I’ve long said, or at least tried to say, that what really interests me about the social media revolution isn’t the “media” part but the “social” part. What behaviours are the technologies bringing out of us, rather than the technologies themselves. That’s why I’m short on Twitter yet fascinated by it at the same time.
The new breed of technologies which we’re looking at now all have two things in common. One, they are built on top of existing platforms (Facebook and the mobile phone) and Two, they incorporate game theory. The platform piece has been done to death (you may have heard of the iPad and the 70bn apps it launches with?) but the game theory is the one which really interests me.
Game theory is nothing new (Farmville):
Gaming structures have long been applied to real-world scenarios, a strategy championed by the celebrated games designer Jane McGonigal, who argues for the benefits of utilising gaming skills such as problem-solving and teamwork.Her Cryptozoo project for the American Heart Foundation encouraged players to chase around a city hunting mysterious animals – exercising along the way.
But this piece is fascinating:
“When people think of computer games, they often think of playing in a virtual world that doesn’t exist in reality,” [Jane McGonigal] told the WorldChanging network last month. “But alternate reality game designers are trying to get people to play in the real world. We want people to bring the same curiosity, wonder, and optimism that you feel when playing your favourite video games into your real lives and real problems.”
So what does this new element of consumer behaviour tell us?
For media companies with large, engaged and passionate audiences, this is a field rich in potential. Simple games structures and rewards for frequent, interesting and valuable commenters could increase loyalty and traffic, or encourage teams of readers to contribute to crowdsourced projects to earn points. The opportunities are only as limited as imagination and resources – both in short supply in the media industry at present.
For brands looking to succeed in the social media space, the insight that one of the ways to do this is to put your consumers and users in competition with each other, is invaluable.