Mashable reports this morning on the way a new social network, the Mother Nature Network, is using ‘gamification’ to translate activity on the site into actual donations and actions taken to support wildlife charities.
Reading this post (more of which later) led me to wonder what gamification was all about, and how the voluntary and community sector could make use of this approach in our online campaigns.
Wikipedia (take your dose of salt) suggests that ‘gamification works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviors… [and] can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, filling out tax forms, or reading web sites.’
Ok, fine, but so what? Well, here are what seem to be the main points of gamification:
Old codgers such as myself with remember the Blue Peter campaign in the 1970s which got schools to collect milk bottle tops to ‘pay’ for a guide dog. A more modern take on the competition element in social media must come from such sites as FourSquare, which encourage users to compete with each other to collect ‘check ins’ at different places.
Elements of competitions that your organisation could adopt include setting challenges, counting down to deadlines, encouraging teams to compete against each other or individuals to compete against themselves (apps are good for this), and using rewards to recognise people’s success.
According to psychology experiments, people are usually very willing to help each other out and share rewards. Facebook games creator, Zynga, make use of this motivation by making it easy for players of Farmville to ‘gift’ each other virtual sheep and other farming supplies – all of which ring Zynga’s tills.
Using the force of reciprocity to support your organisation’s aims could be as simple as retweeting your followers’ relevant tweets and then asking them to retweet your own, acknowledging posts and responding to comments. Sharing badges or virtual gifts between your followers may also make it easy for people to demonstrate this reciprocal effect.
The feeling of joining a cause, and lending your support to that of many others, is one of the unique elements of supporting a charitable campaign. Voluntary organisations already emphasise this point in the ‘real world’ – just think of all those pink T-shirts in Race for Life events across the UK.
Online, what does co-operation look like? Well, what about the response to last year’s UK riots, where communities used social media to organise clean up operations?Liking a campaign page, using a campaign hashtag, or signing up to a petition are all cooperative activities. You might also argue that online forums, where support is provided by forum users themselves, is essentially cooperative.
Playing a traditional game usually involves trying to win various rewards, whether those are money, matches or hotels on Park Lane. Recognising someone’s contribution, especially where it goes above and beyond what others may have done, helps to make that contributor feel their work has been worthwhile.
In the online world, big brands may reward loyal or talkative customers with discounts or freebies, but those of us without massive budgets may make use of online leaderboards, or recognition as prolific contributors or moderators to online communities. A very simple and effective reward can be responding to someone’s tweets or posts to thank them for the efforts they are making to support your organisation. If your organisation is wanting to drive up Facebook likes, why not send a small prize to your 100th or 1000th follower?
And what about the Mother Nature Network I mentioned at the top of this post? Well, its take on gamification is to award site visitors points for sharing posts on Facebook or Twitter, or for uploading new content. When 100 points have been collected, users can decide to donate that ‘Worldshare’ to an organisation of their choice. The site is apparently still in beta so it remains to be see how much it will actually channel from its corporate sponsors to its good causes. Check it out yourself on Mashable.
Need more resources about gamification? Take a look at: