In case you missed it, AiMA had their monthly event on Wednesday night. Action! Gamification Technology and User Behavior Social Media with Chris Nelson (CMT), Gab Aldrige (The Super Group), Craig Kronenberger (Edelman), and Omar Divina (Badgeville).

What is gamification? In practice, it looks like badges, leaderboards and achievement levels, but in theory it uses a human being's innate love of playing games to encourage a certain behavior. You've probably seen these on Facebook or perhaps on certain web sites you've recently visited. Those badges are certainly polarizing. For some, if they never saw another notification from a Facebook friend (that they probably haven't talked to since high school) who has just earned some random badge, it would be too soon. However, when you actually do care about earning a badge, for whatever reason that might be, you would do a lot to get it and would want to tell your friends about it as well.

And what, you may ask, does gamification have to do with loyalty? Well, remember last week when we talked about how through strong relationship marketing you get to "know" your consumer, engage with them in more ways, and increase advocacy – and how social media enhances your ability to achieve these objectives in new and different ways? Well, game mechanics is another tactic in your marketing tool belt you can use to supercharge your objectives. If you want incremental sales, increased engagement with your site, or more advocacy, a properly executed game-type experience may be an effective way to enhance results. "When you have a gaming element attached, it's amazing how much more engagement you see," Chris Nelson, CMT.

The speakers at Wednesday's event proved through examples that fun can make people do things they wouldn't otherwise do – like talk about toilet paper on Twitter and Facebook. They also talked a lot about best practices. Following are the ones that resonated most with us:

  • Understand your audience – know what they will find valuable and tap into them to grow the program over time. "There is something to be said to listen to the community itself and allow them to drive the direction of the product. The more they participate, the more involved they become," Craig Kronenberger, Edelman
  • Set SMART goals – specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timed goals
  • Ensure it is simple and the player knows the clear path to get there – remember, rewards don't need to be big
  • Ensure status is displayed prominently and is easily accessible regardless of channel – levels and status drive retention
  • Scaffold goals and skill progression – incremental goals, frequent assessment, multiple rewards, and feedback along the way, not just one grade at the end
  • Make sharing a game dynamic – the more you share, the more it helps you
  • Think multi-channel – offline to mobile to social
  • Make your experiences meaningful. "Don't create one off experiences. Give tools to drive engagements they want in an iterative way" Omar Divina, Badgeville.

There are several ways you can make the experience meaningful:

  • Personal motivators: Identity, progress, direction, success, entitlement, growth. "You've just accomplished X!"
  • Motivators with friends: Place in community, self-expression, social status. "Did you know 67% of your friends have done X?"
  • Across the Group: victory, suspense, surprise, mastery. "You are the first to do X!"

The quote of the night came from Omar from Badgeville, "You can put a badge on crap and it'll still be crap. You have to have content first and foremost and you have to have a reason to come to your properties." We couldn't agree with you more, Omar. And to take it a step further, people aren't loyal to a brand because you have a badge or you earn points. Loyalty starts with a good product or service experience. It is reinforced by a superior customer experience (regardless of channel). Without these elements as a foundation, it doesn't matter how fun you make it, you won't generate incremental anything.

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