Gamification comes in all shapes and sizes. We’ve all been invited to play FarmVille on Facebook (probably more times than we can count). And although many of us found ourselves becoming incredibly annoyed by these game invitations, that doesn’t change the fact that FarmVille has more than 80 million users making it one of Zynga’s most successful games. We like games because their fun. We like games because we’re inherently competitive. Social media has allowed brands to play with the concept of gamification as a way to connect with their audience on a more engaged level. From FarmVille to rewards points to LinkedIn progress bars, it feels like everyone is giving it a shot (swoosh!). 

Gamification is the application of game mechanics into a digital experience in order to engage users. Most people aren’t visiting their social channels on a regular bases to check in on what your brand has chosen to post today. They’re checking in regularly because their interested in what their friends are doing or saying (on average 2-3 hours a day according to AdWeek). But, if a brand can give their followers something exciting and grab their attention, they can use these channels to create additional buzz.

According to Amy Jo Kim, CEO of Shufflebrain, there are four main ways that users interact regularly with “gamified” social media. They show up for competition, cooperation, exploration, or expression. You can think about these four categories of game-players when planning your next gamified campaign to best reach your intended audience.

Competition: win, beat, brag, taunt, challenge, pass, and fight

Cooperation: join, share, help, gift, greet, exchange, trade

Exploration: view, read, search, collect, complete, and curate

Expression: choose, customize, layout, design, and dress-up

When we think about it, FourSquare was practically founded on the principle of gamification. As a user, you can earn badges by checking in at spots around town. The more often you check in, the more badges you receive and the “cooler” that you appear to your community (social currency!).  What’s interesting about Foursquare is that initially they created points and badges to teach users how to use the platform and make their own experiences more fun. Points were created as a way for users to measure how exciting their outings were, badges were to give the user a sense of accomplishment, and mayorships allowed users to compete with their friends. Even they were shocked by how much people loved the platform. 


One of my personal favorite social media platforms is LinkedIn. For what is considered a “professional” social platform, you might ask how gamification could be a fit. Do you remember when you first signed up for your LinkedIn Account and you were encouraged to add past work, current work, your location, and start connecting with people? The more of these actions you took, the more your progress wheel filled up. I must say that my progress wheel is ALMOST completely full and I’m striving for 100% (maybe I need to share more blog posts over there!). LinkedIn was able to create a game-like structure that encourages their users to continue being active and engage. 

Another prime example of a brand that successfully used gamification to engage their users is Nike. Nike realized that fitness is often driven by competition. Maybe I’m the only one (but I doubt it) — have you ever been on the treadmill at the gym and decided to run an extra mile because the guy next to didn’t quit running before you did? That decision right there was made because of my human desire for competition. It’s not always about going longer than the guy next to you, but it is about doing more and going harder than you initially thought you could. In 2010 Nike launched the Nike+ Running app. The app tracks your distance, pace, time, and calories burnt using GPS while also engaging users socially through competition. The app encourages its users to share their accomplishments on social media and gives them a real-time cheer for every “like” or comment that they receive. 

People like doing things that are fun, they like being challenged and mostly, they like being rewarded. Whether you’re a fashion brand, a technology brand, or other this is why gamification works. The natural desire for any person is to feel a part of all of all three of these moments that can be accomplished by the “game” your brand chooses to build.