summer holidays and teenage concept - group of teenagers showing finger five gesture
Pic courtesy:

Real People and Friends are the biggest brand ambassadors

In today’s world, the potential consumers rely more on the referrals from their friends and other consumers than on any other source including celebrity endorsement. So, as a marketer, you need to have a much deeper and meaningful relationship with your customers in order for you to sell. The relationship has to be mutually beneficial and rewarding: you get your brand message scripted and communicated by your consumers, your consumers get the social currency, “karma points” and may be real goodies to flaunt among friends.

That’s where the social gamification kicks in. As a marketer, you could create game mechanics targeted towards creating social benefits among your consumers or users or – to use the gamification terminology – “players”.

Social gamification is an effective strategy

The consumers of your Internet business (age 13-45) would grow up playing video games and are used to typical game constructs. They are also the power users of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram and Snapchat. The players have access to their social buddies just a click or a tap away. They can play a virtual game with one another and can boast about their escapades socially. There is opportunity to create both reward/incentive and punishment/dis-incentive for the target users and thereby train them into a habit. Isn’t this a great position to be in when you are trying to market your service?

5 Step approach for Social Gamification design

The social gamification needs to be carefully crafted and woven into the business strategy of the company – rather than put in as an after thought.

Here is a step-by-step approach by which you can create a winning social gamification strategy for your Internet business:

5 Social Gamification steps

Step 1: Define Your Target Persona –Your Players 

The Players are most likely the end-users of your site, mobile app and platform. To understand the player motivation, start with identifying their demographics and psychographics like gender, age group, location, education, income, access to internet through PC or mobile, Facebook habits, values and beliefs.

Then you need to look at what motivates them to play the game. Check Bartle’s MOG Player type model. Majority of players (>60%) who would engage with your system are “socializers” – who get motivated by interacting with the other players and their peers. There will be “achievers” – the deal hunters , “explorers” – who are interested in exploring something new and interesting and a small number of “killers” – who will try to win a deal in the expense of others.
While the main target of the social gamification is the Socializers, you could potentially target all these players and their motivations.

Step 2: Create measurable business targets

Why are you building the social gamification system around your platform? What business benefits you’d hope to drive? Identify if the targets are towards increasing recall or awareness of your services or increasing engagement or both. Like all goals, these needs to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound).

Some examples could be: Increase in

  1. Monthly Active Users (MAU)
  2. Virality or reference for the service.
  3. Volume of activity measured by foot-fall, Check/Buy conversion
  4. Sales volume by channels (App, web)

Step 3: Take inventory of the appropriate tools and environment

Before you delve into designing your gamified system, have a good review of tools and technology that you have at your disposal. To start with, check the target hardware platform: personal computers, mobile devices, gaming consoles or any other smart device. Are majority of your players Facebook users or Twitter users or neither? Does your system already have users with Facebook credentials, permissions to access user data, post, share on behalf of the users? If not, what’s your strategy to coax the user into giving those permissions without making him suspicious? Is your infrastructure robust and safe enough to deal with real/ virtual money transaction without falling pray to hacking and fraud? Does the legal environment that you are operating allow all game transaction – like betting? Do not – by any means – allow your engineering/IT/legal team to constrain your imagination. But a quick check will save a lot of trouble and wasted effort at the later part of game design.

Step 4: Define the game mechanics and game dynamics

The game mechanics refers to the nuts and bolts of the game design. Things like define and allocating Points, levels, leaderboard, badges, challenges/quests, metaphors used, graphic design etc. come under the mechanics of game design. On the other hand, game dynamics deals with creating engagement and progression loops, designing quests/challenges, infusing the social fun elements and iterate the design based on feedback.

Engagement Loop
Engagement Loop is about creating engagement drivers for your users using gamification artifacts. Assign points (called “Experience points”) to the activities that will drive your business goals. These points form a basis for creating a quantifiable feedback mechanism and can be suitable changed and fine-tuned as you get the feedback. Part of these points can be displayed or sent to user to show progress and motivate them to engage more. You can also convert the points to a system of badges to denote achievements. Consider creating a points’ leaderboard as well. The leaderboard can be for the social groups to show how you are faring compared to your friends.

Your users are keen on finding new bragging opportunity everyday. A cool badge, a personalized looking message with points creates powerful and immensely shareable social currency.

Progression Loop
Progression loop starts with on-boarding your players and then creating small quests for the players till they reach the target level or closer.

For first time use (FTU), the player should be taken into the site and given a tour of key features – without asking her to sign up. The sign up (may be through Facebook/ Twitter) and first transaction experience should be as flawless and smooth as possible. At the end of the transaction, the user should be given a congratulatory note, a badge, and a few easy targets. Social referral is a powerful onboarding tool. Tell your users which of her friends from the social network already logged into the service and how she can bring more friends to make the experience rewarding.

Create small, meaningful targets for the Players in their journey. There will be rewards in each step that are interesting and sharable. Some of the rewards could be jointly achieved as a group. Also, it’s useful if you can drive the users towards higher level goals – e.g. something altruistic that give intrinsic and long-lasting motivation.

Fun Elements
Fun is what makes Players play the game for longer period of time and more frequently. There should be some recurring and addictive reasons for the players to engage with your website or app. A meaningful social interaction like compete in a game of quiz with the friends and try to beat them on leaderboard could be good fun.

Step 5: Measure the results wrt the target set and iterate to improve
Overall, the gamification design is an iterative process. You need to deploy the system, try it out and tweak it based on the response to get sustainable results. While you are capturing the user analytics throughout your platform, add the gamification analytics into it. Check what part of your gamified system is accessed and used mostly by your users and which part is not. Finally, it should meet your business targets and do so continuously. Social gamification is a living process, you need to constantly keep adjusting it – what’s working today does not guarantee you the same results tomorrow.