Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gamification = Tower of Babel?

There needs to be a gamification shake out as the Web outside of Facebook continues to become more social.

"Gamification" indicates when a system of game-like constructs is put in place to incentivize users to engage with a brand, product, or service. Game mechanics are on the verge of exploding as websites look to reward their most loyal visitors and syndicate content. In fact, Gartner Research predicts that by 2015, more than half of companies managing innovation processes will employ game mechanics. Further, in that same timeframe, M2 Research forecasts that the game mechanics production will generate $1.6 billion in revenues and will account for 23% of social media marketing budgets.

This impending surge makes sense as game mechanics has the potential to reach website visitors in ways that marketers have only dreamed of. Yet efforts to gamify sites can fail because those game mechanics remain siloed from the rest of a site's social elements.

In essence, gamification can't just be a light layer sitting atop a website like a cherry on a fudge Sunday, with social rewards being served up to any user who merely "likes" your page. Users should be rewarded for interacting with your site in positive ways--like sharing, commenting, chatting, and logging into your site through a social network. And the only way for that to happen is if your site's game mechanics are actually able to interact with your other social functions, all speaking the same language. It's not an easy task for your IT team or developers especially as social networks constantly change or upgrade their APIs, which can stop your site's social elements dead in their tracks, leaving your visitors confused and unengaged.

Game mechanics are going to be an integral part of companies' social strategies for keeping their customers engaged when they're not on Facebook. But right now the market is littered with point solutions all offering different components coded in different languages--there are just too many cooks in the kitchen.

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