7 Tips for Gamifying Content Marketing

January 9, 2018 Sarena Brown

Content marketers are always looking for new ways to reach their target audiences. That’s why many marketers are already interested in gamification. Not only does gamifying content allow for increased brand engagement and higher ratings of customer loyalty, but it also allows your target audience to experience a different, never-before-seen side of your brand.

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If you’re not sure how gamifying content works, how it can revolutionize your content strategy, or how to get started, start with these seven tips.

Wait—What Is Gamification?

Some people hear gamification and they immediately imagine a literal board game or video game. This idea is close, but it’s not exactly what gamification means in terms of content marketing.

Gamification is the application of game-like mechanisms to non-gaming activities (like content marketing). The idea is simple—reward “players” in some way for participating in a game-like activity set up by the brand. This appeals to the competitive side of human nature and leads to higher brand engagement and positive brand sentiment.

If you need an example, Heineken created a super-engaging contest called “Crack The US Open.” The brand asked players to follow the contest’s Instagram page, turn their phones sideways to see a panoramic stadium image, and follow the steps in the captions to win. Participants had to follow clues in the captions and enter codewords in the comments. The first comment then won two tickets to the Men’s US Open Final. It was a simple, engaging, and fun activity created by the brand to create a memorable experience for its customers. Plus, Heineken brought 1,500 users together to participate in the game and saw an increase in following by 20 percent—talk about a big payoff.

Getting Started

There’s a common misconception that only big brands with big budgets can be successful at gamifying content—but that’s not the case. Gamification has the ability to work within nearly any budget, for any brand, on any product or service.

It’s simply a matter of coming up with the right idea for your target audience and getting it in front of them. Here are some of the most helpful tips to get started in gamifying your content:

1. Start Small

If this is your first time learning about gamification and you’ve never tried the strategy before, it’s important to take baby steps. It would be wise to start with a simple game, contest, or reward, so you can begin learning how the theory works, how your audience responds, and any tips for improving your content in the future.

Think of something small you can do to test out the practice of gamification, like rewarding users to following you on Instagram, signing up for your newsletter, or visiting your Facebook page. Think of it as a test run—what’s something simple you can do to get your feet wet without putting too much on the line?

2. Review Successful Examples

Having an understanding of what’s worked for other brands is always a great place to start. Try reading up on a few different case studies where gamification was successful. Similar to the Heineken example, dozens of other brands have used the theory of gamification in their marketing strategies and experienced overwhelming success.

Before you try to use the tactic yourself, have an understanding of how other companies made it work, what scale they used, and how they rewarded their participants. Even if you don’t end up using any of the same strategies, at least you can back up your own tactics with the information you learned.

3. Understand Your Structure and Keep It Simple

If the content is too confusing, you’re going to run into problems. Participants shouldn’t have to read a ten-page manual just to understand the game and how to be rewarded. Before you even think about taking the content to the testing phase, make sure you and your team have a clear understanding of how the game works, how to win, and which rules need to be followed.

If you have to ask yourself questions about how to play, it means you need to keep thinking out the structure. Keep things simple, clear, and easy to follow; otherwise, participants will get confused and your dropout rates will be too high.

4. Know Your Target Audience

Gamifying content without having a clear understanding of your target audience will lead to a few vital mistakes.

You may notice your audience isn’t interested in the content in the first place and therefore they won’t likely engage. Perhaps they’re not interested in the rewards you have to offer and don’t feel inclined to play. Or maybe your content just isn’t engaging enough and it didn’t capture their attention from the start.

If you have a clear understanding of who your audience is, what makes them tick, and how to get them interested, you’ll have a much easier time creating something they’re going to enjoy in the first place.

5. Have Clear Incentives

Whether it’s a new product sample, promotional coupons, or a free trial, there need to be clear incentives if you want to make the gamification work with your target audience.

If you’ve run a contest or gamified content before, you should have a good idea as to what worked and what didn’t. If this is your first time running a contest, make sure you benchmark which incentives influenced your audience and which didn’t.

If what people really want is a product sample and you keep offering coupons, your participation levels are going to get lower and lower. Understand what incentives your audience cares about and offer those before anything else.

6. Set Goals

Before you launch your gamified content, it’s important you have the means in place for measuring success. For many, this can be as simple as setting a few key goals, like increasing followers by 20 percent or having 1,000 people participate in the contest.

Without clear goals, it’s hard to know if running gamified content is worth it in the long run. Consider integrating analytical tools to track participants’ behaviours, such as how long someone spent playing or how many users completed the game. If your goals aren’t reached or the metrics don’t show positive signs, you know it’s time to rethink the strategy and make some changes.

7. Evolve with Technology

Don’t be afraid to let technology change your gamification strategy. As video content takes over, AR and VR grow in popularity, and artificial intelligence begins gathering better information, it would be wise to let it help you improve your gamification strategy.

This will allow you to create content that’s more engaging, more personalized, and more stimulating for your audience, leading to higher rates of engagement and more successful marketing. Plus, if you fail to evolve, there’s going to be a dozen competitors who have something more exciting to offer, taking players away from you. Stay alert and don’t forget that technology can help your gamification strategy improve on a number of different levels. 

Don’t let gamification overwhelm you! Follow these tips and see how this fun strategy can start engaging your customers and growing your business.

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