Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gameify Your Blog

This post is an adaptation of my upcoming post to the CampusLIVE blog, YouEngage. Look for it and other posts on engagement marketing there as we overhaul the entire blog.

The following post is inspired by the BlogWorld and New Media Expo info session “Game Mechanics and the Future of Loyalty”.

The panel was moderated by Jason Keath and featured Mike Schneider, Chris Pirillo, and David Tyler.

Picture this: you post a podcast to your blog, urging readers to listen.

A fan of the blog and lover of audio, Steve Sportsfan decides to start your podcast and finds…minutes upon minutes of analysis and opining and no discernible end to the rant.

Even the most loyal reader would be tempted to throw their hands up and exit the podcast without knowing exactly how long they have until the end. They're busy, and they need to fit your blog into their day along with hundreds of other activities. 

When the frustrated listener leaves the podcast, you (the blogger) lose on three fronts

  1. You fail to extend your audience on a consistent basis.
  2. You frustrate loyal readers.
  3. You fail to tap into the network of social media followers of each listener who bounces.
Now, as you're well aware, no (successful) podcast lacks the progress bar along the bottom. It's a useful tool to skip around, but it's also a "game mechanic" in place to help you stick it out until the end.

This is just one small example of a marketing tactic that's been gaining steam of late: employing "game mechanics", or features that turn a non-game into a game. For example: simply adding a status bar to a podcast (or survey, or profile set-up) lets the user know just how close they are to finishing and drives more people to completion. 

(The same type of status bar can be found on LinkedIn to let you know how many steps are left in your profile set-up or on CampusLIVE to promote a sense of urgency and exclusivity for students joining branded challenges.)

Adding the status bar, an act so simple yet so compelling to users, can be considered the "gameification" of the user experience.

Gameification (not to be confused with actual games like Farmville or Super Mario) is the concept of using game mechanics (status bars, badges, leaderboards, checkpoints and much, much more) to transform an otherwise straightforward experience into something incredibly motivating and enjoyable for the consumer. Without creating Halo-quality games, marketers and bloggers achieve a similar goal: extending loyalty, improving time on site and providing a great user experience.

Comparing your total number of friends on Facebook? Gameification at work.

Group-buying status bars and “tipping points”? Gameification.

Badges, mayorships, point systems, leaderboards…even that paper card from the local ice cream shop that gets you a free cone after 10 stamps? Yep - gameification.

Game mechanics is by no means a new idea, but they're now being embraced by marketers in our exploding world of digital content and user fragmentation.

A recent study unearthed that online users have the attention span of goldfish - nine seconds. So unless you're willing to try your readers' patience, you’re tasked with engaging them in just a few seconds. You need to be compelling right out of the gate.

This is something that's tough to master, too. By no means do I feel like I'm a minor leaguer at this...let alone a pro. But savvy site owners are turning to game mechanics.
How about you? What are some other tactics you use to keep your blog engaging?

1 comment:

  1. I saw that on Brad Feld's site he uses a website called BigDoor to gamify his site. I think it is pretty neat depending on the audience you're trying to reach. I know on his site, it has a popup that splatters in your face when you first come to the site (which I'm sure is annoying to some people, but I don't mind it at all). We'll have to see from his research if it takes off or not.

    I also think asking questions at the end of the blog like you did here is a real good idea to get responses and comments. That's why I left one!