Engaging and retaining your current audience is vital to sustainable, successful business, especially in a market as dependent on repeat customers as that of sports brands. Due to the demanding nature of audience retention, it can be all too easy to let an equally important aspect of marketing—increasing your brand’s reach—slip through the cracks.
To combat this very real issue, it is best to utilise each marketing technique to their full potential. What improves engagement should contribute to growing reach in order to maximize your return on investment. In other words, your strategies should work on at least two levels: increased engagement and increased reach.
Gamification began as a revolutionary philosophy that integrated gaming mechanics into business-to-employee relationships and quickly turned into one of the most effective and fast-blooming techniques in the business world. As a result, it has recently exploded into the marketing world as a business-to-customer tool to increase engagement.
While it can be tempting to once again dismiss gamification as a limited-use niche marketing strategy, the opposite is true: gamification is a layered, multifunctional tool that can work to improve both audience engagement and brand reach. The question is not if, but how.
To discover the ways in which reach can be increased through gamification, simply read on!
Word of Mouth
In an age dominated by viral videos and massive trends, word-of-mouth marketing is more powerful than ever. From the ever-endearing clips of animals doing ridiculous things to the rise of meme culture, word of mouth has only increased its dominance as a prominent motivator of social influence.
When it comes to exploiting this prevailing stimulus to the benefit of your brand, few tactics are more effective than gamification. In fact, barring any sweeping viral and highly-public move (or loads of money to throw at immense marketing campaigns), it could be argued that gamification is one of the most efficient ways to influence word of mouth.
The reason for the positive relationship between gamification and word-of-mouth marketing is simple: people talk about and share things that they enjoy. If the gaming mechanics you’ve integrated into your audience’s experience is effective, engaging, and fun, chances are users will discuss it with people in their lives.
This is both good news and a challenge—in order to maximise the word-of-mouth potential of your brand’s gamification, it must be fun and unique enough to warrant talking about. Achieve this and your reach will expand extensively and organically.
Traditional word of mouth has always been an undeniable current in the world of marketing. Social media has taken that current and given it an all-new, arguably more effective forum. Remember the viral videos and pieces of content that spread like wildfire? More often than not, social media is the avenue by which those massive sharing trends take place.
The major advantage that social media has over traditional word of mouth is that it is much easier to influence. While you can create the best possible marketing strategy, campaign, or product and hope your audience increases your reach by talking about it, with social media, there are realistic ways to dictate what people share as well as how and when they share it.
So, in addition to expanding on what can be defined as word-of-mouth marketing, social media also grants the unique ability to encourage sharing and even establish viral loops.
No, this isn’t some obscure infectious disease, it’s a marketing tactic that utilises social media, your current audience, and incentives to increase your brand’s reach. In short, it’s encouraging your audience to recommend your brand to others in their social sphere.
The most obvious benefits of viral loops are that your audience advertises for you and it is self-sustaining—at least in theory—thanks to its cyclical nature: your audience attracts new users, the new users become part of the audience and reach even more potential users, and so on.
This approach is how a number of tech companies have been able to blitzscale to reach the size they are today. Think of LinkedIn and Facebook where, especially in the early days, they encouraged you to invite your friends to sign up when you opened an account. Another great example is Dropbox who incentivised its users to invite their friends to use the platform in exchange for more storage space.
Of course, viral loops aren’t something that can be created on a whim; otherwise, every company in the world would be using them to grow at exponential rates. Instead, it takes in-depth analysis and planning to determine if your brand and its engagement rates are in position for such a strategy to succeed and subsequently develop an appropriate and effective plan to encourage users to advertise for you.
The great thing about gamification is that it lends itself exceptionally well to viral loops. The reason for this is simple: game mechanics are perfect for encouraging social behaviour. From incentives and user-generated content to collaboration and the illusion of exclusivity, a well-developed plan to turn gamification into a viral loop can have tremendous results.
While there are specific techniques that can be used to inspire your user to expand your brand’s reach, the effectiveness of viral loops comes back to one key factor: if your content is engaging, it will be worth sharing. The methods you choose to use based on your particular strategies are simply a prod in the right direction.
Metrics and Search Engines
The primary benefit of gamification is the increased engagement your content is apt to receive, but the positives don’t stop there. Increased engagement typically equates to more time spent on your site and fewer quick exits, and metrics look favourably on these factors.
This is important because search engines utilise metrics to rank sites. Content that is considered quality due to its engagement rates, including the amount of time an audience spends on it and its retention rates, ranks higher and in turn, that drives more traffic to the site.
Essentially, the higher your site ranks, the more accessible it is by search engines, and the more traffic it is apt to see. So, if you boost your metrics through the use of gamification, you are effectively increasing your reach thanks to the algorithms on which search engines rely.
Know Your Content and Audience
In order to best implement gamification into your marketing strategy and subsequently increase reach through the methods already discussed, you must first know your content inside and out. To be intimately knowledgeable of your content is to know who it most appeals to, how to market it most effectively, and through which forums it can best be spread.
There are several ways to know your content: the obvious, which includes being familiar with the subject matter, form it takes, where it is presented, and so on, and the analytics, which includes details about your audience, metrics outlining time spent on a page, and other such information. Both are extremely valuable when putting a marketing plan in place.
To both obtain and understand this valuable data, digital engagement tools can be used. Tools like Komo are exceptionally advantageous as they not only gather the information you need—audience information and content engagement data, for example—but also transform that information into unique lead generation, custom engagement strategies, and so on.
Even if your audience enjoys and engages with your content, they may need a bit of prompting to share it, thereby increasing your reach. One of the most effective ways to encourage this desired behaviour is to offer incentives.
Incentives can take many forms, particularly when gamification is involved. We highly recommend that you research the numerous ways gamification and incentives can interrelate—especially in relation to your particular brand—or to employ the help of industry leaders to get started.
There are a few well-known manners of incentivisation, however. These are user-generated content and rewards for sharing and referring others to your content. In each case, there is motivation for promoting your content in their social sphere.
The easiest way to think about user-generated content is in relation to sharing the results of something on social media. The most common example would likely be the innumerable Buzzfeed quizzes that one Facebook friend always posts. Interactive content—like a quiz—is a type of gamification. The incentive for sharing such content is rather simple—to share a fun or interesting result with one’s social connections.
Rewards are a bit more complex and involved. Sharing content can be motivated by in-game currency, advantages, leaderboards or bonus levels. Unlocked content is a fantastic incentive to share on social media or another electronic medium. Further nuance can be added by scaling rewards to the number of new audience members one refers.
Our Final Thoughts
Gamification is one of the most revolutionary and impactful strategies to improve audience engagement, but it is also an incredibly versatile foundation on which to build other elements of your marketing strategy, including increasing your brand’s reach.
The keys included in this article are a fantastic place to start utilising your gamification strategies in other diverse ways, but there are always more factors to consider, including the specifics of your content, your current engagement levels, and the type of gaming elements you are using. It is vital to always take a custom-tailored approach when incorporating new marketing strategies and expanding your gamification wheelhouse.
Using a reputable digital engagement tool from a well-versed company of experts can be just the advantage your brand needs when embracing gamification to increase reach. Rather than going at it alone and risking subpar results for the immense amount of time and effort you’re bound to expend, consider working with professionals.