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How To Use Social Media Principles To Improve Productivity

How To Use Social Media Principles To Improve Productivity

Web analyst James Stanger explains how marrying social media techniques with human behavior can build a smarter business.

At the time of its IPO, many analysts and commentators questioned the value of Facebook. On the day that it went public with a valuation of $104 billion it was the largest valuation for a newly public company to date – more than twice the market cap of General Motors. How can a company that makes absolutely nothing be worth so much? The simple answer is human nature.

Social media companies rely entirely on the basic human desire to feel good. The pleasure we all derive from seeing our posts ‘liked’ or our tweets re-tweeted incentivises us to do more. We feel generous when we ‘heart’ an Instagram photo. We are rewarded when our comments on current affairs are shared and liked by people we don’t even know. Social media platforms do not need to do very much except rely on the basic human desire to be rewarded – the rest takes care of itself. Social media is also competitive – we jostle for supremacy, to share the funniest blog or make the cleverest comment. These basic human needs and voluntary behaviours have led to Twitter gathering 645,750,000 registered users. Collecting more than half a billion active users through people’s natural hunger for recognition, reward and competition explains why the principles of social media are being adopted by big business.

These principles have led to the development of a rapidly growing business strategy called ‘gamification’ – software platforms that have been built upon the principles of social media behaviour. Through gamification, it is possible to build a smarter business. Gamification encourages the sharing of ideas and information, promotes competition and turns everyday work conversation into a meaningful social tool. Badgville.com is one such platform, through which organisations can create a whole new world of incentives for the sales force. Colleagues are able to post their ideas, boast of their successes and ‘like’ each other’s work. Organisations can set goals and targets and then colleagues competitively engage – socially – to find solutions. Employees are not only rewarded financially but also socially, with recognition from their peers, status reward systems and other incentives.

Behaviour platforms such as these can be easily deployed, adding a layer of gamification across all of a company’s existing IT investments – company website, database or mobile app. The concept of gamification also works very well with external stakeholders.

One of the world’s top five consumer electronics companies has employed gamification techniques to increase the quantity and quality of its engagement with external stakeholders. The company developed gamification rewards such as a status system to encourage users to share product reviews, leave comments or repost other users comments. Promoting engagement through a reward system can be highly successful. For this major smartphone manufacturer it led to more product reviews, more comments and more advocates. Such engagement can lead to greater customer loyalty as the external audience feels ever more enfranchised.

The ROI in such circumstances can be plentiful: Customers and thought leaders talk about your brand and products. In the retail space, such online chatter is crucial – particularly in the technology sector where online reviews play a major part in consumers’ purchasing decisions. Using gamification behaviour platforms for internal sales and external engagement is fast becoming big business. In the 2013 Forbes Global 2000 survey, more than 70 per cent of companies said that they intended to use gamification for customer retention and marketing purposes.

Whilst the concept is still relatively new, it is clear that combining the natural human instinct for competition and reward with social media platforms is a compelling proposition. Behaviour platforms are already proving to lead to better ROI when added to existing CRM platforms such as Sharepoint and Salesforce, leading to better CRM usage, learning engagement and employee collaboration. As with Twitter and Facebook, corporates choosing to embrace gamification face the prospect of very easily getting more people to do more stuff – more often.

James Stanger is a writer, web technologist and open source advocate, working as senior director of products at CompTIA, a US-based, non-profit IT industry trade association.

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