Applying Game Mechanics to Blog Design to Drive Engagement
On average, our standard of living is higher now than it was for our parents.
The basic needs for survival, shelter and safety have been met and the thing that we are all searching for now is more fun, engagement, more connectedness with other human beings, and more Game Mechanics. Except, we’re not consciously aware of the last one.
Those of us who are in Content Provider business, are competing for one resource that is finite, and that is people’s attention.
The Flipped Funnel
It used to be that people would become a customer FIRST, and only then would the seller allow the customer to engage in a game. Think Marlboro miles for instance.
If you wanted to collect Marlboro miles you had to become a customer first (buy a pack of Marlboros). Same thing with Airline miles.
But the sales funnel has flipped.
Now, we are all competing for attention of the customer, and the way to get the customers to buy from us, is to keep that customer glued to our content.
If the reader is glued to your blog, if that bounce rate is low, if the page views are high, then, and only then, will you have the opportunity to sell to that would-be-customer.
Except selling to that customer is not the main point of the game.
3 Types of Engaged
You want your readers to stay on your blog for 3 reasons other than an immediate and direct sale.
- Longer they stay, more likely they are to share your content with their friends, thereby bringing other readers to your blog which can then do the same thing. A virtuous circle indeed.
- Longer they stay more likely they are to comment, sign up for your newsletter, click on ads, click on affiliate links, etc.
- Longer they stay more likely you are to burrow your ideas and images into the reader’s head, ergo, more likely they are to return.
Big blogs like Huff Post and the ilk understand this, so they keep readers engaged by pumping out new content that’s easy to share and breaking new stories which drives the return traffic.
Personality bloggers and one-man operations are seldom able to compete UNLESS we step up our game. And the only shining beacon of possibility is if solid Game Mechanics are employed on our blogs.
Porn-Dirty Sans Porn
We’ve followed the Internet Marketer example for way too long. Lemme ask you a question.
Ever been on a website that had nothing to do with porn and yet you felt dirty?
If yes, then you’ve experienced the unethical, sleazy, and salesy methodology of gaining a customer. And Internet Marketers have bean leading the charge in experimentation, aggressiveness, brute-force sales, and –lets not mince words here- unethical behavior.
I say we can keep our souls and increase effectiveness through solid Game Mechanics.
Game Mechanics isn’t Only for Games
In Sweden, they experimented with Game Mechanics on a large scale and in real life.
Instead of punishing drivers for speeding, cameras would capture drivers who were driving 5 miles below the speed limit. These drivers would then be entered in a lottery and the reward money came from drivers who were speeding. This had a significant effect (over 70%) on the reduction of accidents on Swedish highways.
So, if Game Mechanics can be applied to Swedish highways, Marlboro customers and frequent flyers, why not your blog?
…Ability to Engage? Priceless.
What does everyone want?
Everyone wants SAPS. Status, Access, Power and Stuff. And in that order.
The great news for your blog is that Status, Access, and Power cost absolutely nothing and yet THEY are the strongest drivers of engagement.
Stuff, on the other hand, (mugs, T-Shirts, hats, whatever) costs money and yet it is the weakest driver of engagement. Why? People know how much “Stuff” costs. People know that a T-Shirt costs about $15.00 bucks. And a hat costs about $10.00 bucks. They can put a value on it.
However, no one is able to correctly apply value to Status, Access, and Power.
- If you are the Chief of a tribe on Triberr, that is a status designation. But how valuable is that?
- If I give you access to a secret post before its published to everyone else, how valuable is that?
- If I allow you to become a moderator on my forum, how valuable is that?
It’s impossible to put a dollar value on these things, and as a rule, people usually over shoot in their estimates.
Bad Design is Pervasive
From the perspective of Game Mechanics, blogs are –by and large- terribly designed. So how do you design your blog so it drives engagement?
At this moment, I want to discuss two most powerful drivers of engagement, and those are Status and Access.
If you look to your left, you will see my Leader Scoreboard.
It shows 21 people ranked from highest to lowest as measured in terms of commenting frequency on DIYB.
This is not terribly original. Many blogs have Top Commenters widget on the side. But Top Commenters doesn’t do anything to impart the sense of Status on anyone. However, calling it Leader Scoreboard, does.
If you call it “Leader Scoreboard”, the reader is immediately transplanted to his or her childhood when they would walk by a video game at the local Arcade and glanced at the top players. This would usually be followed by either a comment under one’s breath “those lucky bastards”, or inserting of the coin at an attempt to beat the top score.
In our case, we’re going for the second reaction.
However, Leader Scoreboard, as it’s applied her on DIYB is far from perfect.
The lowest “score” is 19 Comments at the time of this writing. Which –for some- may be a real deterrent, an insurmountable number to reach. Which creates a barrier to entry for new arrivals.
A perfect Leader Scoreboard widget, would show 4 of your friends (pulled from Facebook, Twitter, or comment systems database) and show you the 2 above you and 2 below you.
This way, you would see that you’re doing better than some of your friends (bragging rights) and you would see what you need to do to beat the friend who is right above you (competitiveness trigger).
A perfect Leader Scoreboard widget would also allow you to tweet or share on Facebook when you reach a new level on the Leader Scoreboard.
As far as I know, such a widget doesn’t exist. Could someone please create one?
Responsiveness is Access Trigger
There are blogs who get 10 times more traffic than this one. And yet, DIYB does 10 times better in terms of comment numbers. And folks, lets not fool ourselves, comments are in important sign of blog’s stickiness.
One way in which bloggers can make their blog more engaging is to give commentators a timely reply.
What is a timely reply? An immediate one, ideally.
This gives the sense to the visitor that they have Access to you (which they do), which is incredibly empowering to the reader.
I live what I preach
Another Example of Access
On my dog blog, I would give my Facebook fans exclusive access to an unpublished post, 24 hrs before it became available to everyone else.
This always resulted in a few comments and lots of traffic.
The Only Way to Beat WoW Is To Quit WoW
Dan Cristo used to play World of Warcraft…A LOT. He shared a saying they have in the world of…World of Warcraft.
The only way to beat World of Warcraft is to quit.
Did you know that the second largest Wikipedia-like depository of information is WOW-Wikipedia?
I’m saying this to impart upon you the significance of applying Game Mechanics to your online efforts. And no one does Game Mechanics better than WoW.
Whether they are in the form of an online game, blog, Social Media strategy, motivating your employees, or something entirely different, solid Game Mechanics will be the difference between success and utter failure.
The problem is, we’re not accustomed to doing this. Not on our blog, not in our Social Media efforts, and not in real life.
But, if we start thinking in terms of Game Mechanics, and we start applying it to our blogging efforts, Social Media campaigns, and even life, (remember the Swedish highway?) we will improve our chances of stickiness and success by a significant margin.
- How much do you know about Game Mechanics?
- Have you used any on your blog or life?
- What questions do you have after reading this primer on Game Mechanics?