How to Use Gamification in Your Content Marketing Plan

Posted by Sandy Mitchell

Are you the type of person who gets excited about making it to the next level in "Farmville" or content marketing strategy"Candy Crush"? Do you like to be recognized for your loyalty to a company or your taking the time to do even small tasks on a product's Web site? Companies all over the Web are betting on that competitive spirit and desire for recognition. In fact, according to "Forbes" magazine, between 40 and 70 percent of the magazine's Global 1000 companies will be using some type of recognition/reward system--called gamification--in their marketing plans by 2015.

What is gamification?
Just what is gamification and why, if it's so prevalent, have you never heard of it? Although the name may be unfamiliar, you likely have seen the theory in practice on sites all over the Web. Gamification refers to the art and the science of appealing to consumers' competitive nature, the need to reach the next level or achieve the next "badge."

Examples of gamification
Examples of gamification as a marketing strategy are all around us. Some of the most visible include Nike's Nike+ program, a platform that rewards participants with bars, text messages and graphics on their mobile devices or special wristband when they achieve exercise goals. Scott Lawn Products uses gamification to encourage visitors to their Web site to do things like watch product videos and/or view pages. They reward them with points and even post a "leader board" so participants can measure their progress against others in the program.

Tips for using gamification in your content marketing strategy
You don't have to be a Fortune Global 1000 company to make use of gamification in your content marketing strategy. One of the best things about this theory is that you can apply it to most any product or service and it can be adapted to most any budget. If you'd like to try a little gamification on your site, below are a few tips on making it work for you:

1. Start small. If you've never tried gamification, it's a good idea to start with a simple "game" so you can gauge results and become familiar with how the theory works. A good way to start is rewarding visitors for liking your Facebook page, following your company site on Twitter or viewing your videos on YouTube.

2. Break up the "game" into manageable pieces. If your game or the reward system you're creating for your Web site is so complex that you need a two-inch-thick manual to figure it out, your site visitors are going to throw up their hands in dismay. A better approach is to divide the new activities and new goals into small pieces that visitors can learn about gradually. Developers of popular Facebook games like Farmville are geniuses at this, giving players just the information they need to move to the next level, eventually getting them to easily play a very complex game.

3. Tie gamification to your marketing goals. While it's exciting to see a surge in site visitors due to your new gamification plan, make sure to structure your plan so that such visitors don't just "play" your game and exit the site, doing little towards increasing your bottom line or creating better product awareness. Make sure that your "game" is set up so that it leads visitors to other pages on your site and to becoming more familiar with your product or service. Darren Steele, writing for "Mashable," suggests having visitors sign up for your newsletter or opting for email notifications of new products to earn their "rewards."

4. Get help. Gamification can be a little tricky, especially when you first begin. Plus, unlike traditional content marketing, it requires regular maintenance and updating. If you're like most small business/Web site owners, you're already wearing a number of hats. Adding one more can seem as attractive as going to the dentist. If this describes you, you can still reap the advantages of gamification without the large outlay of time and energy. There are several companies, such as Badgeville and Gigya, that specialize in creating and administering gamification programs.

Most everyone has a competitive streak and a need for recognition. Make these tendencies work for you by adding a little gamification to your marketing plan. You'll likely be surprised at the results.

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Tags: marketing strategy, content strategy, content marketing strategy, content marketing plan