In the digital age, there are two things we hold very dear: social media and casual gaming. But there’s a correlation between the two you may not realize. This correlation can guide your social media presence in an easily comprehendible and effective way.
Most of us understand what social media is: various online communication channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. We’re also familiar with casual gaming: games enjoyed by a mass audience, often a global one, with simple rules and no major commitment required.
In many ways, these two trends are very similar. They both require little long-term commitment, although many would argue that they control large portions of our lives, and they both work on a system which rewards its participants — social media with attention and gratification, and games with rewards, prizes and a sense of achievement. With so many similarities, is there a way that we can borrow the mechanics of one to use in the other?
If you’re trying to build a social media presence, you may struggle to engage your audience with your content. It’s a tough, competitive market out there — Facebook recently revealed that it hosts over 40,000,000 active small business pages. However, the site also has 1.6 billion active users, so there’s a powerful audience ready to interact with your messages. So we know that social media is a popular tool that can reap great rewards for businesses that invest time in it. Still, it can sometimes seem so hard to win over an audience there.
Looking at another big online trend, casual gaming has gone from strength to strength over the last few years. In 2015, the most popular category on Apple’s App Store was games — taking 22.4% of the overall download numbers. It’s been reported that more than 50% of all online users in the U.S. play casual games monthly, which rises to more than 70% when you look at the total mobile audience.
Casual gaming doesn’t show bias when it comes to who plays, either. In fact, contrary to traditional stereotypes, today’s casual gamers are more likely to be female, are often higher-income consumers and are younger in terms of age, all according to the ESA. So, this is another healthy market and one that can offer some insights into how to run an effective social media-based marketing strategy. If you begin to think about running your social media accounts like a game, we believe, you’ll see great results in building your online presence.
Let’s take a look at the some of the similarities and methods that you can take from casual games and use them to improve your social media presence.
Gamification has become a bit of a buzzword in marketing circles as of late, and it’s one technique that marketers are certainly emphasizing to improve their social media presence. Essentially, you’re trying to bring elements of game-playing into your marketing strategy, targeting your real audience no matter what their reach is, and having some fun with your social channels.
But don’t just take our word for it. In 2014, more than 70% of the world’s 2,000 largest companies were expected to have deployed at least one gamified application. In the same year, vendors claimed that gamification strategies could lead to a 100% to 150% increase in engagement metrics. These are good-looking statistics for your own social media strategy.
Here’s what we think makes it so popular, and the lessons you can learn from integrating gamification.
To demonstrate how you can bring rewards into your social media strategy, let’s look at one of the most popular casual games on the market, Candy Crush Saga. It is a match-three puzzle type game with an average of 93 million active users daily. This game is obviously doing something right.
In King Games’ Candy Crush, when you achieve a good move, you are rewarded with a sugar drop. When you collect a certain number of sugar drops, you are awarded with prizes that you can use in your gameplay to make levels easier. These rewards encourage players to play more efficiently and also to keep playing when a level is hard. One also can’t deny that everyone likes a reward for doing something good.
On social media, you can implement a reward structure in many ways to increase consumer engagement with each channel. These rewards may include competitions, blogger giveaways, games and prizes. One simple technique is to hold a weekly giveaway, bearing in mind each channel and country’s restrictions on competitions. If you establish a weekly event like this, people are more likely to follow and visit a social account to see what the latest giveaway is.
Of course, there are also more sophisticated ways to add a reward structure to your social accounts. In 2013, Audi launched their new A3 car in South Africa to a Twitter frenzy. They began their campaign by driving a truck though South Africa that was carrying a brand new A3 Sportback. The truck’s navigation was determined by the tweets of hopeful South Africans; the final destination of the truck would be the location that had tweeted the most. At this final location, a few lucky tweeters were offered the chance to exchange their car for the Sportback. This technique takes gamification (and rewards) to the extreme, but it’s a good example of what a brilliant, interactive idea can do for your brand.
You ultimately want your social media presence to reach the widest audience possible, and to do this you have to increase your social engagement to cast a wider net.
Many casual games implement some sort of social engagement, which encourages players to involve their friends in their gameplay. We’ll use game app Pokerstars Duel as an example of how you can borrow such social elements.
PokerStars is an already established online poker company. A recently released app by the brand, PokerStars Duel is an online gaming app which allows people to play one-on-one poker. To invite others to play, users send invites via text message, social media or in-app through a friends list. This friend’s list can be built up, as is the case with social media, but to a limit of 100 friends.
The idea behind this app is to encourage more people to take an interest in poker by offering them a quick, casual game to whet their appetite. Friends invite more friends to play with them, spreading the app further and further, thus increasing the game’s popularity.
Encouraging people to share your content on social media can be hard — especially if you are not supposed to openly ask for it as a business. What you can do, however, is find topics and content that your followers enjoy and want their friends to enjoy too.
Create images that are beautiful, funny or thought provoking. Write pieces of content that answer questions, challenge popular discussion topics or are enjoyable to read, always related to your brand and products. You may also consider incentivizing shares, but you have to be aware of the individual rules of each social channel. On Twitter, it is perfectly acceptable to ask people to retweet your messages so that their friends can benefit from what you are saying too; on the contrary, on Facebook you are penalized for this kind of activity.
One technique you might consider would be to offer exclusive offers and deals only to your fans on social media; anyone who shares your offer with their friends could benefit from extra discounts. This practice not only encourages your fans to share your content, it also makes them feel privileged, as if they’re getting a better deal because of their loyalty.
Competition and Skill
Many people enjoy casual games because of the competitive element they provide and the skill that they require to complete. Although many players will happily complete levels at their own pace, they take pride in achieving better results than their peers.
A casual game that demonstrates how competition and skill can play an important role is Words with Friends. This is the world’s most popular word-based mobile game, with almost 23 million active users per day. The concept is simple — it’s Scrabble on your mobile that you play on a turn-based system.
You can play this game by Zynga Inc. on your own, but the fun really starts when you take on your friends and strangers, pitching your vocabulary and spelling knowledge against theirs. It’s this competitive edge that has made this game so popular, and it’s one you can use on your social channels too.
The simplest way to bring this idea to your social accounts would be to create skill-based competitions, moving beyond a simple sweepstake approach and challenging your fans to demonstrate knowledge and complete tasks.
One brand that has utilized the skill-based competition mechanic though their social channels is Starbucks. In 2014, Starbucks ran a competition where they asked people to demonstrate skill and artistic creativity by drawing on their white cups and uploading their creations to Starbucks’ social media accounts. They received over 4,000 entries in just three weeks and gained huge social exposure for an idea that saw people drawing on an asset that the company was handing out on a daily basis.
At the heart of what they stand for, casual games are fun and accessible. They generate competition, offer rewards and allow people to demonstrate skill. If you think about these elements when managing your social media accounts, you’ll go some way towards improving your presence and creating a more robust fan base for your business.