How Companies Use Gamification to Amplify Social Media

The business world has a lot to learn from video games. Gamification is the application of game mechanics into a digital experience in order to engage users. The idea is that tapping into people’s innate desire to play games can be an extremely effective way to engage users, and convey ideas such as a brand’s story. The term “gamification” has surfaced in the past few years, but the idea of using game mechanics as a vehicle to convey ideas is a fairly old concept. Early educational computer games such as Munchers, and the JumpStart series are early examples of game-based learning.

The rise of gamification in marketing has been made possible in part due to the increased use of social media and interactive content by brands. By combining game mechanics with social media, companies have created some of the most effective marketing campaigns in recent memory. But how exactly does this work?

People generally use social media to connect with friends and family first, not to engage with a company’s brand. However, given how much time users spend on social networking platforms, businesses can’t ignore the necessity of having a brand presence these sites. Furthermore, if businesses can offer users something extraordinary and attention grabbing, they can harness social networks to spread their brand name and content. One of the most effective ways to do this is through gamification.

The CEO of Shufflebrain, Amy Jo Kim, presents the four ways users participate in social media: compete, cooperate, express, and explore. Each of these user types has a few defining characteristics and actions, which we’ve listed below. You can also check this presentation for a more detailed explanation.

Competition: win, beat, brag, taunt, challenge, pass, and fight.

Cooperation: join, share, help, gift, greet, exchange, and trade.

Exploration: view, read, search, collect, complete, and curate.

Expression: choose, customize, layout, design, and dress-up.

Kim argues that these verbs can be used to describe a specific group of users being targeted by a company’s social media campaign. By integrating these different types of social media participants into their campaign, companies can tailor their games to each user type. We’ve highlighted two companies below that show the effectiveness of such customized applications.


Nike seldom disappoints in marketing or advertising. The Nike+ campaign is a great example of successfully integrating gamification into social networking. The Nike+ Running application tracks distance, pace, time, and calories burnt with GPS. The app also engages users socially through competition.

The app automatically uploads to so users can see their run stats, such as distance and elevation, and compare it with their friends and peers. Allowing users to post their runs to Facebook is an aspect of the application’s game mechanics that works as a way to market the product to other potential customers. Along with competition, the app is chalk-full of athletic motivation, including messages from Nike’s top athletes and real-time cheers for every “like” or comment that a runner receives about their posted updates.

Audi A3 Exchange

Another successful example of gamification’s power within social media is Audi’s 2013 launch of their A3 car. In the first half of the year, an eighteen-wheeler truck drove through South Africa carrying a brand new A3 Sportback.The eighteen-wheeler’s route was navigated by the tweets of hopeful South Africans. The campaign’s premise was that the truck’s final destination would be whichever city in South Africa generated the most tweets. Once there, three randomly selected tweeters would have the chance to exchange their own car for the new A3 Sportback. The campaign caused a social media frenzy. By logging into the campaign’s microsite, fans could submit their information and help guide the truck to their city – a modern, social take on the standard computer racing game. Ultimately, fifty thousand tweets guided the Exchange truck to Johannesburg, where three lucky finalists were given the chance to compete for the A3.

During the three-week campaign, 11,310 people entered the contest. Within five hours of launching the campaign, Audi South Africa was trending on Twitter, and interest for the A3 Sportback on the Audi website tripled.

While traditional advertising is still effective, its clear that companies are recognizing the need to move beyond two-dimensional campaigns for a more interactive user-experience. Gamification has proved to be a highly successful way to do this, and social media has developed into an outlet where user-experience marketing can quickly be implemented and seen by consumers. Gamification apps that leverage the instant feedback and peer encouragement of social media can spur brand engagement and promote positive change.

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