Gamification Builds Strong Customer Relationships

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Success with social media entails more than just increasing activity and traffic. It requires a deliberate focus on driving intentional, meaningful engagement.

Step 3: Leverage—and act upon—behavioral analytics.

The Microsoft MVP Program remains one of the largest and most successful influencer management programs, with more than 4,000 active community experts worldwide. When evangelizing the program across Microsoft to secure product group participation, executives would often scratch their heads, unable to fathom why so many people would spend so much of their personal time contributing feedback or helping others solve problems for free. We had the same explanations many community experts did—public recognition, altruism, reciprocity, demonstrating expertise—but truly understanding the behavioral dynamics of participants was decidedly more art than science.

Gamification begins to shift that balance by tracking a wide range of individual actions in real time. The Badgeville Behavior Platform, which we partner with for enterprise-class gamification programs, can capture much richer, more granular and statistically significant data, illuminating the “what, when and why” that’s driving user behavior.

Through gamification, we can see what keeps beginners from becoming more deeply involved, what tipping points pull users into active engagement, and how to shorten the life cycle between levels of increasing activity. Armed with this deeper understanding of the motivators for individual and community behavior, the engagement experience can be continually optimized to incentivize and influence those behaviors

Step 4: Demonstrate your commitment to providing value.

All this talk of driving desired customer behavior may have you asking, “What about that two-way street?” With consumers becoming increasingly skeptical— even cynical—about the behavior of brands infiltrating their personal lifestyle, it’s more critical than ever that they perceive real value in their engagement with you.

Joining the conversation and listening to social chatter are table stakes: You must be genuine, you must be responsive, you must act on customer feedback, you must thank people for participation and you must let people know that they are a vital part of your brand. And you must be engaged. Providing value through action is the ultimate reward for customers who want to know that engagement is meaningful.

Beyond the Engagement Checkbox

Just as launching a Facebook page or Twitter feed doesn’t instantly make you an engaged enterprise, implementing gamification is not a panacea for activating customers and employees. The environment must be cultivated to create the conditions for involvement, and it must provide a genuine exchange of value.

As gamification gains momentum, companies that do it right—delivering engagement, enjoyment and reward to their customers and employees—will gain the competitive advantages and differentiation this new paradigm enables. On the other hand, those that see gamification as simply another channel for pushing their message on people or exploiting customer data will see swift disengagement from their users.

People are wired to play games, but no one wants to play a game that’s not fair.

Steve Alter is director of social business strategy at Ant’s Eye View, a strategic management consulting firm that helps enterprise clients such as AT&T, KPMG, Cisco and Starbucks identify and influence high-value social behaviors to drive business results. For more information, visit www.antseyeview.com.

This article was originally published on 2012-11-20
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