Small Business: Gamification and You

by Ken Mueller on January 4, 2012 · 45 comments

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This guest post is from my friend Joey Strawn. Joey is a hype-free, forward-thinking social media and game strategist who loves helping companies explore and understand social media, digital marketing, gamification and their uses. He loves talking about gaming, social media, rock music and dragons and is always up for a good debate. You can usually find him at a bookstore and always over at JoeyStrawn.com.

Did you ever make up your own games with just a few friends when you were younger? My three friends and I had a game called “Oopsie” (clever, I know) that consisted of throwing a kickball over my two-story house and not allowing it to hit the ground on the other side. Two players stood on either side of the house and whomever caught the ball got a point and got to throw it back. If the ball hit the ground, both players lost a point. If your throw didn’t make it over the house, you lost a point.

The highlight of the game was whenever the ball hit the ground, both players on that side of the house had to yell “Oopsie” as loud as they possibly could.

It was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played and only about 4 people on the face of the planet even knew what it was.

Small Games

Gamification is a term being thrown around a lot lately and it’s possible you have no idea what it means, especially if you’re working in small business.

Gamification is the integration of game mechanics and dynamics into business, websites, service, communities, content or campaigns with the expressed purpose of driving participation. It mainly got it’s start in the world of technology, but has since spread to be adapted for businesses small and large. (Perhaps you’ve heard of Foursquare, which is one of the more popular location-based games used by businesses).

So how can game dynamics help your small business? Here are 5 things to keep in mind while considering:

1. It’s Not Just About Badges – I’m starting with this point because most companies I work with simply want to slap badges on their existing crap. That’s not what Gamification is about. It’s true that many outward-facing aspects of Gamification take the form of Badges or Stickers or the Like, but Gamification is a process, created from the ground up and integrated with the business practices already in place. It’s not a candy coating, it becomes part of your businesses DNA.

2. There are External and Internal Gamified Systems – This is one that gets a lot of people mixed up. The term “Gamification” is not a catch-all for everything that can be done within an organization to increase participation. First, you have to decide if you want to Gamify internal processes or external processes. I’ll explain: Gamifying internal processes means creating methods of participation for your own employees. These can be meant to increase productivity, morale, or any number of objectives (mentioned later). Gamifying external processes means creating ramified methods of participation for your current and prospective customers (i.e. getting badges for using products, leveling up to different plateaus of experience, earning the right to ____________, etc.). Both types of Gamified systems have to be approached separately and thoroughly to be effective.

3. Yep, You Still Have Objectives – As I mentioned earlier, Gamification isn’t a fix-all for crappy products/services/apps/etc. Just like with your other small business marketing endeavors, you have to know what you want to accomplish in the onset. Set objectives and then work backwards from there. For example, let’s say your objective is to raise awareness on Facebook (or Twitter, or Google+) in the first quarter by 15%. That’s a well-rounded, measurable objective, so then you’d work backwards, using our next step…

4. Play - You’ve set your objective (raise awareness on Facebook by 15% in Q1), now we’re working backwards to find our steps. Find your current awareness level, the new Facebook Insights layout can help there, and then decide what your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be. Does “Liking” your Page indicate awareness for you? Maybe it’s comments or sharing a post that really shows you that people are aware of your company. You have to decide that for yourself. Then, figure out a game mechanic (Status, Access, Power, Stuff) that can encourage people to participate. Set it up on a Tab or PageModo Page and let the games begin.

5. Measure, Measure, Measure – Are people playing your game? Is your customers’ awareness level raising? Don’t look at me. You should be measuring this stuff. Gamification isn’t all fun and games. Build in metrics that can be measured and know from the onset how you’ll be measuring. Keep in mind that new metrics are created almost every week. Keep it simple. Find measurements you trust and understand and keep an eye on them. Depending on the length of your campaign (a week, a month, indefinitely), you may be checking every day. That’s okay. Remember though: Just because you can measure something, doesn’t mean you should measure it. It is really important to your campaign that you know the heat map of your third landing page? Maybe, but if not, don’t worry about it. Measuring in social media and Gamification is just like anything else, don’t get caught up in micro-trends. Look at trends over periods of time to see how people are truly reacting to your game. If it’s not working. Try again.

