This post is by Danny Iny.
As a reader of Think Traffic, you know that it’s about more than just any old traffic; you need visitors that are loyal, that care about what you’re doing, and that spreads the word.
And you know that if you want them to help you spread the word, it’s got to be because you’ve given them the valuable gift of “something cool to share.”
Now let’s be honest for a minute.
When’s the last time you’ve actually done that, and done it well enough for people to really start talking?
It’s okay if you haven’t really been walking the walk. Really, it is – we’re busy people, and getting buzz started is about a hundred and thirty two times easier to talk about than it is to do.
And knowing the theory behind a practice isn’t the same as having the tools and the time to apply it.
So how do you make it happen, even though it’s hard? You do it by building the buzz directly into your content calendar.
And how do you do it? Fun and games, my friend. Fun and games…
Fun and Games?
People love to play and compete.
It’s one of the things that makes us human. When status or loss of some kind is on the line, it’s amazing to see the lengths that people will go to maintain what they have, or gain a little ground.
Likewise, the thrill of victory, and a reward of some kind, will inspire all but the most disinterested into action. Once people have gotten started playing a game, an unexpected prize and prompt feedback will keep them going until the bitter (or sweet!) end.
You can use this to increase the emotional investment that your readers have in your blog by giving them situations in which they can assert their excellence – and be rewarded for it!
1. Rankings and Comparisons
They key here is to hit on issues, topics, products or states of the world that people really care about.
Yes – controversy.
Most people won’t be terribly interested in whether or not neo-classical literary critiquing methods fully account for representations of the platonic ideal – but ask a group of North American blog readers which telecommunications company is the most evil and your comments stream will light up like a street of Christmas trees.
Give people the opportunity to make their opinions known, and have a say in what the outcome of an event, in this case your blog post, will be. If you’re asking for people to come to the arena – be prepared to declare a winner and acknowledge fully all those who helped you reach the conclusion. When someone can see the tangible result of their contribution – they’re going to want to talk about it.
To anyone who will listen.
2. Commenting and Social Media Contests
This is the next level up in engagement. Instead of having your commenters work together towards a goal outside of them, get them to (with all due sportsmanship) compete against each other for supremacy.
In order for this to work you need to do a few things.
Set rules. People need to know what’s going on and why. Uncertainty is a huge turn-off. Make your expectations clear, and provide regular updates on the status of the competition.
Reward the victor. Don’t skimp on prizes if you can avoid it – these folks are basically working for you for free. You can build the type of engagement and extra-blog buzz you want right into this type of event.
3. Full-On Challenges
If you feel like you’re ready to become not just an interesting topic of conversation for your reader outside the confines of your corner of the web, but an absolute all-out obsession for days on end – then you’re ready to give your readers a full on challenge.
Hey – does this remind you of something? Like maybe the Million Dollar Blog Project?
Yep – this is the type of activity that people are going to get really involved in.
Making one of these a success takes a tremendous amount of work – but it’s absolutely worth it.
Elements that make it effective: motivation and reward, status and competition, surprise and hope, feedback and measureable results.
Motivation and reward are what get people going, and keep them interested until the end. Mere prizes are not enough – your audience is going to be motivated by more than filthy lucre. The spirit of the competition, the psychological benefits of playing, and the opportunity to connect and work with others are all big factors. In the Million Dollar Blog project, this was easy: the reward is a thriving successful blog!
Status and competition are all about achieving your best among your peers – and having that recognized by an authority. There’s a warm glow that accompanies recognition of the good work you’ve done – like when you saw your blog and stats on the MDBP Leaderboard.
Surprise and hope are what really keep motivation consistent. This can happen by getting to know a fellow competitor, or maybe learning a new skill. It’s so satisfying that you can’t wait for it to happen again. Anything that you don’t expect but you like is a surprise, and of course you hope more of it occurs!
Feedback and measurable results are the most critical elements – you don’t like wandering around in the dark with no idea of how you’re doing – and neither will your contestants. The MDBP achieved this with progress journals– people could keep themselves on track, receive feedback, and correct course as needed.
Let’s look at a few other blogs and sites making use of gamification principles to improve their communities and competitions.
Examples of Websites Using Gamification
This won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but would you like to join a troup of warriors and compare bodyweight workouts?
Or maybe a league of Druids and mediate your way into Nirvana.
No? What about a team of assassins and learn how to jump off buildings?
Like I said – not everyone’s cup of tea. But for the people who do like this flavor, it’s an intense, involved and hyper-engaged community. The Nerd Fitness Rebellion combines the two most unlikely bedfellows – hardcore geekdom with intense personal fitness and healthy living.
It works because the rebellion offers a group identity, measurable progress and clear benefits.
Every member of Nerd Fitness has the opportunity to join a group of other like-minded users with similar goals. They have a group identity, characteristics and spaces online to hang out – just for them. This provides the motivation to get started and keep going – there are people invested in them who shouldn’t be let down.
All progress is tracked through a methodology common to the gaming community – once learned it is instantly recognizable to members – and gibberish to those not in the know. It’s based on tabletop gaming statistics, and when tasks are completed, you can improve your scores. This is a wonderful display of results and progress tracking.
The benefits of getting healthy are obvious – and the game principles that are employed make it fun. Members of the rebellion want to get healthy, and the fact that there are all of these other elements involved make it enjoyable and attainable.
Bootstrapper Guild members have a few things going for them that the rest of the world lacks. Advice, interaction, and a touch of exclusivity make the community desirable, and make the members anxious to perform and achieve the tasks set before them.
It works because of the exclusivity, guidance, and again – clear benefits and rewards. Members-only groups give you the feeling that you have something that not everyone else does – and you don’t want to lose it. Not only that but your advantage grows as you receive more and more clear, applicable guidance, as well as the tools and information you need to apply it. The benefits are much like those in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion and the Million Dollar blog project – improvement in your life or with your business!
The Great New Marketing Scavenger Hunt is a new project from Firepole Marketing of which the goal is to motivate, monitor and reward a collection of entrepreneurs, small business owners and bloggers to compete in different online marketing activities to learn new skills, dabble in new technologies, and extend their reach online.
We’re going to be relying several of the principles that I’ve written about here – I’d tell you which ones – but that would spoil one of the challenges!
I’m excited about this project – and would like to cordially invite you to join in – you’ve got nothing to lose except expanding your reach online!
How could you use fun and games on your website? What are some ways you could keep readers thinking about your site after they leave it?
Let us know in the comments below this post.