Pin a Medal on It! – Rewards in Content Marketing

What would Mario be if you never saved the princess?While gamification is a good way to bring in new readers/users to your content, there is a major factor of good game design to consider: the reward.

What would chess be without checkmate?

What would Mario be if you never saved the princess?

What would Monopoly be without…well, I’ve never finished a game of Monopoly…

Anyway, rewarding your “winners,” be they constant readers/contributors or just people who’ve reached the end of a blog entry (no promises), is a key component to good gamification.

First, you should consider if you just want to reward the winner…

Reward the Losers Too

While rewarding the winners is obvious, the concept of rewarding those who don’t “win” is also an important idea to consider. The magic of the consolation prize is alive and well on the internet.

Takeout food-ordering site GrubHub features a rummy-style game, offering users to pick one of four options. One of the options rewards users with free items like drinks or dessert.

But GrubHub’s genius with the rummy game is that it even rewards losers, not with food, but with consolation prizes, often cat videos or meme pictures sourced from sites like YouTube.

This consolation prize is low-effort to the site programmers, but gives a sense of humanity to what could be a simple point-and-click affair. As with all quality content, it’s the thought that counts.

The Merits of Badges

When it comes to simple, low-impact rewards to your users, consider the simple badge.

Social Media Examiner noted the idea of badges as a reward, placing it as #2 on their list of 26 must-consider elements of your gamification strategy. Badges are no longer just the parlance of Boy Scout troops – the badge is a simple way to reward users.

Sites like FourSquare have made earning badges for “checking in” to various places a main piece of their allure, in addition to offering coupons and discounts as well. These “social rewards” entice users to not only use the application, but to keep coming back.

The variety and difference in the various badges and rewards offered by FourSquare even include the power to become “mayor” of a location after frequent check-ins to a location.

There are even commenters in the social media sphere wondering how long it will take for Facebook to offer a similar, badge-based rewards system.

From Badge to Bellwether

Pop culture social site GetGlue has made the concept of earning badges the primary component of their site, which allows users to read and share information about TV shows, movies, books, sports, and more.

GetGlue also enhances the reward by turning the badge into a tangible reward by offering sticker versions of earned badges.

With the time-sensitive nature of some of the sticker rewards, especially when it comes to television shows, GetGlue has become a great barometer of how popular a show is.

I would argue that GetGlue’s integration with Twitter was certainly a factor in Nielsen’s recent decree that they’ll be partnering with Twitter to create a more accurate, socially based system for their TV ratings.

What this means for GetGlue remains to be seen, but hopefully they’ll be seeing a reward of their own soon enough…

When Good Rewards Go Bad

While the prospect of putting together a rewards system for your readers/users might be extremely enticing, there is some content that shouldn’t necessarily fuel a rewards system.

As an example, take the case of the Israeli Defense Force recently getting into trouble for instituting a badge system for consistent readership of their blog. The idea was to reward readers for checking out their site on a regular basis, but the problem is that much of the IDF’s content related to military actions.

Essentially, the blog gamified war. Understandably, this didn’t go over well.

Understanding the context of your content is key to knowing what your gamification strategy should be – or even if you should have one.

To Badge or Not to Badge?

While there is a potential downside to creating a rewards system like badges for your site, if you have content that works with rewards, they are an easy way to increase your readership.

As stated before: context is key. What’s the potential cost (ethically, as well as financially) of rewarding your readership for their loyalty? Is there a press relations nightmare looming if you were to go to the side of badges? These questions should be relatively simple to answer if you know your niche.

What’s your preferred content rewards system?

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Michael is a graduate of New York University’s Film and Television program. He specialized in writing, channeling a passion for storytelling, no matter the medium. In addition to his work at CEM, Michael primarily works in web content production, including projects like Geek Crash Course, a geek-educational series, the Ansible, a comics-based interview show, live performance series The Next Lab Sessions, and many more. In addition, he’s written and edited for the digitally distributed Champion! Magazine.

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