There's an interesting discussion afoot in the field of employee advocacy (programs by brands empowering employees to support the goals of the company through social media). Done well, organizations are reaping the benefits of encouraging and supporting their employees' social media strengths.
Within the field, one of the most important capabilities and advancements is metrics, which I have written about before. It is vital to exactly how much reach, of what kind, your company authorized and supported employee effort is producing. My company has compiled research to show that a company with a base of 1,250 employees that leverages employee engagement can accomplish the following:
- Increased brand reach of 1.1 million individuals for content shared
- An annual increase of 25 million authentic impressions
- A savings of $515,000 in recruiting expenses
- $1.2 million in earned media advertising value
- A 19 percent increase in revenue growth
In addition to metrics, the other intriguing feature is gamification. It is possible to gamify social media activity in a number of ways -- awards and incentives for size of following increase, number of high quality posts, and number of shares over a given period. Rewards can range from prizes (days off, movie tickets, monetary awards) to simply seeing the name and stats at the top of a leaderboard program participants see online (that is also possibly circulated or shown to the full company).
But here's the catch -- while gamification is immensely helpful in some areas, it is not helpful or even detrimental in others. What can you do to ensure that the inclusion of gamification in your own employee advocacy program is good?
According to industry watchers Thorn Klosowski, Matt Wilson, and Tony Ventrice, here's where gamification is good, as well as where the strategy suffers.
When gaming is good
Gamification is immensely helpful for creating good habits, such as daily running or exercise. The rewards system helps get you into the habit of running, visiting the gym, or eating within certain calorie limits. There are gamification applications that can get into each of these the habits. Once you form a new habit, the need for the gaming is gone as the habit becomes a part of your daily routine.
So gamification has the ability to motivate you to act, but the choice is still yours whether or not to actually act. The app can alter your thought process and make it more desirable and likely you'll get out and run, bike, or swim. But it can't force your hand. Even in the cases where gamification works well, it is merely a tool.
Where gaming gets ugly
In an employee advocacy program, gamification is a nemesis for some. Employees who come into the program with existing social media followings may seem like instant "winners" in a way that's unfair, and other participants may actually be disincentivized from participating at all. Furthermore, any structured game may draw out the inevitable efforts of some to be "gaming the system," which is encouraging only to those who are winning the game.
How gaming enhances employee advocacy
With the rise of leadership boards in many workplaces, high ranking and achieving employee advocates can be compelled by the public recognition they receive. Also, some companies may use a gamified process or platform they use to train and support employees on the employee advocacy software and program, which can help reduce the cost of onboarding new employees into an advocacy system and can help ensure they succeed. New entrants are added to the system in a way that speeds their learning and ensures their ongoing delivery, as well as helping them to create more lasting and meaningful connections with the employees who've been in the program awhile.
Consider private or team gamification
For employees who are deterred by the gamification aspects of competing with others, especially in scenarios that seem unfair, consider making gamification a private issue. For example, make the metrics of each individual's participation in the program appear only for themselves and for the manager, with the leaderboard that appears for everyone being only an aggregate measure of what the team has produced as a whole. This is a program that works well for publication platforms such as Forbes.com that rely on heavy involvement from individual contributors. By allowing the individuals to see the statistics of the following and readership they create even day by day and hour by hour, individuals are naturally motivated to accomplish more and to do better, even without the promise of a reward or the knowledge of how they're doing compared to anyone else.
Social media sharing data is very much the same as a traditional publishing platform. Consider the possibility of rewards being private for each team member, and based on percentage of growth or based on individual goals between the member and the manager. These tweaks to the system can help to avoid discouragement over a system that makes it appear that the same participants always win, or that they win for reasons that are insurmountable or unfair.
Team projects can provide a fun view of gamification, while increasing enthusiasm for gamified projects that are clearly intended in a spirit of teamwork and fun.
Using gamification to collect great data
By now it should be no secret that companies use gamification to gather information about you as a consumer -- your likes, dislikes, friends, personality types, and even the ways you like to spend your personal time. This can be beneficial or annoying. But what about turning the tables by allowing gamification data within your employee advocacy software to become a source of beneficial information for you? When employees post often, the nature of the information spreads virally, versus the tidbits that drop like a bomb. This information can provide valuable data points for your brand activity, which your gamification efforts can help you to compile and collect on the fly.
Overall, remember that gamification is simply a technology implementation of human nature, and that all human beings are unique. The aspects of gamification that will succeed or fail in any real-world implementation will depend on the nature of the company, its culture, and even the individuals themselves. As you develop your company's own program, take the time to explore the aspects of gamification that will be most motivating and fruitful for you.
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