Still in its infancy, social media games are already a multi-billion dollar industry. In China alone the social media gaming industry generated more than $2 billion last year. The United States is not far behind, logging hundreds of millions in revenue for the first half of this year.
Not only is the social media gaming industry itself a great gamble for social media marketers, but the game mechanics themselves make perfect sense from a promotional perspective. That is to say, the parts of virtual gaming which hold people's attention, the rewards, the benefits, the fun--are what make for a great marketing campaign.
There is also the value of advertising placed with social media games. Free mobile gaming apps now come with built-in advertisements that contain links to websites fully accessible by the same mobile device the game is played on. If your ad was fortunate enough to be a part of the Angry Birds phenomenon, that is what we call a "win."
As the future of social media gaming expands I expect to see more attempts at strategically placing ads within them, or at least using the same technology to promote a product, brand or company. A recent attempt by MIT students to spur recycling efforts on campus by tracking individual recycling efforts, keeping score and awarding prizes has proven so successful the local-only program is being expanded to other cities, with plans to eventually go national.
If it can work for recycling, it can definitely work for your business.
Brands are starting to add game mechanics to all manner of campaigns. For example, user-decided contests or community forums all have aspects inherent in social games. Now, more and more brands are adding these features to their everyday websites. Mashable launched Follow, complete with badges as reward for completing social tasks, as a way to engage its audience and make their voice heard.
The L.A. Kings hockey team recently added game elements to its website. Users gain points for sharing posts on Facebook, watching videos on-site or posting in forums. Users at the top of the leaderboard gain special access to Kings content.
And Rihanna has used gamification to launch her newest album. Users can head to Rihanna UNLOCKED on Rihanna’s official Facebook Page to help unlock exclusive content. Rihanna’s team posts intermittent social challenges which, when completed, reward participants with goodies like the new album’s lyric sheet, new music video and album art.
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