gamification - the next level for comms?

Communications – it’s a funny old game. Although many of us may have been playing for some time, the game itself has certainly changed. As technology continues to race ahead it seems making sure you level-up your comms is the key to staying ahead - but is gamification the path of the future, or just the latest passing fad?

by Adam Raistrick

Gamification – defined as introducing game-like elements into typically non-gaming tasks – is a rapidly growing trend, appearing in many facets of technology and media.

It has already been used as a tool for internal communications by Samsung, Deloitte and even the Department for Work and Pensions. The idea is that the more fun you make something, the more likely people are to be engaged by it.

And, in essence, is that not the key to communications? We’re all trying to get people to engage with content, and we’re all trying to find new ways of doing it, so why should gamification be any exception to this? Surely this is the ultimate form of engagement – imagine a press release or report that sucked people in, that had them desperately clicking through for one more look, that left them telling colleagues and friends to take a look for themselves. Gamification should be the comms Nirvana.

At the UK Commission for Employment and Skills we recently tried our hand gamification for the first time with our Your Future Job quiz. The idea started with our report on The Future of Work – a fascinating insight into the world of work in 2030, which hopes to encourage people to better prepare today for the world of work tomorrow. It’s a fantastic piece of research – the rise of robots, AI, accountants replaced by algorithms – it’s everything that everyone wants to hear about!

With such an exciting report to publicise it was the perfect platform to push the boundaries of a traditional comms campaign and achieve as much reach as possible. A quiz for web and Facebook was settled on as having the most potential to go viral, as well as taking a form which most people were familiar with. Short, sharp and fun were the key factors - it couldn’t be so long it would put users off getting to the finish line, nor could it be so serious that it would narrow down our audience.

Once we had chosen designers and developers to start creating our quiz we set to work on the content, creating a list of 48 ‘Future Jobs’ and refining the tone of our questions so they hit a balance between work (often an off-putting subject) and fun (seldom found to have similar connotations). A button was added to the results page of the quiz to direct traffic back to the report on our site, along with share links on common social media – encouraging users to circulate the quiz and maximise any potential reach. We also built networks with the National Careers Service who kindly agreed to build a custom landing page from the end of our quiz, helping to reinforce the more serious underlying message. Each question page also had a topic header to reaffirm exactly what information we were trying to tease out of users, be that their work effort, technical approach or current skills.

From the formation of this idea we were always thinking of how to integrate the quiz into our communications strategy. We had already used the usual channels and warmed up press contacts, as we typically receive a lot of attention at the launch of a new report we opted to soft launch the quiz on the same day of the report – making the pages live on both the web and Facebook and encouraging speakers and delegates to promote it. We left our own channels clear to promote the report itself on the day of the launch and field any enquiries, then used the quiz as a way to push people back towards the report in the period after the launch where attention typically tails off.

Has it worked? So far, yes! We’ve certainly seen participation from people far outside our normal reach and real time analytics (which we built into the quiz) allow us to keep a constant eye on exactly who is taking the quiz and where, as well as live updates for click-throughs to our report. Analytics for time spent on the site show us the vast majority of unique users are staying until they have completed the quiz, and that they reached the result page with links back to our research.

There are some issues, yes – gamification has been found to be most effective in appealing to a Generation Y audience, who are used to spending their lives online already, so reach beyond that starts to become a trickier issue. Also, not everyone is drawn by the appeal of ‘gamifying’ what may well be a serious subject matter – obviously this is a tool which needs to be used selectively, as with anything in comms just plucking an audience out of thin air and throwing a message at them fails make things stick; one of the most time consuming aspects of this project for us was refining our tone and wording to make sure we were pitching the project to the right audience.

So, is gamification the future? The figures seem to think so - American IT researchers Gartner predict that by the end of this year 70% of Global 2000 companies will have deployed at least one gamified application. It certainly provided us with a new and innovative way of launching a product. We saw visits from far and wide and a surge in referrals from mobile and Facebook where we’d previously seen far less engagement. It also exposed our work to the sense of competition and intrigue which has definitely taken hold – analytics show many user re-take the quiz straight away, giving them a second sight of our brand and messaging almost immediately.

Every day millions of us compete without knowing; on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook we strive to have the most friends, most likes, or networks. We’re given free games to teach us level-crossing safety, raise awareness of natural resource scarcity, and given gold stars for building virtual farms in return for surrendering personal information. Maybe gamification is already part of our future, and perhaps we’re all playing already

Take the Your Future Job quiz and find out what you’ll do in 2030 here > http://yourfuturejob.ukces.org.uk

Read more about the report, The Future of Work, here > www.ukces.org.uk/thefutureofwork

Adam Raistrick is a Communications Manager for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. He likes robots, amazing food and coffee, dislikes swarms of angry bees and being attacked by bears.

Picture credit.