on gamification

I’ve been pondering the intersection of social media and games.

Gaming, at its core, develops skills and strategies that can be applied to real-world scenarios; one friend of mine described skills acquired during her Final Fantasy XI days as training for her role as an office manager.

Another friend, a software engineer and avid gamer, approaches his gaming with the same intent focus as his coding. Recently, he has been playing City of Wonder. Every 30 minutes or so, he will switch from his current project and harvest crops, go on expeditions, and try to build a little civilization.

However, nothing tangible will ever come from this game. So why do it?

We have a natural inclination to collect things, whether they be Pez dispensers or online stickers. Businesses that tap into this desire (through social media, mostly)  can benefit from increased customer interaction.

In our overworked, time-crunched world, friendship has become more virtual in nature. I work with clients whom I have never met, and I have friends with whom my primary form of communication is online. In this case, City of Wonder is a personal outlet for me; however, gaming is no longer squarely in the realm of personal entertainment.

Games offer a way to share experiences, and many companies are taking advantage of consumers’ interest in online games. Offering products and services alongside game play is not a new idea, but harnessing both game play and social media is catching on.

Foursquare is an app that allows customers to check in at various businesses. Yelp is review site that is popular among consumers researching restaurants and various companies. Both sites reward prolific posters with status enhancements, such as becoming a Mayor of a business (Foursquare) and awarding Elite status and Elite-only events (Yelp). Both of these sites enhance the visibility of businesses that are popular with their customers.

Empire Avenue helps businesses create their own buzz by providing a stock market-like experience based on companies’ level of involvement with social media. Depending on the level of online involvement on various social media sites, a company’s stock price increases and “investors” enjoy a robust portfolio.

What does this mean for the average small business? With a little online savvy, a small company can use social media platforms to increase customers. Some ideas:

  • Twitter: encourage retweets of an announcement or sale, and offer a chance to win something.
  • Facebook: ask customers to post and tag photos that are relevant to your company, and hold polls or contests with prizes.
  • QR codes: offer bonuses for Foursquare (or other location-based sites) users when they scan your business.
  • Custom games: hire a developer to create a smart app for your business; offer points and prizes that reward referrals and repeat customers, similar to the traditional frequent-buyer programs.

Have anything to add? Post a comment with your idea!

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