What is social media teaching us about social gamification?

Social media has been encouraging and enticing us into certain behaviours through the means of gamification and behavioural nudging, which in my view are linked together or ought to be. In recent iterations of social media platforms, we also see how they can take it a step too far. I think it is providing valuable lessons for us in gamification on what to do or not to do with social elements in gamification.

Lesson 1:  Keep it social

Twice this week I found myself looking for updates from friends or connections and instead I found a constant stream of hashtag related, sponsored or ‘recommended for me’ content. What I actually endeavoured to see and check the social platforms was to connect with what is alive with people I care about. I think both LinkedIn and Facebook made it hard for me to interact with the people I wanted to interact with.

The very strength and reason for the platforms to exist seems like it is being eroded by chasing marketing revenue or data feeds meaningful to some but not the end-user. As a gamification designer when we add social elements with the view of encouraging interaction and meaningful exchanges between people, we also need to allow our end-user to choose how they use these elements for their benefit.

Lesson 2: Be transparent about your intentions

When you invite people to engage on your platform, requires for you to be able to say what you do with their data on their request. I would even say make it clear from the outset and allow them to opt out if they wish to do this. The backlash that Facebook faced in the aftermath of elections and priming advertising or posts to drive certain behavioural experiments without the knowledge or consent of its users is beyond acceptable.

In gamification, we also need to be transparent about our intentions for game elements. I know that when I introduce the leaderboard game mechanic, I also introduce by default competition. If I introduce emoji or likes as a social element, we also introduce the feeling of wanting to be appreciated and the opposite of feeling less popular. When these elements are suggested, I would always recommend having the conversation with clients of the double-edged response they may receive.

Lesson 3: Give your user control

I am a strong proponent of giving users the choice of whether they want to engage with the features provided or not. You will find out very quickly if what you have designed is useful for them or not. Add additional features and educate your users about them by all means, but then allow them the choice to add it into their behavioural mix or not.

In our work in learning related gamification, adding social elements and feeds is a regular request. In some organisations, this will work well and these are typically the ones where leaders lead the way and open communication is already top of the agenda. In other organisations, we see social elements failing purely because of fear of perceptions it may give about someone. If for example, I don’t like what my boss says about a course or topic, will that have an impact on my performance review? If it does, then forget about introducing social elements.

Lesson 4: Be open for social feedback to be negative as well as positive

On most of the social media platforms, mainly positive feedback is encouraged. However, systems like Stack Overflow, where software developers ask questions and rate responses up or down and earn expertise points are very effective in weeding out rubbish responses. When we aim gamification designs at scientific and engineering focused target audiences, we will always include both positive and negative feedback features. Just think of it, finding bugs in engineering is one way to improve the quality of your output. In science, disproving a specific theory is also narrowing down to a potential solution.

In a workplace environment, we may want to create an environment where feedback is both positive and negative and to some extent curated. When you set social rules, training people in implementing them may be required in the initial onboarding to the tools with an occasional reminder.

As a concluding remark, I would say social elements are very powerful. Humans are by their very nature social beings. As adults, we learn more in a social context, so excluded social game elements would be wrong, but thinking through how they are used is very essential. Let’s learn form what social  media platforms are getting right and wrong to enhance our use of social elements in gamification.


Popularity contests as the dark side of gamification

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What is gamification in marketing?

What is gamification in marketing or what could gamification look like for a marketing process? We recently took part in a challenge which addressed exactly this question, how can we gamify our marketing to attract a younger demographic.

Understand your target audience

Marketing is at the end of the day all about attracting potential customers, raising an interest, helping them to get to the buying decision and a strong call to action. For those of you who like theory, that was the AIDA model in a nutshell. My first degree was marketing focused, so I learned some of these things a few moons ago.

When we look at the customer attraction process and good marketing practice, it always starts by getting to know your new target audience in great depth. You need to know where they hang out online and offline, what their preferences and behaviours are and how you can potentially help them achieve one of their wants or needs. Like in good gamification design practice marketing starts with target audience research.

Map the journey

When you have created one or maybe multiple personas you can then start mapping your customer attraction journey. It needs to have a starting point in the place where the customer spends time. For example for a campaign we are working on, we established the target audience is either on Instagram, YouTube or Twitch, so our starting outreach for marketing will start there.

