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Social Media Gamification: Should You Play

Have you ever felt the excitement of earning a new badge in foursquare? Don’t you feel lucky when you take a look at those retired badges you’ve earned on foursquare? 

I think it is safe to say we all do, as they are limited to only a few people who met specific requirements on foursquare.

Why do we feel that way? Why did foursquare adopt that policy? What is the point of a badge earning quest? Well, that’s the point we call ‘Gamification’.

The wiki definition of gamification describes it to be the use of game mechanics and designs into non-game contexts. So, the game mechanics of winning or achieving something is intelligently being applied in the above scenes by foursquare. It is the perfect example of gamification.

With its wide acceptability and application over the last two years, game theory is now considered to be a part of the mainstream online marketing.

Social Media Gamification:

The blend of social media and game theory can be traced back to the inclusion of various leaderboards and points/percentage advancement based techniques by social networking platforms into their user base engagement strategies. Companies like Gowalla, Foursquare and Linkedin are some of the early adopters.

Gowalla and Foursquare concentrated on the earning/rewarding side of gamification by introducing badges, pins and points.

The ‘leaderboard’ in LinkedIn is simply a bar that shows the percentage of your profile that is complete in the hopes of getting you to ‘fill in the blanks’ to give them better data about you.

The Facebook “LIKE” or ‘RECOMMEND’ button for webpages is the next best example of gamification that urges the viewer/user to be the first among his friends to LIKE it. 

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Though we are talking social media and gamification, it is worth mentioning that most of the gamification strategies consider social media as a touch point, as it covers and serves a wider audience than gamification marketing could do all by itself. The games integrated into social media platforms – like Angry Bird and Zombie Lane (Google+) and FarmVille and CityVille (Facebook) – use the richness of the platform to foster their own gamification strategies of social gaming.

How does it work?

Answering through Maslow’s Hierarchy model, it acts in-between the 2nd and 3rd block of the pyramid. It sparks (or at-least tries to spark) the esteem part in Maslow’s pyramid and when you see peers, colleagues, relatives earning something (i.e. the involvement of that 3rd block) it intrigues the user to take action and get involved.  

The 3rd block is what helps game theory work in a powerful way, but social media integration is a critical piece that is often overlooked. Most gamification strategies will fail on social media integrations if they don’t consider the critical parts involved in the platform used/concerned as not all platforms are created equal or intended to be used equally.

The parts or layers:

Richard Bartle’s theory on Multi-User Dungeons states the users or target group can be divided into four types – they are: Achievers, Explorers, Socialites and Killers.

Talking about the parts or layers that work in the game theory, there are three such layers that stimulate motivation. These are: Personal motivators, motivators with friends and motivators across the group. The following image from Badgeville clarifies it further:

Source: Link

The future:

The future of game theory and gamification in social media seems really bright. As per the Gartner report on gamification, more than 70% of Global 2000 companies / organizations would embrace gamification and will have at-least one gamified application.

The Problem:

Just like any other marketing strategy, a game theory is what ultimately marketers leverage it to be – and there’s always a difference between the virtual and real world applicability.

So, the success of gamification would depend on the way it is being devised and used. The flow, the target group selection, engagement tactics, and rewarding systems should be well defined as well as well balanced.

Now on a gamified note, if you get it then share it and get a RT in return. Keep playing!