I’m obsessed with gamification, but wish we could come up with a more business-friendly name! The “game” connection makes people think they need to turn their website or portal into an overt game, which is what leads to some of the absurd and meaningless badges. Instead, people need to think about how the core concepts engage, connect, and motivate users. For example, my marketing firm works with many trade and professional associations. We’re looking at ways to change information flow, especially to new members. Most associations bombard new members with a ton of printed and emailed info. Switching to an approach that instead gives them just the information they need to take the next step, coupled with positive social reinforcement as they complete steps, could ultimately lead to more committed members. But they never need to think they are playing a “game”. The same goes for our political and advocacy clients… their work is too serious to be a game, but incorporating gamification techniques consistently delivers results.
Here’s what game techniques can do for your organization:
- Reward interaction! Give points for every action… commenting on a blog post, sharing an event, searching for an article, participating in forums or groups.
- Introduce benefits, features, and information in bite-size pieces. Games don’t give you all the rules and features when you sign up. (Unlike associations that send you massive new member kits.) Don’t dump all the information at once but don’t expect people to find it on their own either. Decide what you want members to do, figure out how that is different for new and experienced members, and then encourage the right action at the right time. Checklists and tips customized by member “level” can produce big results.
- Reward exploration of benefits and products. What’s the key to retaining members or customers? Getting them to take advantage of everything you offer. Reward them for exploring, downloading, checking out new features. Use checklists, levels, badges — whatever works.
- Reward daily engagement. Every game out there gives rewards to players for checking in daily. Do the same thing for your members!
- Encourage everyone to create and share content. Your members are experts in your field. Incentivize them to write blog posts, start discussion threads, comment, create graphics, submit proposals to speak. Take a look at the kind of engagement that your site and your organization needs and then create a reward system that encourages people to take action.
- Show your members how to jump in and help you. Is your association understaffed? (Who isn’t?) Consider adding missions where members can earn points or achievements by completing specific tasks. That doesn’t have to mean volunteering to serve on a committee… it could be helping with tagging archived articles, completing surveys, or even typing up meeting notes! You could even allow members to set up missions!
- Reward members for networking, mentoring, and connecting. It’s all about interaction. Build a system that makes it fun and easy to connect.
- Recognize members for their achievements! That can mean badges, but go beyond and share their success with their colleagues! We all know some members are more active than others. Let them shine.
What is a reward? Your reward system does NOT have to be expensive. Recognition, for example, is free. Plus, think about how games work — often, you need to reach a certain level in order to unlock new opportunities. Discounts, contests, and give-aways certainly can add value to your site, but, you’ll be rewarding the members who are adding value to your membership. That ultimately helps you MAKE money by making the group more exciting and interesting to new prospects.
That’s just a tiny preview of how gamification techniques can revitalize your website, engage your members, improve retention, connect new and seasoned members, and appeal to younger prospects. O’Connell Meier is actively looking for a few groups who want to explore these new techniques. We’ll help you analyze your needs, evaluate cost-effective programs that may be able to work with your existing website and databases, and design and implement your program — and the first few groups to sign on will enjoy discounts on our time and discounts from gamification sites/programmers. Call Rich Meier today at 866-391-1415 (ext. 92) or email him at rmeier (at) omdirect.com. Ask him about our experience with Zynga’s Player Advisory Committee!