Entrepreneur

Are you being played? How tech companies use gamification

This is a guest post by entrepreneur, Kris Duggan

When you visit LinkedIn, one of the most ominous features encouraging profile completion is the  progress bar telling you that your profile has a long way to go before you’re complete.

This very basic example of “gamification” has helped LinkedIn efficiently grow its global user base with relevant, accurate and high-value data. In simple terms, Gamification means to use game theory or game mechanics in non-game situations to manipulate and reward behavior.

Social businesses have long caught on to the psychological mechanics that drive behavior. These all stem back to psychology 101, with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs telling us that after food, shelter, recognition and feeling accepted within a community go a long way in getting us to act one way versus another.

For instance, Facebook’s “Like” button is, in a less direct sense, a bit of a gamified experience with the motivator of this high-level human need for recognition. The more witty, hilarious, adorable, or thought-provoking your status update is, the more likely your friends are to “like” this comment. Twitter offers a very similar experience with retweets and replies. Pinterest takes this a step further by offering “repining” and other new social behaviors to reward.

Whether you are on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, this positive social feedback loop goes a long way in driving our behavior.

Within communities and forums, top commenters and generic expertise has always been called out to signify the greatest contributor. Until modern gamification technology, community managers were unable to automatically a trigger a scalable system of status-based rewards based on quality or topical interests and contributions.

Today, tech and finance companies are leveraging more advanced game mechanics to influence user behavior. Deloitte’s (a Badgeville customer) “Who What Where” campaign offers a robust reward program for employees who check in on location noting who they are with, what they are doing, and where they are, with a goal of increasing collaboration across its mobile workforce.

Another example is Samsung (also a Badgeville customer); they created a gamified program called “Samsung Nation where the company’s community is rewarded in a social experience for activities such as leaving reviews, registering purchases, and exploring new products.

The challenge with the term “gamification” is that people would never admit that these mechanics drive them to act.

Yet, these mechanics are proven time and again. These motivators stem from our childhoods, where a golden star helped signify our intrinsic reward without any real tangible value.

Today, in our increasingly connected culture, we have new opportunities to be rewarded for behaviors, which, in many cases, help a business reach its objectives. Rewarding behavior that a user would not want to complete is not going to result in a successful gamification program and may be detrimental to your business.

The challenge is that with so many distractions, it’s difficult to encourage users to perform behaviors they want to do without a structured feedback and rewards program. This is exactly the opportunity that strategic gamification fills – using principles of gaming to shape user behavior—and why it’s quickly becoming the key to the future of the modern, engaged enterprise.

The only real way to provide long-term value from a gamification program is to ensure the goals of the business are aligned with the goals of the user.

Kris Duggan is the CEO & Co-Founder of Badgeville, a software-as-a-service global gamification company used by high-profile customers like Deloitte, Samsung, Universal Music and Dell. Prior to founding Badgeville, Duggan worked in leadership roles at a variety of successful companies, including WebEx.

 Top Image via LinkedIn Makeover

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