People like to play games.

They like them because they’re challenging, motivating, social and, of course, plenty of fun.

There has been a lot of research done as to what it is about games that makes people want to play them, but you can see it for yourself in the things that you do. Candy Crush, anyone?


A good game will lead you by the hand to continue playing it – to get to the next level, receive the next reward, to get ahead of your mother in law (*cough*).

This is all great, but what does it have to do with social media?

Well, the same elements that cause you to spend an embarrassment of time lining up colored dots can influence your audience towards being more engaged with you on the different social forums that you use to promote your brand.

The Elements of Gamification

There are 4 basic elements that go into gamification, and any one of them, when used appropriately, can really up the level of traction you’re getting on a social media forum.


  • Motivation is the first key component you need to know about. It’s all about getting people to play, or in our case, engage. What motivates them to do so? Can you make it more appealing for them to take the action you want?
  • Discovery is the next element, and it’s more about the fascination of the unknown. Online, we can be anyone, and create networks of people who interest, inspire and teach us. There is always something new to find out about.
  • The third, and a very important part of gamification to keep in mind, is status. It may not be the noblest of our motivators, but everyone loves to he recognized as the top of the heat, and if you can provide some of that warm glow to your online connections, they’ll notice and respond.
  • And of course, no game would be complete with its reward. Rewards can come in many forms, the most classic of which is a prize of some kind, but recognition, learning and besting oneself can be rewarding as well.

Now You Know Them – Make Them Work for You

This is some pretty theoretical stuff, so I’d like to give a few examples of how this can be applied to some of the major social networks we know and love.

The Comments Section

There are a huge variety of ways to gamify your comments.

You can have a comment of the week feature, where you promote someone who really excels at contributing to the discussions (reward!).

You could also install a comment plugin that allows users to up or downvote comments they like or dislike, literally helping the cream rise to the top (status!).

Another technique I like – one that works when you’ve got a bigger, more established audience – is borrowed from the world of forums, where the amount and quality of comments each user makes is recognized with a title like ‘Superuser‘.

You can see this on the Huffington post. It’s highly motivating!



Facebook has some native features that make it perfect for gamification. Polls are one of these.

Because faces and names are displayed with responses, this can be a good way to deliver on status.

If your audience is more likely to engage with a Facebook post than in a comments section, it’s also a great way to run contests where people can be rewarded for the depth of their responses and it makes a great tool to publically laud people for taking actions you like them to.

Some entrepreneurs even release content exclusively on Facebook and make alterations and additions based directly on the response.

If there is content that is ONLY available after having liked a page or shared a post, you may turn off some users, but you may access many more. Use this discovery technique with caution.


Twitter is an information super-warehouse and everyone wants to get as much attention as they can.

Being the bearer of interesting news is a high-status position, so give them the tools they need to achieve that desire.

Twitter is also a great tool to measure the traction of blog posts and other online content; having tons of tweets linking back to a post is fantastic social proof that you know what you’re talking about, so make tweeting your content a no-brainer.

Maybe you reward a Twitter follower of the week with a prize, or maybe you turn the tables and feature them on another platform.

Whichever way you want to go, on whatever social media space, just keep the principles of gamification in mind and try to give people an experience they enjoy, and want to repeat.


Pick a Single Strategy to Begin

Now, it’s tempting to get out there and start doing everything all at once. I hear you!

It’s a bad idea however. As with any social media strategy, it’s best to start with one place to begin, and move onwards and upwards from there as you get feedback from your audience, and can track your results.

Okay, sounds good, but where to begin?

Here’s a quick audit you can do of your business to help figure out where you should start applying some gamification principles to your social engagement.

Where does your audience spend most of their time? Are the constantly pinning? Tweeting from dawn until dust? Stalking each other and you on Facebook?

Wherever they are the most active will be the most effective place to start.


Once you know where your audience is the most likely to already be, consider what you want out of that platform.

Do you want more likes? More shares? More clickbacks? More backlinks?

Identify one goal you want to achieve through gamification on that one platform.

Finally, choose one or more of the gamification elements that you think will be the best fit in terms of helping you reach that goal on that platform.

Perhaps a contest with a reward for taking a certain action, or a public thank you to someone who went above and beyond sharing a piece of your content.

The only limit to this kind of marketing experimentation is your imagination and your willingness to try new things.

Keep trying until you find the mix that maximizes your success.