I made an amazing discovery recently. After years of trying to teach my daughter Spanish, I finally gave up. No matter how I tried to bribe her, she was simply not interested. Then I found Dualingo, an application that uses game mechanics to teach foreign languages.  All of a sudden, my daughter was excited to do her Spanish homework and to my delight, learning Spanish very quickly. Apparently, it works for adults as well; an independent study found that Duolingo trumps university-level language learning.


The good news for us is that we can leverage game mechanics to drive adoption of our enterprise social networks. Why does it work? According to Bunchball,game profile.png gamification taps into our basic human needs of self-esteem: reward, respect, prestige, achievement, and mastery. If done properly, it can add a motivational dimension that drives behavior change and user adoption. We at SAP have had amazing success with gamification. Several months after deploying Bunchball on the SAP Community Network the level of activity and community engagement is still well above previous levels (a 100% increase on average). This uptick in user activity is directly attributed to implementing game elements like badges, missions, reputation dashboards and point leaderboards.


There are several different ways can you leverage gamification to drive user motivation and adoption:

  • Onboarding: Gamification is a great way to get new users excited about trying out your newly introduced social network. For example, you can create an “All Aboard” badge which is awarded when a user uploads their profile picture, joins a group and posts a status message. You can setup the challenges of each mission to focus on the actions that you want your users to learn and begin using immediately.
  • Events: Creating a competition during an event is a great way to add some excitement while motivating users. For example, you may be trying to drive increased mobile usage. At an employee event, you can create a competition such that users must download the mobile application, join the event group and post or answer a question. Everyone who earns the “Mobile Master” badge is entered into a raffle ticket for a new iPad.
  • Social Learning: As my daughter discovered, gamification makes learning fun. By integrating game mechanics into your LMS, you can create missions and competitions that motivate the learner to explore new ideas while reinforcing and building on the course concepts. These experiences can then be used during class time to create interesting and engaging dialogue.
  • Innovation: Many of us are using social networking to brainstorm new innovative ways to drive our businesses via new products, marketing tactics or operational efficiencies. We can jumpstart that innovation with an “Innovation Badge” which gets awarded to those users with the most contributions or whose contributions get the most votes, likes or comments. 
  • Sales: We all know how competitive sales people are. Let’s use that fuel to get maximum value for the company. You can create missions and reward sales reps for sharing valuable information about deals, strategies and competitors using multiple levels of recognition with increasing difficulty. Reputation levels and point leaderboards serve as strong motivators.


Different game mechanics can be leveraged at each stage of the social networking maturity model: pioneering, strategic or cultural. Rewards and recognition can be organic from user to user or they can be planned and structured. Given there are so many game elements we can choose from, how do we select which ones to deploy and when? I recommend that you create a gamification rollout strategy.  This provides several benefits:  (1) new game elements are introduced in a way that allows users to absorb them easily; (2) you create new experiences to keep current users interested & engaged and (3) you have levers to help you reach new users and continually increase adoption levels. The table below shows an example of how you might deploy game mechanics based on type and maturity level:

game strategy.png

Gamification Strategy Example


So if you are struggling with how to drive increased adoption of your social network, try out some game mechanics. Please share your thoughts and experiences. Have you had success with gamification? If so, how did you do it? If not, what went wrong?

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2 Comments

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  1. Sanjay Abraham

    Interesting post. Gamification is indeed a great way to move our relationship from ‘transactional’ to engagement. As you mentioned; Gamification success depends much on the ‘design’. How game mechanics is effectively used to motivate specific high-value behaviors in employees & customers. Just like in games its important to keep the users always in a ‘perfectly challenged” state so that they neither  get bored ( when challenge < skills) or frustrated ( when challenge > skills).

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    1. Richard Caballero Post author

      Good point Sanjay. That is also a great reason to have a well-defined roll out strategy, so that you can introduce new challenges over time.

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