The profile in brief: Nearly anyone who's active on Xbox Live is aware of Gamerscore points, awarded for achieving certain in-game goals. They're not used for any sort of material gain and they can't be traded in for anything. They're pure ego, a way for gamers to compare their chops with other gamers. And people take them very seriously. In fact, there are communities of Xbox Live gamers who play games almost entirely to accumulate Gamerscore points -- even going so far as to play the absolute worst games to mine them for points.
One of the challenges we have as marketers -- especially in the social space -- is how to incent people to participate in our programs. Free products, cash prizes, coupons, sweepstakes and the like are common ways, but Microsoft and a few other communities have leveraged social currency as a way to keep people participating without having to offer monetary rewards for participation.
Another great example of this phenomenon is FourSquare, a mobile app that's been recieving a huge amount of buzz in recent months. The app essentially awards users points for going out, and it has positioned itself as the scoreboard for the social game that is urban nightlife.
Obviously, neither of these scoreboards would be very significant if they weren't based on an activity that people were passionate about. But, for brands that have compelling experiences available to them, keeping score and offering social currency to the top scorers can provide a great way to keep people coming back for more.