In one of my son’s favourites, Star Wars Lego series, he has to choose a character from the iconic films… collect disks (a form of currency)… fight off aliens… build objects out of bricks… and locate hidden power bricks that give the characters special new abilities.
With steely determination, he progresses through each level, solving problems and unlocking new characters, powers and tools.
Imagine if you applied the devotion of a gamer to an online business.
Think of how quickly and methodically you’d progress – and of how utterly addicted, compelled and consumed you’d be by the process.
I say this because I’m reading a book called The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.
The book reveals why some ideas have more impact than others… and explains how you can ensure your messages get noticed, from your tweets to your blog posts to your sales promotions.
However, I was struck by their analogy with video games early in the book, because it’s something that chimes with my own experience.
The authors explain that people who play video games often show previously unnoticed skills that are very well-matched to online business and, in particular, content marketing.
Think about it…
When you start out in an adventure game, you’re in an unfamiliar world with few skills and resources.
No super-weapons, extra lives or shortcuts.
You have to quickly map out a path for yourself and begin gathering the tools you need.
It takes persistence to overcome problems.
You need organisation and a method to collect points and accumulate experience and skills. At every stage you’re highly aware of your achievements, your score and the number of lives you have left.
These motivate you to strive to reach the next level, even if you have to stay up all night.
This is why you could do worse than treating your business like a multi-level game.
How to exploit the gamification of online content
Don’t worry, ‘gamification’ is just a fancy word for something very simple: using the principles of video games in other activities.
(Gamification is actually a whole branch of digital marketing that applies gaming principles to keeping customers engaged and loyal. I’ll return to that in a future issue and how you could use it in your business).
And one of the criticisms often levelled at social media is its gamification.
People become obsessed with the numbers of followers, ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ they get.
It can be very competitive.
Many share content out of a hunger to see those likes and RTs stack up… and feel crushed when their latest tweet or blog post doesn’t catch on.
These measureable micro-achievements push our psychological reward buttons, making us crave more… more followers, more response to our messages, more feedback, more attention.
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.
But I don’t see it that way.
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. It’s all free marketing!
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.
This is why gamification is a good thing.
It encourages you to keep sharing and publishing content, measure results and strive for bigger and bigger goals.
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, how many unique new readers, page hits, most popular posts
- Social media – you can build up twitter followers, 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, 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.
Practical steps to gamifying your business habits
In their book, Brogan and Smith have this practical advice for what they call ‘getting your game face on’:
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 5 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.
Of course, there’s more to business than the metrics. It’s about matching your influence online with a powerful idea.
In The Impact Equation the authors come up with the CREATE formula for impact:
- Contrast: Is your idea significantly better?
- Reach: How well-connected are you?
- Exposure: How often do you connect and interact with those in your audience?
- Articulation: Is your idea both clear and compelling?
- Trust: Do people believe – and believe in – you?
- Echo: How well does your idea resonate with your audience?
The book is well worth reading if you get the chance.
But I’ll be coming back to all of these ideas soon.