Gamification and rewards

By | June 11, 2012

Gamification has been on everybody’s lips lately.

People are looking for ways to integrate gamification in a variety of contexts; and often they don’t know why or how but they simply have heard that it is an important component of an interactive product in this day and age.

Let’s be clear about what gamification is and what it isn’t.

Gamification is not simply rewarding your users for certain actions like a check-in.

Gamification consists of adding game-like components to your products. So things like competitions, quizzes, quests, these are elements of gamification.

People seem to think that gamification drives engagement and that it can be a good way of building and maintaining an audience. While I agree that gamification is appealing to some people, I think…

It’s a big mistake to consider it your primary method of driving engagement and building a user base.

Content is king. You can have all of the fun gaming components in the world, if your app or site doesn’t offer valuable content, then who will use it, and who will use it repeatedly?

Once you have the valuable content, then you can integrate gamification and rewards as a component of your engagement strategy. The question becomes: how do you do it right?

How do you appeal to mobile and web users with a gamification model?

I think the answer is in how you reward the user, and what you reward him with – but in my opinion, nobody is really answering properly the question of “what rewards are appealing to web and mobile app users?”

Social TV app Get Glue rewards its users with stickers for their participation.

Seriously? A sticker? Just who is GetGlue targetting with their stickers? 8-year old girls?

I’m not sure 8-year old girls have iPhones.

As a 28-year old male, the promise of a sticker is really not an incentive for me to do anything. But 28-year old males are the bulk of iPhone users – so Get Glue is missing out on something here.

It’s not an easy question to answer and I’m not going to pretend that I have the answer – it depends on the demographics of your user base and their interests.

Last week I met with a local TV station that’s experimenting with mobile and social media. One test that they did is they had people tweet their opinion about a TV show during the said show, and they would display on-screen the best tweets about the show during the credits.

Viewer participation exploded, but they also noticed a change in behavior: people weren’t tweeting their real opinions anymore, they were tweeting messages that were clearly intended to be on TV.

So they killed the experiment.

It may seem that I’m getting off-topic but not really – this goes to show that people want to be on TV. They want to be stars in their own way. That’s a real incentive. Participation EXPLODED. Whether or not the content shared by the users was honest is a whole other topic – but this experiment did prove that real, enticing rewards do drive participation.

I think it’s hard to find what motivates yuppies and grown-ups – by far the largest demographics of smartphone users – but cash or cash-equivalent incentives as well as “have your shot at becoming a star” will always be primal motivators likely to trigger an action.

That’s why I think that companies like are on to something!