15 gamification features for your marketing strategy

by on 21st May 2012

Gamification can be a hugely powerful tactic for increasing engagement and creating a community around your brand. Based on my past session on the topic at SAScon, here I explore 15 different ways you can integrate an element of gamification into your marketing strategy.

Before I get into, I’ll point out that you should definitely read Gabe Zichermann’s “Gamification by Design“, co-authored with Christopher Cunningham. It’s an excellent introductory read to the concept of Game Mechanics and gives a solid background on the historic roots of Gamification principles.


Caveat: If You Have a Crappy Product, or Crappy Content, Gamification is Unlikely to Help

It’s a fair point. If you’re selling crap on the internet, points, badges and leaderboards are never going to sell you more crap on the internet. There are (unfortunate) exceptions to this, but they tend to be examples of terrible games with brilliant game mechanics wrapped around them.

You either have to build very small Gamified features (which we’ll cover in this post) or devise a beautiful, unique experience with Gamification elements engineered in at the core, just like my favourite designer’s showcase and textbook Gamification example,


Here are 15 ways to add Gamification into your marketing strategy:

#1 Award Points for Participation

Rule 101 of Game Mechanics: award points for participation. Moz has led in this field for as long as I remember, with points awarded for QA and commenting. A self-regulating mechanism exists where other users can thumbs down, should a comment be poor, spammy or plainly in conflict with the community guidelines.



#2 Integrate a Leaderboard to Rank Your Heavy Users

If you’re collecting participation data about your users, let’s say, experience points, then why not rank those users based on the most active? I had an interesting conversation with Dan Sodergreen after the session and we mutually agreed that integrating other metrics, such as Klout score, would be a really interesting addition to an otherwise internally focused leaderboard. Having a leaderboard encourages competition, provided the incentive to do so is appropriate. That incentive could be as simple as recognition and status in and outside of the gamified system.



#3 Create a Virtual Currency to Apply Reward Discounts on your Retail Site has a clever customer referral scheme. Introduce friends, and will reward you with currency to spend in their store. Note the simplicity of the “invite more people” section with integration with Gmail and GMX.



#4 Allow Your Users to Earn Status

People desire status. Look at “Top Contributors” in the Google forums. Those guys get flown out to Google to take part in the Top Contributor Summits. You have to participate heavily (and to some extent compete) for this level of status, and people do! Meetups for VIP’s, your heaviest users and biggest brand advocates are easy to organise and execute.



#5 Create Tangible Rewards for Your Users Who Participate, like Stickers

Entertainment check-ins grew by 800% in 2011 for, reaching a record high of 11.5 million check-ins in August last year. Tangible rewards don’t have to be financial incentives, they can be small things, like sweets, stickers, cakes (thanks Neeru) even handwritten thank you notes.



#6 Incentivise Profile Completeness

Profile completeness indicators are pretty standard, but’s profile completeness incentive is quite interesting. They visually communicate levels their users need to complete with a promised reward at the end. In my case; 12 times the potential career opportunities. Thanks Linkedin, but I think I’m OK for those for now.


#7 Reward Your Users for Creating Content or Ideas

User-generated content is all the rage, and rewarding audience contributors is an excellent way of building loyalty. We’ve just completed an exciting Gamification project with a recipe startup – needless to say, their raw material is recipe submissions, so we’re helping them incentivise users who do so. Let’s not forget Youmoz and SEOmoz QA, excellent examples of community content contribution and participation.

I love using as an example of user generated assisted linkbait via creative competition entries.



#8 Incentivise Content Creation with Financial Reward

Actually, pay people for their hard work? Ok. Via you can submit a greetings card design, the community votes and the retail site sells the winning designs. The winning contributors receive prize money and ongoing commission for their sales.



#9 Motivate Your Visitors to Register

I love how Cheezeburger use loss aversion to encourage new visitors to register, or previously registered users to login. As a visitor, you participate (rating memes, clicking links) and a pop-up appears awarding a badge. To keep the badge, you have to login!



#10 Motivate Your Users to Refer a Friend by Giving Away a Little of What You Offer

Dropbox incentives to refer a friend exist on almost every channel imaginable and they reward their users for learning more about the product, following them on Twitter, giving feedback. It’s a simple, gamified system with a clear and appropriate reward for carrying out the actions most important to the growth of their business. I suppose that’s why they’ve grown so well with very low marketing budgets. PS: follow this link if you’re thinking of signing up for Dropbox…



#11 Motivate Your Users to Link to You

In the Dropbox example, I just linked out because I’ll get something for it. While some SEO’s argue the case against this practice, I think it’s ok most of the time. I use dropbox, I’m a happy customer and I would vouch for their service with our without the extra space awarded via referral. There are heaps of different ways to incentivise users to send traffic to you via referral link (affiliate programs aside), and the reward doesn’t necessarily have to be anything more than a simple value-add to your target site – embeddable objects can look great, users gain by improving the quality of their content.

SEOmoz have a refer a friend program that uses a 302 redirect on the referrer link, to play it totally safe, while Google encourage you to link to them in exchange for authorship snippets in the search results:



#12 Implement a QA System for Long Tail and User Votes

Last year we helped a small car finance operation called carfinance247 develop their long tail traffic via a QA system. We learned, through keyword research that users tend to ask a lot of questions about finance, for example: “how can I get approved for a car loan with a CCJ?”. We implemented a simple system that took off and grew very quickly. This is SEO traffic to their QA section since launch:


It’s extremely simple, where users can rate responses according to usefulness, and reply if they choose. We discussed running internal competitions for in-house staff to compete for prizes based on the number of thumbs-up they get from visitors.



#13 Create Badges that Evidence Expertise (and add to your user profile pages)

I really don’t like the way badges get plastered on almost everything in the name of gamification. Users earn badges for hard work, participation, fun, learning – and when they’re a valued commodity, you’ll get a community seeking ways to earn more. Codeacademy displays the badeges you’ve earned on your profile page. This partial nod to self expression (along with the ability to upload your own photo) might encourage more people to link to their profiles from say, their Google+ pages. I do:



#14 Award Points and Badges for Comments

If you want an out-of-the-box community management tool for WordPress, Disqus would be a great place to start. Their (upgraded) comments plugin creates a community leader-board for your site to rank most frequent commenters. Be warned that while Disqus is a free plugin, their ranks functionality starts at $299 a month.



#15 Focus Social Activity on a Shared Outcome

Back in September 2011, Innocent gave away veg pot offers and numerous discounts in a twitter campaign called Tweet and Eat. The campaign gave consumers a discount depending on the number of people that tweeted its hashtag #tweetandeat. Based on the volume reached, you could opt to recieve a DM with notification of the next discount code available. Very smart and as Hannah puts it, one of the brands that really “get it”.

This post made possible with thanks to Joanna Lord, Lindsay Wassell, Hannah Smith, Gianluca Fiorelli, Fabian Alvares and Stephanie Chang.

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