When it comes to creating a meaningful customer journey, we need to identify what nudges will catch their eye and get them engaged in a first activity. It can be a mini-game, a playable ad or a teaser for a challenge that takes a bit more commitment and time. Either way, the language has to be that of the user, not that of the company behind the marketing campaign.

You want to map out the various steps in your marketing process, which can have multiple starting points. So taking our example for an audience that hangs out on any of the three channels (Instagram, Youtube, Twitch) we may vary the attraction message for each channel, on Instagram, it could be an action-focused quote with a clickable link, on Youtube an interactive video and on Twitch a mini-game. Once the action for each of these channels has been taken, the journey may converge into one stream or you may want to keep them separate to test your most effective route to engage and entice your customer.

Invite to play

When it comes to gamification in marketing, we want to encourage some playful behaviour. It can be a simple scratch card to unlock a surprise code. A riddle to start a treasure hunt, an invitation to a 30-day challenge or a wheel of fortune with instant prizes related to your brand.

If you are marketing a knowledge-based service or product, then a longer engagement campaign that builds trust in your ability to deliver will be required for most buyers. If you are in a more transactional product category, a free trial or money off discount or special event will work well. If your product is aiming to engage adrenaline junkies, then an event with this in mind would be on target.

Combine your brand values with those of your target audience and create engagement at that level. For example a financial institution with a long track record in asset management, may want to build this trust and capability with its clients by taking the stress and lack of knowledge out of investing with for example a 30- day money mentoring challenge or a family friendly ‘who would make the best investor in your house?’ style challenge. However, a Red Bull for years organised high adrenaline events to make things fly, float or other, where you have to be daring to build something and take part. Totally different brand values but both applying gamification.

Advergaming has been a trend that has come back and with today’s technology, we can make ads playable like mini-games. They can be branded casino type games or some more engaging treasure hunts online with related brands targeting the same audience as you. Magnum ice cream has had a few fabulous online examples of online treasure hunts.

Banking on social sharing has been useful for technology companies like Google and Dropbox. Dropbox increased your storage facility if you shared with others. Google launched Gmail by invitation only. In more recent times, video company Loom also asked for people to share to extend the level of services you had access to as part of their launch campaign and for what felt like a test launch of their MVP. Social game elements can be very powerful.

Test and measure

Marketing invented the terms testing and measuring, so it should be no surprise that we would advise this for marketing related gamification. A/B testing of headlines, calls to action and gamification are all up for negotiation. Marketing is a science combining the understanding of the behaviour of your client with targeted communication and strong calls to action. Having people take small playful actions increases the level of commitment given to your brand.

In marketing, you would rinse and repeat a campaign if and when it has proven to work. Adding gamification into the marketing mix doesn’t change that. You always want to ensure it builds a longer-term connection. You can also still add playful elements in your seasonal marketing efforts around major celebrations and events. I see gamification as an enhancer and a way to achieve mini-commitments from your target audience with off course the ultimate goal of them becoming customers for the long run.


What should a call centre focus on in gamification for their employees?

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Is gamification dead when the market keeps growing?

In the past number of years and especially this year, several magazines, fellow experts etc have called gamification dead. Yet, all market research reports are indicating it is a growth market. It is puzzling to me as a business owner in this space.

If gamification is really dead, then it must be a cat with nine lives. Gartner declared it dead, but then that was to sell books. Because of their rather strong claims, I guess it would have been wrong to bring it back in their hype cycle, whilst really it would have found itself in the trough of disillusionment. But that was 4 years ago.

Other experts in the last two years have also called gamification dead, mainly because I think they got angry with the industry or how it was finding its own way or they didn’t find their place in it. In any case, typically it had a soapbox or a book or a course or a program attached that they were touting.

Earlier this year Training Journal also called gamification dead. Now what I find ironic in this, is that many more training tools such as learning management systems and authoring tools now included gamification out of the box. So does that truly mean it is dead or simply that it has been integrated into more applications than we can think of?

Market research predicts growth

When I looked at the market trend reports earlier this year to write up my gamification trends for 2019, steady growth is still on the cards. The growth rate is slowing according to these reports, but it was not declared dead nor in decline.

Mordor research found the gamification market in 2018 to be worth about 5.5bn USD and they predict a 30% growth rate by 2024. Statista sees the market growing from 4.91 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 to nearly 12 billion in 2021. Markets and research find that the education gamification market is set to grow even faster, their analysts forecast the global education gamification market to grow at a CAGR of 66.22% during the period 2016-2020.

