The Gamification of Online Communities

Photo by WipleyBrainSins

Note from Ifdy: Gamification is the conversation bubbling up in the nonprofit world. It’s changing the world online and consequently will affect fundraising. This post was originally published on Geoff Livingston’s blog last February, and I like how it sets the stage for the conversation. My question to you is: how do you think gamification will change the fundraising space?

The online gaming industry has experienced tremendous success, currently estimated at $10.5 billion by the entertainment software industry. This incredible market share of consumer interest and revenue and runaway hits like Zenga’s Farmville have caused gaming best practices to spread to the larger web, and in particular online communities. Online content and community creators have noticed, and are seeking to gamify their efforts.

This process consists of integrating game components like badges, leaderboards, levels of difficulty, etc. into online communities, web site functions, and other aspects of non-game activity online. By gamifying online properties, organizations like the Huffington Post seek to offer some of the fun, challenging passion that online entertainment brings, and in turn, make their sites more compelling.

Gamifying boosts on site minutes, increases strength of community, and inspires more tangible outcomes. With intelligent calls to actions weaved into game elements, organizations can deliver more return on investment as well as strengthen loyalty. This can range from sales to bettering professional education programs.

Two of 2010′s more compelling social web stories used gamification to strengthen their offering. Social fundraising hit Crowdrise has a leaderboard, contests, and point tabulations in addition to really funny copywriting on its site. The goal: Encourage more charitable acts. Influencer metric Klout uses gamification to make its badges and classification more fun, and encourage individuals to engage in better participatory tactics online.

Consider how the USA Network added gamification to its Psych TV network online. By adding game-like rewards to the program, NBCUniversal generated a 130 percent increase in page views for the network’s Psych show and a 40 percent increase in return visits.

Adam Singer recently wrote a great post about the need to balance social, email and SEO in a digital marketing program. Increasingly, bringing balance to a healthy online marketing program includes adding game elements to the mix.

Jane McGonigal, author of “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, ” offered some advice to organizations considering adding game techniques at the Gamification Summit. She said, “If you’re trying to gamify something, you should be looking to turn [stakeholders] into super empowered helpful users. That’s what we become when we play a good game.”

Gamification is not easy, and requires knowledge of processes, research and best practices. There is a new boutique industry arising that serves organizations who want to add gamification elements and even games themselves to their online mix. For example, companies like Badgeville and Gamify can add game mechanics to a community.

Expect the continued trickle down effect of game elements into general online communications, and increased interest from online communicators about how to incorporate games and game technique into their repertoire.

What do you think of gamification in online communities? Are you adding game elements to your online mix?