much more receptive to business advertisement and sales networking than on Facebook.
This means that having a one-stop shop strategy for all social media tools is like using the same pair of shoes for all events such as playing sports, ballet dancing, at a wedding or going for casual meet ups. You’ll look odd, unprofessional and sometimes may not get past the guest list on most occasions! Lesson: Use the right tools with the relevant strategy.
B. Engagement is the new metric
If you’re in the small percentile of people that have gone through a viral uptake of content on social media (where you’re not backed by major corporations) you will know that viral marketing is not a science that can be reproduced and more like pot-luck. Sure, you can use all the main traits of what creates viral advertising to give you a better chance, but at the end it is still timing and luck.
The answer as to why engagement is so important lies in the assessable results and analytics that years of data from web interactions have generated. No longer is the worth of your website solely dependent on how many “hits” it receives and the amount of time spent looking at your content. People are more prepared to notice or keep coming back to you or buy something from you if you have engaged them. While having great content is excellent for this interaction, the investment required to compete with other great content is enormous. And it may still not work.
C. Gamification or Influence Media?
While some businesses are still coming to terms with how to use Social Media effectively, it seems that the world is moving towards the gamification of everything! This new type of media uses information, rewards, status and social connections to influence the way people engage with a brand, business or cause.
Gamification is the utilization of game mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems. It provides a highly successful way for you to influence a chosen audience to take an action in your favor when competing options are mostly equal. In its simplest form, it does away with having great informative content and instead offers you adequate rewards when you complete a task.
Which sounds better to you?
Social Media: You read a blog about sand boarding from SandBoarding Co. and you really want to go and try it out. Maybe you will at one point because you have so much stuff to do.
Influence Media: SandBoarding Co. offers the first 100 people 10,000 frequent flyer miles to try their new redesigned SandBoards for free and gives you an option to purchase it at half price. Then every time you come back, they offer you recognition and status based on your achievements in skill level. You’re ranked amongst others within the Sand Boarding community and they give you a cool badge too.
The difference is huge and the dynamics are different. Where the former is passive, the later has the power to drive an audience. By simply increasing the rewards tailored to the community they can effectively influence your decision-making. Both Social Media and Influence Media work extremely well hand in hand. However, in Influence Media you control the level of visibility and influence you want to generate.
One big stumbling block in this area has been the use of the word “Gamification” to describe influence media. This is because people immediately attribute the field with video games or other games in one aspect.
In fact, gamification doesn’t have anything to do with games, except that it uses the foundation used in gaming to engage audiences. Nor is the substance found in the field of gamification new. It has existed since the start of civilization.
Think about the game mechanics involved in the education system: learning, passing tests, leveling up, progressing to the next class or even obtaining a diploma. It does not stop there, your diploma then allows you to progress to a new job or university. This constant learning, progressing, achievement of status is replicated in games, as game designers understand that this type of competition engages audiences to extreme degrees.
We now have the data and the tools to understand gamification, build efficient gamified models around our lives that were not possible before. In fact the research in these areas have existed for a long time, but we’re only now in a position to commercialize it. The engagement possible from such frameworks is unlimited.
As for the name of “gamification”, it may be more appropriate to say that games uses the mechanics of influence to engage audiences rather than the other way around. However, this is a mute point because no matter what it’s called, if you thought Social Media was big, just wait for Influence Media -- it’s going to blow your mind away and come in with a bang even bigger than social media.
James Duchenne is the CEO of SEiiAN Rewards and is currently based in Sydney, Australia.