Gamification and Social Rewarding

August 2, 2012

'Guess where?' series: Do you know where on MIT campus this detail can be found? #MIT Gamification, or game mechanics, involves the use of a game mindset and can be applied to social media strategy. This can mean actually using games, such as "MIT: The Game" on the MIT Admissions Facebook page, but also involves using gamification principles apart from creating actual games. If you are interested to see how corporations are using gamification in their social media campaigns, check out the winners of the Shorty Awards in "Best Use of Game Mechanics (Gamification) in a Social Media Campaign".

Guess where

We use principles of gamification on the MIT Facebook page, even with simple challenges. We post photographs of really-hard-to-guess details around campus and ask if anyone knows where on campus that detail can be found. We call this our "Guess where" challenge and have been doing it since this past spring. In June Yale started using this concept with the "Where @Yale" challenge and just a few days ago (July 28) Cornell posted their first "guess where". This type of challenge gives a different view of campus that highlights the details.

Social Rewarding

The principle of gamification is applied to non-game contexts by using the principle of social rewarding. Social rewarding involves giving an individual public recognition or similar perk for a certain behavior. Example in business:  Some organizations, such as Amazon, choose not to answer all questions posed by consumers. Instead, they host discussion boards on which customers can answer each other's questions. By putting a voting system in place, customers can rate how helpful or correct each other's answers are. This is a social reward system: the award is a type of social recognition for having done something well. On Amazon, the two most helpful reviews are highlighted above the rest of the reviews. Example in education:  MITx uses social rewarding for managing questions. Thousands of students enroll and course staff cannot craft an original response to each question. Therefore a community was formed in which students could answer each other's questions. Course staff could star correct responses. This "karma-point system" rewarded star students for their contributions. In our "Guess where" challenge we employ the same principle; we "like" the comments that get the answer right and we also respond to some great comments about the photograph (some people know more about the detail than its location, such as memories of their own experiences and historical details).

Forms of social rewarding

  • the individual receives recognition as a star player (e.g. for being first, for knowing an answer)
  • the individual receives a 'thank you' from others and/or the organization for helping out
  • the organization publicly gives the user VIP benefits (e.g. access to a closed group)

Effects of social rewarding

  • If a point system is maintained, users have a reason to return to the organization's page/profile and contribute more
  • Users feel appreciated by the organization giving the recognition and view the organization positively
  • Users being recognized feel like a leader in the community and are more likely to act as a brand advocate
  • Explicit motivation leads users to contribute quickly and effectively because there is a sense of competition
Posted By
Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Former MIT Social Media Strategist

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