So if this mean gamification is dead, then I will be happy to be there at the funeral and take a slice of the pie in the meantime. Ok, I am being cynical here, but before you read clickbait headlines as gospel, do your own research.

I find it fascinating to read these claims and then to wonder what is truly the main driver behind them. If social media and fake news have taught us anything, it ought to be to research reality. Our reality in business was clearly going against the headlines. Our own growth rate has seen consistent growth for the last 8 years so when I read these things, I wonder why we are different. Or who is wrong?

Gamification is more pervasive than ever

Have a look at most applications on your smartphone, there will be very few that have not attempted to introduce gamification in some way or other. On your desktop, only traditional workplace software can still be found without gamified nudges, progress mechanics or other. But they are also reconsidering.

I would say we have to thank mainly social media for this because they have been the best in training us to look for likes, emoji and other nudges in behaviour. Health applications were the next in line for our engagement nudges towards going into the gym or exercising based on our own chosen reminder patterns.

Most learning related systems have added some levels, points and or badging systems. Love them or hate them, they have made an appearance. Either way gamification done well enhances results, gamification done badly doesn’t. So before you do a game mechanic sprinkle, do examine whether they are the right ones for your target audience.

To be honest, I am happy we are over the hype phase in gamification and that much more realistic expectations are prevailing. Also for every new trend, it will take workplace tools and software at least 5 to 10 years to adapt and adopt. So I can’t see growth slowing down in a crazy way in the foreseeable future.

Experience builders are the next big thing in learning and customer relationships, which I think is a great evolution in the right direction to put humans back at the centre and tools as enablers rather than centre stage. Ironically this trend can be attributed to gamification or user experience design especially when the attractiveness of games has been used as their example source. What you will also find is that a lot of experience builders have gamification at its core.

Gamification if it is dead, is a cat with multiple lives that keeps coming back. No matter how hard you try to get rid of it, you will always find hairs it left behind. In any case, that is my take on it, but by all means, do your own research.


Gamification trends for 2019

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How to use gamification for performance improvement

How can you use gamification for performance improvement? To answer this question we must first define performance. In every company, you will find indicators such as key performance indicators or objectives. The activities they measure will give you some indication of performance. The quantitative output is one side, then looking at the core reason for a business to exist is another and to make it relevant for an individual is the reason for a job to exist. Delivering on that core reason is another often more subtle measure of performance.

When it comes to an individual, you may some days feel like you can get through a massive workload and you feel highly productive. In stark contrast, there are other days where you feel like you can get nothing done or completed. The key difference may be interruptions or demands from other areas in the business that takes you away from your core business or even personal circumstances.

How can gamification help?

Gamification can add nudges in the process of your work delivery to get you started and it can give you gentle encouragement or reminders to complete or finish work. We see that when individuals are clear on their objectives and how that impacts the team, that they are most productive. Yet in a lot of organisations objectives for a team and the overall department or business are not necessarily transparent or cascaded across the company.

I would recommend starting by becoming clear on how each team impacts another and look for input from each team to see if they also see this as key. Any time I have held these kinds of facilitated workshops I find that what one department perceives they should be doing and may not be what other departments feel it does or even ought to do it.

In my work, I use a SWOT analysis technique (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). I ask each team to start with their own and then to pass it around to other teams to add to it. After each group has added their ideas, the original team receives their SWOT back. It is always insightful and in most cases also very respectful. My usual instruction is to only write down what you are willing to say face to face, it typically censors some nasty ideas if they have no foundation.

What the SWOT analysis really does is that it gives a foundation for understanding teams’ objectives and how they impact one another. In today’s’ open offices, we often find people hiding behind email to look for collaboration between teams. Making this an open discussion brings out objectives for each team and also an understanding of how their work is experienced by others.

Once the objectives and potential bottlenecks are identified, each team can address how they will structure their performance for the company to deliver its goals. I recommend that each team takes charge of its processes and its objectives whilst addressing the relevant feedback from the SWOT exercise. In most companies, where we have done this, we have seen an immediate impact on collaboration and performance.

Individual nudges

When team objectives and processes are clear, then individual objectives tend to be easier to form too. Each employee knows to some extent what they are expected to do and if that is not the case, it should be a conversation they need to have with their direct manager. As priorities shift or a persons’ ability grows, you may find that what you were hired for is no longer what you are now measured on and that may well be a natural progression and a positive thing.

