This post was originally published on AIIM's Expert Blogs by Serge Huber, CTO at Jahia Solutions
Gamification is a fun new trend that is merging the benefits of social media with gaming experiences to entice users to share and collaborate more. When it is well implemented, it can make a real difference, at least in the short term, to a platform’s success. But of course there are also pitfalls, and this article looks at a good and a bad experience of gamification to go over some of the issues that may need considering before introducing gamification on a public web site or a company intranet.
Introducing gamification into a company web site or even an intranet makes a lot of sense for many different reasons. It is a good way to keep users engaged, and make sure that they will come back because they are motivated to “win more”, just as they would be in a regular video game. Obstacles can therefore be transformed into challenges, and if done well, users may feel rewarded for their progress.
A good example of this is Microsoft’s new Virtual Academy. For each online course followed, video watched, or test taken, you can gain points that reflect your achievements and immediately show others how much knowledge you’ve acquired of Microsoft-related technologies. This is great both for the user and the company, since both of them benefit: the user by clearly showing that he has earned his knowledge, and the company by training and clearly displaying how many professionals are available and what their skill levels are. A global high score table as well as a local one is available publicly. I’m guessing that the top level students are not having any difficulty being hired as certified Microsoft professionals. The local top ten is really great because if you’re looking for a good local professional you can easily see if the person you are looking to hire is indeed skilled or not.
Microsoft’s example is a really nice one because it shows the benefit to both the user and the company, in a way that is easy to grasp and great to benefit from. Of course it is not without problems, as it does imply that people spend a lot of time training on the Microsoft site while they might also acquire skills using other resources.
On the flip side of the coin, gamification may also fail, especially if considered over the long term. Like many, I was interested in checking out what this Foursquare social site was all about. Quite a few of my friends were using it and I couldn’t immediately understand what it was all about. After registering, I noticed that there were some elements of gamification such as the high score list of which friends made the most check-ins over the last few days. This was fun for a moment, and I think I must have contributed to the Foursquare POI database quite a lot in my region of Switzerland, but very quickly interest died since all I was getting back was this score list. In the US, Foursquare tries to attract local business to offer special deals when a user checks in on the service, but here in my area there were almost no such offers. So after a while of competing with my friends and mostly losing to the ones that have to do a lot of business traveling I lost interest and destroyed my account. So for me, at least, this gamification experience was in the end quite frustrating, because it showed potential but never really realised it and I felt cheated because the balance of rewarding was leaning in the company’s favor and not mine. Had I won some deals or some kind of tangible prizes I might have thought differently, but as this wasn’t the case I didn’t feel like continuing the involvement.
This is the central problem to gamification: keep users happy and coming back. Much like regular marketing strategies, gamification is no different and users must feel like they are getting some value out of their participation to keep them interested.
So what can companies, especially intranets learn from the public internet sites ? Well, first of all that social technologies can be used successfully, and that watching the public experiments to extract what is most relevant may be a very powerful way to engage users and keep them coming back. Devising new ways of learning, sharing or collaborating by rewarding them somehow is probably the best way to promote a internal or external web site. The most important thing is the value of what they get out of it, and it they see it, they will have no problem inserting a new coin to continue :)