Forbes.com, 2/24/2012 –
Social gaming company Zynga has tapped into human psychology to figure out what triggers encourage people to play their games over and over again. They’ve also figured out what gets people to bring in as many of their friends as possible. As a result, Zynga’s users play for 2 billion minutes per day.
But can these psychological triggers be applied in other verticals by using social media? The question I’m interested in is: to what extent can companies get people to do things they otherwise don’t want to do? If they can, that’s a powerful thing. Not only are these potentially large businesses but many of them have a large impact on society. Beyond that I think as business opportunities they’ve been neglected compared to other verticals.
Let’s look at the example of health. Americans have an obesity problem – it’s no secret. And health care costs are out of control. How can we get people to eat better and get some exercise? What’s harder to get people to do than exercise and eat better? Startup Keas, a social network with game mechanics, is tackling this problem.
Keas is a website that employees use in the workplace. They get points, badges and achievements for completing tasks, and support their coworkers in their achieving their goals. People don’t cheat because they don’t want to hurt their reputation. Adam Bosworth, formerly of Google Health, started Keas to help the couch potatoes. Not the marathon runners or triathletes, but the average out-of-shape people, the “real people.” A full 1/3 of Keas users are overweight, 1/3 are obese and 1/6 are morbidly obese. In other words, only 1/6 are not overweight or obese. That gives you a sense of the challenge Keas is attempting to overcome.
I asked Bosworth how does Keas get people to do something they don’t want to do, i.e. exercise? There are three ways, he said.
1. GAMING MECHANICS
First is gaming mechanics, which he calls “positive reinforcement.” You get acknowledgement, points, and status within your group. Gaming is about positive reinforcement and “making it fun.” It gets people to keep running on the treadmill or riding their bike. But, gaming alone no matter how fun, is not enough, he says. Gamification is being used by a number of companies such as Badgeville, Bunchball, 500Friends and Rypple to add page views, monetization and loyalty or encourage other actions inside of a company.
2. SOCIAL INTERACTION
The second thing is Keas social feed, which is another form of positive reinforcement, in this case from peers. People go on the Keas feed to brag about what they’ve done, whether running 2 miles or completing one of Keas’ quizzes. And coworkers on the service say, “Great job.” The other thing people do is ask for and give advice. Peers also provide advice, such as: how do you get organized to go to the gym in the morning before work, or how do you manage a exercise schedule with children? The average social network gets 8 to 10% to actively post messages on a network. But Keas gets 30 to 40% of members to post weekly, Bosworth. So this is a very different type of activity than on a typical “open” social network.
3. SMALL GROUPS
The last and most important thing for Keas is teams or small groups. These groups, limited to six people, are organized so that if one person isn’t involved the team doesn’t do well, and if two don’t participate it’s impossible to “play.” In terms of keeping people in the game, about 50% sign up for the service and become engaged users. Then about 60% of engaged users keep playing the game over 100 days after starting. In other words if 50% or 500 of a 1,000 person company sign up for Keas and become engaged users, about 60% or 300 of them still participate after 100 days.
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