Commentary

Users Want To Play Games With Your Brand

Technologies are making it easier than ever to be an active part of a social media network--regardless of where you are. Smart phones mean that even when you leave your PC behind, social networks can play shotgun and continue to vie with the offline world for a share of your time.

For example, the Xbox LIVE enables you to bring others to your TV- virtually. Applications like Buddy Beacon and Loopt use physical location to bridge the online and offline worlds.

These new technologies lead us to one of the most dramatic and interesting psychographic developments in the social media space: the increase in social gaming. Along the purview of the late teen/early twenty-something male, gaming has gone mainstream. Whether fully interactive multiplayer games, online versions of popular board games, or quick entertainment "snacks" like trivia quizzes and polls-of-the-day, there are a myriad of gaming options that appeal to all sorts of different players and can be enjoyed virtually anywhere.

Need a quick break mid-morning? Take a personality test or a Seinfeld trivia quiz and share your results with others in your network to see how you measure up. These games are all the more appealing because of their portability--no need to ever be bored when standing in a queue, when you can play Scrabble or complete a Sudoku on your phone.

Marketers are waking up to the power of online gaming and the social interaction component as a powerful way to reach their target markets. Advertisements can be woven into these games or quizzes in ways that are more compelling than simple banner ads. Marketing messages can even be integrated into the actual game or quiz--a quiz about the origins and history of coffee might feature a particular product/line of products.

The advantage to the advertiser is the engagement level of the consumer--this is someone who has self-selected to take a quiz or play a game based on a particular subject, so they are likely to be more receptive to a relevant message.

In addition, the "guerilla marketing" or "social marketing" aspect is extremely powerful--a consumer might enjoy their online experience so much that they forward the game or quiz or link to a friend, along with the ad.

The innovation opportunities with gaming and advertising are also interesting: Quizzes with badges that are product advertisements, or badges that can be used as coupons, for example, bring the consumer and the marketer together in a whole new way. Games that are surveys can provide market research opportunities. Video ads can be woven into games. And, again, these can be forwarded to friends, expanding the marketer's reach.

Meanwhile, true to the social media platform, users leave behind a trail of online comments that are perfect for viral marketing, market research, etc.

Social media in its many forms takes advantage of the interaction and information dissemination that is the Internet. As social media grows, and gaming and interactions expand, marketers looking for an effective way to engage and interact with users should be exploring advertising opportunities that complement this growth.

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