The following is an excerpt from The Beginner's Guide to Gamification for Online Communities. The full 68 page book is available free right here.
Gamification is a hot topic at the moment. The internet is full of claims that gamification can improve your roi, increase your user engagement and melt stubborn belly fat. How much of it is true, and how much is empty sales speak? This white paper aims to answer those questions, sifting through the marketing to tell you the truth about gamification. You’ll find out what works, what doesn’t, and what pitfalls to avoid.
What Can Gamification Do For You?
For the uninitiated; gamification is the practise of applying game mechanics in non-game situations. These typically include points, achievements, high score table and other trappings of modern gaming. The games industry has spent a great deal of time refining what makes a game engaging and entertaining, and applying these principles to other business contexts. Businesses that specialise in gamification tend to over-promise, and it’s important to be realistic about what gamification can achieve. The primary purpose of gamification for communities is:
Onboarding Your Customers
One of the toughest challenges in community strategy is getting your customers onboarded. There are certain tasks that you need your new users to complete in order to facilitate engagement. Examples might be uploading a picture or completing their profile information. An unengaged user might think “Eh, I’ll do it later” and then never get round to it, making them less likely to contribute in the future. Gamification can help motivate these users to perform basic onboarding tasks. You can see examples on large social media sites with such simple measures as LinkedIn’s progress bars for profile completion. Making the process feel like a game causes users to fill in information that they might not have otherwise bothered with, or may have forgotten.
2.Drive User Engagement and Loyalty Cost Effectively
Gamification can give you an inexpensive way to keep your users engaged. Inclusion in community games can keep the interest of long term users up and give new users drive to contribute. “Achievement” style gameplay gives your oldest users a reason to stay loyal, giving them a tangible investment in your community.
3.Help Your Community to Run Itself by Encouraging Positive Behaviour
If gamification is set up properly, it pushes members towards behaviour that benefits the community. Tailoring the rewards set up for your community can allow you to reward things like good behaviour, strong contributions, posting material that receives positive feedback and many other things. Providing an extrinsic reward for the behaviour you want to see is a great way to build a positive community culture.
Is Gamification Right for Your Community?
Gamification has a lot of potential benefits, but businesses need to consider what it can really do for them. Crucially, you should also consider what it can’t do. There are a lot of people willing to sell you gamification in some form or another, so it can be tough to separate the truth from the marketing. Here are some points to keep in mind:
Gamification Can’t Solve All Your Problems
Don’t be fooled by companies who try to tell you that gamification will solve all of your problems. If you implement gamification expecting it to be able to do everything, you’ll be disappointed. What gamification does it does well, but that’s all it does. People with outlandish tales of how gamification can solve specific problems are selling you a bridge. Gamification can only enhance a great, well thought out experience. If your community or service is deficient in those areas, it won’t cover it up.
Implementing Gamification Isn’t a Simple Button Press
Not every gamification system is right for every community. You can’t simply take something that has worked elsewhere and port it over to your community wholesale. It’s important to think about the specific needs of your business and community and how the gamification systems are going to tie into that.
Gamification Should be Part of a Full Product
Gamification shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. It needs to operate as part of a larger community. If people love the gamification, but don’t stick around to contribute after it’s done, what was the point? Effective gamification should be part of larger community strategy that pays off in the long-term.
It’s About the Community, not the Game
Gamification can be a lot of fun for businesses to implement, but it’s important to keep it in perspective. If the game becomes more important than the community, the point has been missed. Gamification should serve the community, not replace or hinder it.