“Gamification” is the practice of integrating dynamics usually associated with the online gaming world to websites, communities, advertising campaigns, in order to increase the interaction and the ultimate experience for users.
Who would not like a hyper-reactive community, where users respond in mass to each stimulus?
Who would not like a blog with dozens and dozens of comments on each post, with interesting discussions and healthy competition from readers?
This is a possible outcome of gamification.
Even the most casual online user might have noticed game-related dynamics and competition in social networks such as Foursquare (where the direction is now clear) or increasingly complex variants for online contest where several tasks contribute to the creation of a classification of users (see EmpireAvenue).
Understanding this logic is important, if you need to promote a great brand or just your blog, creating a better experience for your users or customers and spicing up your readers rewarding them for their activity.
See below three important aspects to keep in mind, in order to implement gamification.
1. Gamification is Nothing New
At least, not in the strict sense.
Anyone who has lived (or he is living) part of his life online, for instance in a populated forum, knows how a “great ranking” can bring a real status symbol.
Colored titles under the name, bigger avatars, signatures extended beyond three lines. Everything is reachable in exchange of a greater commitment, contributing actively to the community as a moderator, editor or just as power user.
Principles of competition that aim to move users in a particular direction, giving in exchange badges and glitters on their accounts, have been around long time before Foursquare and they find great approval from the users.
2. Gamification Changes Behavior
The gamification, when the mechanism is well oiled, changes the way people act.
Do you remember Nike + iPod? This experiment quickly became successful, where Nike and Apple have grouped to provide a global leaderboard of “amateur runners”, armed with their shoes and their favorite iPod, in order to compete with virtually all the rest of the globe to reach the greatest number of kilometers of race.
You can find more often these online dynamics virtually anywhere there is a number to grow: the followers of Twitter, the Klout score, the number of likes on Facebook fan pages.
Anything that can be quantified and that can bind to a specific user or brand becomes sooner or later a competition, where people can really invest a considerable amount of time spontaneously.
Have you already followed Reviewz’n’Tips on Twitter?
3. Gamification is at Hand
The third aspect is the one which affects you directly. In other words, how these gaming mechanics are easily applicable to your blog or your community without spending a dime or, in any case, with the investment of a niche product or service as a prize.
An example? Cubepoints. A very interesting free WordPress plugin that you can use to assign points to each registered user in your blog that performs certain actions : visiting a page, leaving a comment, interacting with other commenters, and several other interesting things. It’s your choice how to reward the most active users.
Or PunchTab, an intuitive and very effective system if applied in the right place (I’m also thinking to give it a try on my blog). For free, PunchTab allows you to create a real “loyalty program” that assigns a number of points for each action taken by the users in your blog (including the sharing of your content on several social networks). Upon reaching a certain threshold of points, your users can collect the prize in the form of a service or a useful product of your niche.
Also Bigdoor, which is free only in the basic version, is a bar with the same logic explained above, and provides a more extensive set of APIs for advanced solutions.
Or else LaunchRock, a free service that you can use to create pages to market your “Launching Soon” product. When you use LaunchRock, you decide what you want to promote through the landing page and in which way you provide your audience with a referral link. Each registered user can then bring other contacts to obtain additional features or reserved access once your product will be ready. LaunchRock makes the whole process really intuitive for anyone who sign up and for those who manage the promotion.
These are just some of the existing tools that you can use to try gamification in your website or blog.
On the other hand, you could even do without all of this and you should simply rely on the “likes” of Disqus.com or the top rated comments with Comment Rating Pro.
Are You Going to Try Gamification?
So, at this point, you should try to incorporate some purely playful dynamics on your blog pages!
What do you think ?
Let me know in the comments below, thanks!