When it comes to content marketing, engagement is perhaps the most telling factor in the success of your efforts. Whether or not visitors are reading your content to the end, clicking through to related content, participating in discussions, and interacting with your content on social media are all indicators of how helpful the content is to your audience.
Fostering that engagement can be difficult. People’s attention spans are short. Most users read 20-28% of an article on their average visit, choosing instead to skim most content and save deep-reads for the content that strikes a chord.
But you can’t expect deep engagement to materialize on its own. Sure, having genuinely good content helps—but that’s just the foundation. That content has to employ copywriting techniques, structural choices, and a certain level of interactivity to facilitate true participation from your audience. One often overlooked tactic for improving engagement with content is gamification.
So let’s dive into what gamification is, how it can help your company foster higher levels of engagement, and what gamification strategies companies are using effectively.
What Is Gamification?
Content gamification is the use of techniques traditionally used in games to encourage users to take specific engagement actions. The fact that mobile gaming is a $50 billion industry shows just how much the average person craves an engaging and competitive experience.
While reading a piece of content certainly can’t be compared to playing a few rounds of Candy Crush, the techniques that make that game engaging—and addictive—can be applied to your marketing efforts to facilitate similar results.
Gamification takes the data-driven techniques that game developers use to engage players and brings those same principles to marketing and other non-game applications. The goal is to motivate specific actions and add value to your business through that new engagement. Marketing gamification itself is expected to become a $22 billion industry by 2022, showing that companies understand the power of the strategy.
While many mistakenly view gamification as something new, gamification has long played a part in marketing campaigns. Simple quizzes, contests, and rewards programs often use gamification techniques to encourage engagement through all types of channels.
5 Content Gamification Techniques to Drive Engagement
There are many techniques for content gamification, many of which involve outcomes that are publicly displayed. Allowing users to see how other users are performing and what content they are interacting with creates a sense of community that encourages others to engage with that same content.
Here are some popular types of gamification, real-world examples of those techniques in action, and how you can adapt them for your content:
Leaderboards & Scores
Leaderboards and public scores are perhaps the most common form of gamification around a wide variety of content types. Leaderboards are a great way to promote healthy competition among your users and push them to engage with more of your content over a long period of time.
There are many ways you can use leaderboards to encourage engagement and viewing of your content, including rewarding users for the number of articles they read, the time they spend watching your videos, the number of comments that they leave in discussions, or other metrics that make sense based on the content that you publish.
In the Wild: On FixYa, a community where users can join and ask questions about fixing anything, users who take the time to answer questions and help fellow users can earn points and a variety of awards that display on their profiles. Users who earn the most points appear at the top of the public FixYa leaderboard, which celebrates the most helpful and effective experts on the site.
B2B Application: Public leaderboards are an excellent way to encourage user training post-sale. Consider recognizing new users who have taken the time to learn how to use your product, using badges to help users gain recognition internally as resident experts.
Tests & Quizzes
Tests and quizzes are a natural gamification opportunity for content-focused companies. Allowing users to put their knowledge and understanding on display for other users to see can be a great way grow interest and engagement in educational content.
In the Wild: Language-learning app DuoLingo presents language learners with easily digestible lessons, one at a time. After each lesson is delivered, users are taken to a quiz page where they can demonstrate their understanding. The results of their quizzes are displayed prominently on their profile.
B2B Application: Look no further than HubSpot, which offers certificates across a wide range of marketing topics. Upon finishing a course, users receive a certification they can display proudly across professional profiles. The result? Users—and HubSpot—improve their reputations as experts.
Tests and quizzes can be a powerful tool for any type of educational content and represent a relatively easy way to reward your audience for consuming your message. Plus, encouraging people to share their results helps them feel accomplished, while simultaneously allowing you to establish your company as a respected source of knowledge in the field.
Badges can be a great way to celebrate milestones and achievements for your users. By connecting certain actions to receiving badges—like engaging with a piece of content for a certain amount of time, belonging to a group for a specified period, or engaging in conversations—you increase the likelihood that your users will take those actions. Collecting the badges becomes a game in itself, and a sign of their loyalty to your company.
Publicly displayed badges help users convey authority to the audience they are interacting with. For instance, if you assign a profile a badge for reaching 50 posts on your community forum, displaying that badge prominently by their name on any new posts causes other users to take notice of what they have to say.
In the Wild: Twitch, a video game streaming service, allows streamers to create their own badges for certain milestones (like donation levels and chat interactions) hit by members of their audience.
B2B Application: If you want to encourage adoption of your product among users in a new customer, consider using badges to reward help center engagement. That way, you can recognize and celebrate new users who complete training courses, read articles, or contribute to forums.
Progress bars can be a great way to walk your users through a series of steps, including using and engaging with multiple types of content.
In the Wild: Even if you’ve never used Acorns, a service that helps users invest by rounding up purchases and investing the change their setup page will look familiar. During the initial account setup stage, Acorns walks users through each step of setting up their accounts and choosing investment channels:
You’ve probably encountered this tactic on LinkedIn, which uses a similar technique to encourage users to fill out their profiles in full:
Take a look at another example comes from Byju, a learning and education app. There, users can track their progress through a variety of courses. As users progress, they fill in a map as they master specific concepts through the app. Their map-styled progress bar is an interesting and fun take on an age-old concept that feels fresh.
Progress bars work because they not only walk the user through the appropriate steps that they need to take to set up their account, but the unfinished progress bars work on a psychological level, bothering the user and encouraging them to continue whatever they’ve started.
B2B Application: Consider repurposing existing content to create learning tracks made up of webinars, videos, articles, eBooks, etc. that educate prospects on a particular subject. Creating a set map of progress ensures prospects always know where to go next, and are encouraged to follow the path you’ve laid out for them, one asset at a time.
A more in-depth gamification technique is to create actual games for your users to play.
In the Wild: Perhaps the most famous example of creating a full game for marketing purposes comes (surprisingly) from the U.S. Army. They developed an entire game as a recruitment tool in America’s Army, which exposed would-be recruits to missions and situations that service members may encounter. The game was a huge success, cultivating a player base of hundreds of thousands of active players at its peak. Even today, the game enjoys more than 300 people playing at any given time, according to SteamCharts.
B2B Application: Rethink what “content” can mean. Instead of relying on the tried and true white papers and webinars, consider experimenting with new forms of content that will surprise and delight your audience. For example, Kapost recently released our Marketing Workshop Facilitation Cards, a deck of cards that leads participants through activities that spark discussion among marketing teams. While not as exciting as a traditional game, these cards allow players to explore marketing concepts in a new, interesting way.
Make the Customer Experience Fun
Gamification is all about giving your audience goals that relate to their consumption or engagement with your content and allowing them to celebrate the completion of those goals. Effectively integrated gamification strategies will make your content more fun to consume, more interactive for your users, and more able to effectively deliver information to your audience. While there are many gamification platforms, taking a creative and unique approach is the key to setting your content apart and enticing users to engage on a deeper level.