Level Up

So Gamification can work for small businesses like yours. You just have to put a little bit of work into that playtime. Don’t worry if it’s tough at first. Keep at it and you’ll see. If you want some more instruction when it comes to Gamification you can also check out these places:

Or you can always just Contact Me and we can chat about games and how I can help.

You’ve got it in you to play great games at your company, all it takes is a little bravery and the willingness to say “Oopsie” some, but that’s all part of the fun.

 Small Business: Gamification and You
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43 comments
Erin F.
Erin F.

I need to spend some time learning more about external gamification, specifically what sort of game system would be feasible for my company and how to implement it. My concept is very ethereal at the moment. I don't have to worry too much about internal gamification, though. I don't have any employees to reward unless I'm playing the split personality game.

maryhruth
maryhruth

I think this post helps me understand a wee bit more what gamification is, but it still sounds like a cute new word for well worn marketing tactics. Setting up for customers to "win" is not new, right?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

Hey Joey! Did you see that WordPress has launched gamification? From what I can tell, it's only for .com users, but it's pretty interesting that they're trying to get more people blogging by giving them challenges to complete.

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

As someone who has heard the term gamification a number of times and still didn't really get it, Joey Strawn has given me a basic understanding of what it is and what it can do. Good guest post, Ken!

Todd Lyden
Todd Lyden

Hype-free? My friends, Joey Strawn has all his hype injections. There have been no outbreaks of hype since that trip to Vegas- at least none that have been caught on camera. I have heard that there are people who have seen some hype, but those are some dicey people.

Considering the dark underside of the "oopsie" world, it is VERY surprising that Strawn was able to escape with hype, hoopla, or even pizzazz (which I understood was RAMPANT amongst the players).

and to Strawn: measure? Don't measure? Make up your mind man, how else to know if I am winning at the game?

PS: Go watch BASEketball right now! RIGHT NOW

davidsvet
davidsvet

@kmueller62 You're welcome Ken. I just noticed you're in Lancaster. My wife is working for Hershey now. Do you like it there?

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@Erin F. Erin, you're definitely right, for the entrepreneur, internal gamification might be a tough sell. Not many customers want you playing with yourself all the time while they're trying to do business with you, but drawing customers in with proper, well-crafted game mechanics could make your job of retaining customers a bit easier. : )

Latest blog post: We're No Cannibals Here

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Erin F. you might be on to something! Solitaire for the solopreneur!

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@maryhruth Hey Mary, you're right on the money that trying to involve customers in the purchase and participation cycles isn't new. What gamification is based off of though are game dynamics that until recently have been primarily researched and used in game design and the creation of new board, field and video games. While the goals of engagement are the same (awareness, desire, purchase, referral, etc), Gamification uses some newer methods that play deeper into customer psychology. : )

Latest blog post: We're No Cannibals Here

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@maryhruth Yes, we want them to win, but this is a more concerted effort that involves real games. This has been going on for a long time (think: McDonalds Monopoly game) but in an old school way. The online, social, mobile revolution allows for this to take on all sorts of new shapes that allow the consumer to play AND engage on deeper levels, and be rewarded for that. People love competition.

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@ginidietrich I remember reading something about that but haven't really looked into it. I'm interested to see what it's all about before I decide what I think of their efforts. Lol. : )

Latest blog post: We're No Cannibals Here

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@ginidietrich I'm kind of curious how well that will work out for them. Plus, I'm wondering what sorts of free plug-ins will arise for those of us on self-hosted WP

Anthony_Rodriguez
Anthony_Rodriguez

P.S. If it weren't so damn cold, I'd want to play me some 'Oopsie!'

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@faybiz I never said I escaped without pizzazz and hoopla, I'm still fighting those off and will probably be on antibiotics the rest of my life. : )

Latest blog post: We're No Cannibals Here

Todd Lyden
Todd Lyden

That should be WITHOUT hype, hoopla, etc.... Strawn is clean.

kmueller62
kmueller62

@spurdave love it. what does she do there? i have a few friends who work there

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Erin F. I will bet ANY amount of money that there were times that none of @joey_strawn 's friends were around and he tried to play Oopsie by himself...

davidsvet
davidsvet

@kmueller62 Sure thing. Are you from the area? Trying to decide if I'll relocate from KC.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@joey_strawn@Erin F. hey, i would've done the same thing! "Hmmm....I wonder if I throw the ball over, and run REALLY fast....if I could...."

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