This was first published on Joey Strawn’s blog. So if you read it there, move to the comments as there is nothing new to see here.
Speaking of Joey, he is the first person who told me I need to pay attention to gaming online. No, not online poker, but gaming that provides a fun and competitive reason for people to come back to your website or blog.
Lisa Gerber and I have both talked about the idea around gaming, but the best way for you to understand it is by watching this TedX video of Seth Preibatsch the chief ninja of SCVNGR (it’s also down at the bottom of the post, if you’d like to watch here).
Seth’s vision is to build a game layer on top of the world. He says the motivations we use to influence behavior will be decided upon by gaming and it’s important for you to understand.
He discusses how the framework of social is finished (it’s called Facebook) and this next decade will be focused on the game dynamics…or influence. Sure, there is still a lot of work to be done inside social, but the actual building of the framework is complete.
Which really means it won’t affect most of us for a couple of years, but the nice thing about the web is we can look inside our crystal balls and see what’s coming. Gaming isn’t a bunch of fluff or something that will end up just a fad. You’re already seeing it with things such as Angry Birds and Farmville. And not just with games, but inside business applications such as LinkedIn and Klout.
While the framework is being built, there are four things you need to be thinking about as you grow your online experience for your customers.
1. Appointment. You must create a reason for a person to come back to your site, at a pre-determined time. Farmville does a nice job of this because they require you to come back to Facebook to water your crops so they don’t die. With the appointment dynamic, you want to be thinking about how to create a reason for people to visit your site…or something bad will happen.
For instance, I love Foursquare. I don’t love it because it offers me goodies (it doesn’t). I love it because I can compete with my friends. At my local Starbucks, there is a barista there who keeps stealing the Mayorship away from me. Foursquare has created a reason for me to check in every day or I get my Mayorship taken away.
2. Influence. Influence and status is the ability of one person to modify the behavior of a group of people. Status is a really good motivator. Think about the iPad, for example. Even though Apple hasn’t used their influence and status as a game dynamic (yet), people have iPad envy. If you have an iPad and your friend(s) does not, your coolness factor is elevated immediately.
Creating status, or the coolness factor, is a dynamic most of us can implement immediately, as long as we understand our competition and our key differentiators.
3. Progression. The progression dynamic shows visitors what they need to do next. LinkedIn does a great job with this. They give you a progress bar as you fill out your profile. Once it’s complete, they give you 100 percent. But then, it also gives you tips for helping others complete their profiles. They’re giving you granular ways to easily complete the process.
If you have a local business, progression is a great dynamic to use. If people engage with your business, by checking in or writing a review or buying 10 of the same thing, your app shows the customer a progression bar to the next level; i.e. a free something or other. Starbucks has begun to do this with their gold card. I download the app and, for every 15 stars I earn, I get a free drink. And it shows me my progress every time I open the app.
4. Community. Communal discovery is where everyone rallies together to solve a challenge. The best example of this is the DARPA balloon challenge, where teams competed to be the first to find the locations of 10 moored, eight-foot, red weather balloons across the country. Using social networks, a team from MIT won in just eight hours because they rallied together to solve the challenge.
Think about this from your perspective. What kind of challenge can you create to move the masses? This is a fun dynamic for non-profits, particularly to raise money around a specific event.
It can be overwhelming, for sure. But if you choose just one of these dynamics, you’ll be able to begin incorporating gaming into your website or blog today.