When I was a kid I used to get bored walking to school.
Bored on any walks really.
So I’d play a game in which I’d have to get to school without ever stepping on a crack. Each crack was electrified and to step on one meant certain death.
Every crack I stepped on would cost me a life.
The idea was to lose as few lives as possible and beat my lowest score record.
Don’t judge me, it was the 80s and there was no Angry Birds at the time.
The game was even better when my mate who lived down the road walked to school with me. Then we’d start competing against each other.
On those walks, it didn’t feel like we were walking at all. It was effortless and the time flew by.
This was a process called gamification. Put simply: turning everyday tasks into a game.
Seeing the outcome of your effort, no matter how small, as a measurable micro-achievement.
In the era of social media, this process has taken over the lives of millions of adults, influencing the way they behave.
Well, the online world is becoming more and more structured like a game. Almost every activity online is measured by “likes”, “retweets”, “shares”, “reposts”, smiley faces, frowny faces…
We each have specific numbers of Facebook friends and followers… as well as likes on our business Facebook pages… members of our Facebook Communities.
Then there’s the growing (or shrinking!) number of Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat followers.
Numbers, measurements, indicators everywhere!
It can be very competitive, driving people to share content out of a hunger to see their followers, likes and retweets stack up.
These tiny achievements push our psychological reward buttons, giving us bursts of natural ‘happy hormones’ making us crave MORE followers, more response to our messages, more feedback, more attention.
On the downside, they feel crushed when their latest tweet or blog post doesn’t catch on.
There are even virtual rewards for your virtual actions. For instance, there’s a service called Klout which monitors your social media reach, giving you perks for reaching levels of influence.
Some sceptics might think that these statistics are meaningless – purely there to boost egos, or for geeks to validate their wasted time on the Internet. An addiction for the wasted Social Media generation.
But I don’t see it that way.
It doesn’t have to be a problem – a mindless addiction with no point.
There can be a real purpose to setting yourself little challenges and achieving those goals.
To some people it might not seem like the achievement of getting 1,000 Twitter followers, or 1,000 weekly hits on your website translates into anything of worth.
But in business that’s simply not true.
The more attention you get, the better. Every little bit counts. It’s all free marketing! Every new follower is a potential website visitor, email subscriber, enquirer and customer.
While there might not be direct financial payoff in a popular tweet or a YouTube video you’ve just shared, you are actively building an audience of people who are engaging with you, liking what you have to say, and who will eventually become your customers.
They will also expose your business to their networks whenever they share or like something that you’ve posted.
Gamification is a powerful motivator
Gamification encourages you to keep sharing and publishing content, to measure results and strive for bigger and bigger outcomes.
It encourages you to set small achievable goals and gives you a dopamine rush of pleasure when you achieve them.
Effectively, your brain will reward you with a dose of pleasurable hormones every time you carry out a piece of marketing.
A bit like my childhood stepping-stone game, it makes something that might be boring or arduous much more fun.
This makes gamification a powerful driving force that compels you to keep going, day after day, putting extra effort and time into your business and finding small pleasures in those everyday tasks and achievements – a sure-fire ingredient for success.
There are so many analytics available now for you to measure how you’re doing, and set goals to take you to the next level.
• Website traffic – your Google analytics plug-in will show you how many unique visitors, unique new readers and page hits you have, and most popular posts.
• Social Media – you can build up Twitter followers and monitor your retweets and shares, as well as pages on Google+ and Facebook that also show you the analytics, including reach (how many people your message is seen by).
• Blogs – you can see how well a post has done by looking at Google analytics, but also judge it on how may social media shares it gets, or the comments left below.
• Email – you can gather subscribers, improve your open rates and click-through rates (a free email service like Mailchimp will give you clear, comprehensive statistics).
• Sales – you can look at how many sales you make, the percentage of people on your database who respond, and your ROI, refund or return rates.
When your online business becomes more like a video game, you will find that you don’t notice the time passing. It’s less like work, and more like fun. Something you can’t stop doing.
4 practical ways to gamify your marketing
In their book The Impact Equation, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith have some practical advice for gamifying your business:
1. “Pick a metric for everything that matters.” This could mean number of subscribers, or page ‘likes’, but equally it could mean finding a number to apply to your goals. For instance, ensuring you do 30 minutes every day on research, or reading five business books every year.
2. “Level up.” Pick your ultimate business goal for the next year (for instance, to turn over £100,000), then break that down into a daily or weekly sales target, so you can hit those smaller goals and know you’re on the right track.
3. “Take a wild swing”. By this they mean for something that’s above your level – for instance, you might try and create a viral video campaign, or get your business written about in the daily newspaper, or to collaborate with someone famous or far more well-known.
4. “Play new games”. When you get good at something, try a new challenge to keep raising your level.
Try some of these techniques this week. Set yourself some achievable goals and get posting, sharing and engaging with customers.