It was a required element of my first degree that I play computer games. Yes, you read that correctly I essentially got credit for playing video games. This was great until it all got a little too addictive. You know its time to cut your hours when you're living under a giant towel keeping the glare from the sun off your monitor in an attempt not to be killed in an online shooter. I'm not the only one to get addicted to games on some level, how many of you reading this play or have played Angry Birds. Quite a few I would imagine.
How does this all relate to websites you're probably asking, well...it's fair to say that there are a lot of websites. At the end of December 2011 there were over 365 million registered domains with a further 150,000 being registered every day. In the mid nineties there were only 15,000 domains, this explosive growth has meant that as domain owner it is much harder to be found by potential clients/consumers and once found retain both their attention and their loyalty.
One of the methods being used by many successful larger organisations is to employ a technique known as gamification. What is it you say? Well simply put gamification is a process where gaming mechanics are applied to non-game activities, think rewards or friendly competition between community/clients with the aim of driving wanted community/client behaviours. There are several success examples of sites that employ one of the many gaming mechanics these include Foursquare, Google, Starbucks and Facebook to name a few.
Facebook employs one of the simplest methods of gamification, having more of one thing than someone else. In this example its friends, each user of Facebook can usually see how many friends their friends have and in a simple psychological game of one upmanship people try to recruit more friends to their lists. It's addictiveness but without the towel.
Foursquare uses a more complicated mechanic. As users check in to locations and businesses via their phones and laptops they are rewarded with badges and points. A leaderboard indicates who has the most checkins at a particular location. If you are lucky enough to be leading you are instilled with the rank of Mayor and the business that you have checked into will often provide you with rewards either through discounts or free products. As of June 2011 there were 10 million users.
Look closely at some of the websites you frequently use and you will probably see one or more gamification mechanics being applied.
You might have started thinking about how you can use gamification within your own business, here are a couple of ideas that I came up with:
a. If you have a company blog, offer your staff little perks for coming up with articles, say 5mins of holiday time for each approved article.
b. Still assuming you have a blog, offer incentives to your clients/community for commenting on the articles, this could just be a virtual reward such as a badge but obviously points that work towards something real such as a discount is more likely to encourage engagement.
The more you think about it the more ways you can probably think of ways driving/encouraging certain behaviour. One of the best examples I heard of recently was a design company (not ours) offering beer to their staff on a friday, but only on completion of all their timesheets...clever.