Over the weekend Google extended their reach of the social media marketing audience, as they unveiled the latest feature to be added to their Google Maps App for android.

The newest recruit in Google’s social media armoury, is the Google Latitude update, which comes complete with leader-boards, already found with the popular gamification tool – Foursquare.

Although Google haven’t said that they are looking to compete with Foursquare, with this latest feature which was quietly launched, and is only available on the latest version of Google Maps for Android; it is certainly a bold move to make – and could potentially signal the power gamification is going to have within social media over the coming months.

Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter have enabled a check-in service for awhile; however it was the launch of foursquare in 2009 which really saw gamification within social media take-off – and as of last month foursquare had approximately 15 million users worldwide, with 1.5 billion check-ins.

Before we look at how gamification could help your social media marketing campaign, we need to look at what gamification is. Potentially the simplest definition of gamification is the following:

“Gamification is the use of game attributes to drive game-like player behaviour in a non-game context.”

This is something which foursquare have achieved easily, by incorporating leader-boards within the platform, meaning the more you check into a specific place, the higher up the leaderboard you travel – with the opportunity of becoming a “mayor” of a place.

From the success of foursquare, it is easy to see why Google Latitude has taken a similar route – but how can gamification work for your business?

As already mentioned, it was with the launch and subsequent popularity of foursquare which saw gamification really take off – with over 750,000 businesses using the merchant platform on the network alone – and there is no reason why gamification cannot become incorporated within your social media marketing strategy.

The main benefits of gamification within social media marketing are two-fold for businesses. Not only can it help bring about leads – after all you’ll begin to see who your regular visitors are, as they check in; but it’ll also help spread the word about your business as the visitors share their “check-in” at your business on their other social media profiles – such as Facebook and Twitter.

It has previously been reported that brands that are already using gamification as part of their social media marketing are beginning to see the advantages. Not only are they able to tailor their promotions to be more inclusive of customers, but companies have also claimed to have seen an increase in brand loyalty and engagement with customers; resulting in higher conversion rates.
To help encourage a gamification aspect to your social media marketing campaign amongst your audience, along with having the traditional leader-boards – as seen within foursquare and now Google Latitude; why not offer an incentive which will encourage and attract visitors, such as the offer of discounts, special offers or sneak previews to customers who “check-in” with your business “X” amount of times within a certain period.

Along with enabling businesses to offer their customers and clients incentives to join in within their social media marketing campaign, by checking-in; gamification also offers businesses the opportunity for real-time interaction, as consumers and clients leave reviews.

Each review left within the gamification element of your social media marketing campaign – as with any element of your social media marketing campaign – allows you as a business to rectify any areas which may be seen as a weak point by the customer, whilst also receive positive feedback (in our post later in the week, we’ll look at how to benefit from reviews left via social media).

It isn’t just within the B2C world in which gamification can be promoted and used as part of your social media marketing strategy; you can also include it in-house, adding a competitive yet productive nature to the work carried out within teams. The right incentives in place could not only boost the work within your business, and that friendly competitive nature amongst staff, but it’ll also help promote your business organically via social media.

Before you open another tab and include a gamification aspect to your social media marketing campaign, as with any element of a social media marketing campaign, before you take the plunge, you need to consider your audience / staff are they likely to take part in using the platform? What can you offer them via gamification? And what are you looking to achieve?

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