Make Your Game Mechanics Social

In July, Jennifer Van Grove wrote an interesting article on Mashable highlighting the recent popularity of gamification, which included the process of formulating a game and the real world implications of creating gamed incentives for users. The article highlighted the importance of making a game meaningful by creating incentives to perform desired actions, not just tacking on points and badges for the sake of a trend. Today, customers are increasingly seeking experiences that are engaging and on-going, which has pushed organizations to formulate new ways to reward customer loyalty.

While it has been documented that successful games need to be thoroughly planned and dynamically adjusted, one issue that has not been discussed in great detail is the process of actually acquiring game players. With so much competition for customer attention on the Web, how does an organization convince users it is worth their time to sign up, understand and care about the game enough to come back for more?

There are three primary ways in which an organization can make it easier to drive interest to ensure a successful game:

1. Simplify the registration process

One of the biggest hurdles any organization faces when trying to gain meaningful customer loyalty from their game is getting users to take the time to register in order to begin the game. The litany of information required by many registration forms across the web has made users weary of filling out these forms each time they want to participate on a website.

Instead of prompting users to tediously provide this information, organizations can loop in this information where it already resides: social networks. Millions of people globally have social identities – Facebook alone has over 750 million users and networks such as LinkedIn, Google+, and regional networks have generated a critical mass of users. By allowing your users to register and login using social login, the user is enticed to take part in the game.

The benefits of allowing your users to take advantage of social login to play a game are three-fold. First, the website gains access to the rich profile information that marketing departments covet. Second, your users need only enter an email and password, a process that is significantly less demanding than a standard online registration system. Third, your site benefits from access to the social graph of your game players. This user access expands the game to related friends and connections in order to add a meaningful sense of community and increased competition.

Social Login

2. Let your game players market for you

Personally rewarding an individual for interaction and loyalty is valuable. However, humans are naturally motivated by recognition from others. Whether it is the purchase of a hot new item, a donation to a favored charity or a voicing of opinion, acknowledgement by others is a key factor in motivating human behavior.

Organizations looking to create a game should place a strong emphasis on publicizing rewards and achievements to give their game greater meaning. The simplest and most effective way to do this is to prompt users to share their rewarded actions to their social networks. With this process, the game gains significantly more meaning to current users while simultaneously promoting the game to other similarly-minded individuals. In addition, users can share out their badges and accomplishments in order to gain recognition over the social networks and drive new game players to the site.

3. Frame the game as an appreciation of loyalty

The word “game” conjures up thoughts of something that is playful, temporary and can only be won by a limited number of people. It is important that organizations frame their game not as a short-term gimmick, but as a long-term program aimed at rewarding their users for continued loyalty.

Organizations implementing game mechanics should appeal to competitive desires while also providing social rewards such as badges indicating expertise, or customer loyalty points for future perks.

More importantly, games should not be framed as having an end. Once a game is established, it should become an ingrained part of the customer’s experience with the organization or brand. Once a game-playing customer is acquired, that customer should find it difficult to give up the game due to new challenges or new rewards that consistently keep the game fresh.  By continuing the gaming experience, users will take notice and appreciate that the organization values their loyalty enough to keep them entertained and compensated for their time.

While gamification is a relatively new concept for most, understanding basic principles of human behavior go a long way in developing a successful gamification scheme on your website – one that can dramatically increase engagement. The first step in this process is gaining game players that are also loyal customers. By reducing the hurdles it takes user to join, letting those users promote the game out to their social networks, and providing true customer appreciation through meaningful incentives, organizations can go a long way in getting their game off the ground.

Game Mechanics on shoebacca.com

— Andrew Sweet

By Tobias Meyer-Grunow