7 Ways Social Media Rewards The Brain

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Tom Chatfield - Author, Game Writer, Thinker
Tom Chatfield - Author, Game Writer, Thinker

Game theory meets Social Media Marketing

Tom Chatfield spoke last July at Ted about “7 Ways Games Reward the Brain. “While I watched Tom’s speech, I realized that Social Media has more in common with game theory than with content marketing. Here’s my take on his 7 rewarding concepts as applied to Social Media marketing.

While you’re building your online strategy I suggest you use Tom’s concepts to anchor your online interactions in a sound theory that is built on rewarding the brain.

1. Experience bars measure progress

Every Facebook ‘like,’ every new fan, new follower is a social media ‘experience bar.’ They measure your brand’s online success. These measures of your success bring pleasure to your brain – literally. Stop and think for a minute how you can reward your customers, clients, fans and followers with small experience bars of their own.

Think of every single interaction as an opportunity to move your audience along a game path, a story, with an experience bar. What would your ‘experience bar’ look like?

2. Multiple long- and short-term aims

Long-term engagement with a brand isn’t delivered in a short promotional Facebook giveaway or contest. It’s built over time, with each short-term aim a step along a path towards ultimate brand loyalty.

Think of your social media strategy as a continuum, and give your audience short- and long-term reasons to stay engaged in a relationship. What are the long- and short-term aims that will help build and retain that customer’s loyalty over time? It’s not one Twitter contest.

3. Reward effort

Farmville - Social Gaming Rewards Effort
Farmville - Social Gaming Rewards Effort

Games are wonderfully adept at rewarding effort. “Games don’t care if you fail, they care if you try.” Social media interactions are no different. For every attempt at an interaction (even if a customer needs support), you must reward their attempt at engagement. Give your fans, followers, and even detractors credit for “every little bit of effort” with your own positivity.

4. Rapid, frequent, clear feedback

The online world moves at a rapid pace. Every little engagement must be rapidly rewarded with clear communication, feedback, and appreciation. There’s nothing that annoys me more than to post a comment on a New York Times article, never to see a response from the author. That’s why I stopped commenting. If you want to build your brand online — or offline for that matter — you must deliver rapid, timely, clear feedback to your fans, friends, and followers.

5. An element of uncertainty

As Tom says, “a known reward excites people; an unknown reward ignites the brain.” In games, there’s nothing more exciting than completing a quest and being rewarded with unexpected bounty. This is the kind of social media story that catches on like wildfire.

Think about the goodwill and brand equity you’d build in this scenario: A lonely fan posts a great picture of their new product purchase on Facebook only to be rewarded with free product from the manufacturer for all of their friends and loved ones. This kind of unexpected reward sparks the kind of deep brand and personal relationships that are central to social sharing.

6. Windows of enhanced attention

Tom explains that when building a game and modeling the story, he looks for those moments when the player is more likely to remember the experience. It’s these moments that make a huge impact on the user’s experience. He also looks for the times at play where the user has gained a new level of confidence, where the user is taking a new risk.

These two moments of “enhanced attention” exist in the social sphere as well. Find the times in your consumer’s life (even their virtual life) where they’re making memories. Make their first big brand engagement happen on a personal level. Help them build confidence to try something new online.

These windows of enhanced attention exist at multiple levels in the online world. Find those users that just joined Twitter and give them a reason to engage. Show them the value of the platform by reaching out — even though they only have 5 followers.

Build memories and reward risk taking. Those are the moments of enhanced attention.

7. Other people reward the brain

Obviously, this is at the core of any social media strategy. Engaging with other people in the online world — people who share your passions and interests — is the most basic reward. However, I’d argue as a brand owner or brand manager that the opportunity to collaborate and engage with customers on a level never before possible delivers a new kind of reward. Ten years ago, access to people like Brian Solis or David Meerman Scott or even David Pogue was difficult and frustrating. Today, I have access to those personalities in a very personal way through social media.

Think about how your brand can be more accessible, how you can reward your fans, followers, and friends with interactions never before possible.

4 Responses to “7 Ways Social Media Rewards The Brain”

  1. Diana H. Polisensky

    Andrew, I never thought of rewarding readers of my book promotion on the blog with rewards. I do respond promptly to comments which expand on the topic. Perhaps I should spend more time on encouraging their thoughts and personal experiences which would expand my material for the book ie reward us both.
    For me a “like” check doesn’t really tell me much. It doesnt require the reader to think or let me know what it is exactly that he likes; its a hollow reward.
    I surprised my readers with an addition to my blog linking it to google maps, with positive response, but as you point out I should expand to twitter or facebook with smaller less time consuming entries more frequently.
    Thanks for the valuable insights.
    I’m looking forward to tuning into your live webenar on Thursday 2 pm EST
    Diana Polisensky

    • Andrew Davis

      So glad you are thinking about ways to reward your readers! Responding promptly is only one kind of reward (as this article points out.)
      Don’t devalue the ‘Like’ concept it’s a great way to share content people find value in. It’s not a reward for you as much as it is a reward for the person who checks the like button. (Meaning, they want to share the content and demonstrate their position in the world with the content they consume.)
      Hope you enjoy the webinar.
      Have a great day!
      - Andrew

  2. Joey

    Hi Andrew!

    At the end of the day, it is supposed to be social media. Social. Everyday, when I open twitter, I feel like I’m walking into a bar, I look around, notice what’s interesting, I’m there with a few friends, maybe approach a few people, if the conversation is good I stick around, if people approach me “and they aren’t drunk” (read annoying) I’ll engage back. (I don’t actually feel like I’m walking into a bar…that’s much more fun…)

    At the end of the day, we are looking for everything you mention…an experience. No Bots!

    Thanks for the post!
    - Joey @Sparksheet

    • Andrew Davis

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I agree it’s a really deep and rich experience that we encounter in this new world.
      You’re one of the people I’ve ‘met’ online that I really enjoy interacting with!
      Thanks again!
      - drew


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