Work practices vary per individual but there are gamification tricks that can suit. Some people love working in short concentrated spurts in what is also know as a Pomodoro technique. Take an egg timer set it for 20 or 30 minutes and work as hard as you can on a specific task when the alarm goes it is time for a break. Others love scratching tasks off to do lists. For most of us seeing what we achieve and how we impact the bigger team goal is motivational.

I worked on useful traffic light systems that indicate if someone can still take on more workload or whether they need help getting things done. This starts at an individual level and then escalates upwards towards team goals, department and company. I use a project management tool that has traffic like colour coding and with a largely remote team, we can see how jobs are progressing and projects being delivered against deadlines.

A daily reflection nudge to extract what went well, what you were grateful for and what you learned is a useful practice. I would suggest that these items are personal and not for sharing every day, but maybe weekly and fortnightly it may work for teams to explore these reflections. Setting them as nudges is positive.

Celebrating successful completion is essential. In games, we do receive these at micro-level for completing a small step. In work we often only celebrate big overall goals, it may leave long spells in between feeling like you have achieved something. It is in this space individual gamification may work at to do list or productivity list level. Keeping going for just one more item to earn a reward you have set yourself, which may be a cup of your favourite tea or coffee or a walk or something else.

Gamification in companies works when it is aligned towards the same goals and fits within the culture of the company. At the team level, it can generate team spirit and enhanced collaboration. At an individual level, I would promote freedom to choose your methods, frequency of reminders and nudges, but a celebration of performance is key for all of us to finish and do well at the game of work.


Motivational considerations for tracking behaviour

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Competition or collaboration for employee engagement: what should you choose?

Competition or collaboration are often seen as the polar opposites of gamification design. Making a choice between them may often be what determines the design. But how to make that choice is not always that clearcut.

competition or collaboration www.gamificationnation.com/blogWhen I receive enquiries I will always ask the question of what culture prevails in the company. Often followed at some point with the question of whether the client has a more competitive or more collaborative design in mind. Some companies are very clear on how they want their gamification project to pan out and others when questioned are not so sure. I have also had the situation where people come for a competitive design and after I raise some questions, completely change their mind.

Know your people

If you are not sure about which way to choose your design style, then the first port of call is user research. You can simply ask whether they prefer collaboration or competition. From a research perspective that may give you a clear answer, but in a work environment we can nearly predict that it will be collaboration. I tend to dress up the ‘what do you prefer question’ by asking what kind of games they already play as well as what gives them a feeling of winning and achievement. You can have a ranking in order of priority of statements.

If you receive answers where people play mainly team sports or board games, then you may want to consider team competition. If the main reason for team sports is the social aspect and not necessarily winning, then collaboration is a good option. If you have many competitive players, you will receive answers of needing to win and often more individual competitive sports. The types of games named will give you a good insight into the gameplay they tend towards.

What is your own bias?

We often see the project team coming with some preconceived notions on how people behave in the company. It may be based on what they would like to see instead or on one team or aimed at one team. We always recommend co-creating with some of your target audience and we also recommend extending your input through surveys and focus groups.

Knowing your own bias, however, is important to acknowledge. I typically ask people on project teams we work with to take the player profile questionnaire designed by Andrzej Marczewski. We then discuss how this may impact their design decisions. We then compare this with our research findings to see if we match or oppose what the majority of our target group is like.

Play existing games

Another creative way is inviting your target groups to play games. Observing their behaviour in collaborative games and observing their behaviour in competitive games is useful. It will tell you a lot about the spirit you will create when you introduce company-wide programs. You may have noticed some of the side effects of competition and some of the challenges with collaboration.


The things to really watch out for is who opts in and who opts out. You will find that in both types of games some people will simply switch off. If those are the target audience for your game, find out what they enjoy and don’t enjoy about the game. The responses will be very varied and give you fabulous insights.

The kind of impact you want to create should be the ultimate decision point. If you want people to collaborate more, then it is an easy choice. If you want people to compete more again it is an easy choice. But I hazard a guess that it isn’t that clearcut as a choice.

Either way don’t assume that you know your people and their preferences. They may very well surprise you.

Keeping a gamification design fair for your intended audience

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