Gamification has been circling employee advocacy for a while—primarily because employers believe it adds a layer of excitement and competition, leading to more activity and buzz around the program. While parts of the former are true, what’s more important (and where the conversation should be re-focused), is that gamification is essentially just an attempt to solve for a larger concern—adoption.

Before we get into adoption, let’s take a step back. Employee advocacy gamification, when positioned properly, can create competition and support upward sharing trends. Whether or not this contributes to program success, however, is entirely contingent on the long-term impact of the behaviors you incentivize.

Example: if you use sharing volume as a core gamification metric, consider what employees will equate with success. To them, success = quantity. The more shares, the better. How does that impact sustained growth, and ultimately, the authenticity perceived from an external lens?

Are number of shares and program success truly correlative to one another, or, should you drive gamification with metrics like post engagement and conversion instead?

These are all questions that need to be answered ahead of time. Identify your long-term vision, and work backwards from there.

Rethinking Traditional Employee Advocacy Gamification

According to Gabe Zichermann, the co-author of Gamification by Design, gamifying your business is 25% technology and 75% psychology. In other words, you need to understand how your employees’ minds work before you can transform them into dedicated players.

Gamification tends to go south when employers root their strategy in share volume alone, disregarding other achievements that may actually carry more weight when it comes to business value.

In fact, this approach actually develops the wrong mindset for social sharing, and will inadvertently stifle your program’s growth. Employees won’t share because they’re engaged or connected to your brand, but to win a prize—diluting the entire meaning of your message in a quest for points. All of a sudden, once powerful employee networks become irrelevant.

By the year 2020, the use of gamification will be more popular than ever, but it’s important to approach the concept with a mindset that prioritizes long-term, sustainable success over short-term wins.

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Metrics That Inadvertently Drive the Wrong Behavior

While shares are important to driving brand awareness for your company, they’re hardly the most crucial social media metrics to measure. Instead, gamification should be tied to “engagement” milestones that translate to real, tangible results for your company.

For instance, instead of just rewarding the highest number of shares, why not deliver rewards for:

  • Number of connected profiles
  • Time spent consuming shared content
  • Number of conversions or new customers from social sharing
  • Number of likes, comments, engagements on posts

Not only does this make your gamification strategy more accessible for employees who are focused on making meaningful connections, but it also means that you’re highlighting more valuable KPIs too.

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Remember, 33% of your company already share positive messages about your company on social, all you need to do is build on that existing loyalty to make the most out of your team. It’s all about incentivizing users to remain active on your employee advocacy platform, without allowing gamification to make their practices inauthentic.

The Only 3 Things You Need Employees to Care About

According to Gartner, gamification for marketing purposes will soon be as important as Facebook, Amazon or eBay. The tough part for businesses is finding ways to sustain employee advocacy without making it all about the numbers.

The question is, where should you be measuring milestones in your program?

1. Measure Engagement Milestones

Around 70% of business transformation programs fail because of poor engagement.

Rather than focusing exclusively on “number of shares,”measure how many people are actively signing up and logging into your advocacy program. Once you achieve a specific number of micro-influencers, you could even reward your entire team for their engagement with a group celebration.

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A good way to boost engagement is to make your advocacy program as simple as possible for your team to use. Designing a system that can be navigated quickly by your professionals helps to remove the barriers to adoption for busy workers who otherwise wouldn’t have the time to learn how to deal with a new platform.

Additionally, you could offer training sessions after work hours for people who want to join your advocacy program but aren’t sure how to get started. During this training process, you can explain how to get involved with the game, while also providing contextual information about why advocacy is so crucial to your business.

Another thing to consider is that scoring systems should be transparent and easy to follow. While your team shouldn’t be obsessed entirely with the concept of points, they should at least understand what you’re looking for from your advocates. For instance, if you want to improve engagement and brand awareness, then tailor your reward systems accordingly.

The more your employees know about your advocacy process, how it’s going to benefit them, and what it’s going to do for your business, the more buy-in you’ll see.

2. Measure Meaningful Connections

For some companies considering gamification for their employee advocacy programs, the biggest challenge is designing a program that gets every type of team member involved.

Gamification strategies won’t do much for your staff engagement levels if the same three people are winning all the awards all the time. For instance, if your entire platform focuses on rewarding those who get the largest number of likes from their social media audience, it makes sense that the employees with the biggest follower list will get the prizes.

Unfortunately, this can de-motivate people who are just getting into the employee advocacy game and trying their hardest to spread brand awareness. That’s why it’s important to structure the game so that it’s not rigged for specific people in your company.

Rather than looking at “vanity” metrics such as likes, or how many times your employee shares your content on social media, think about how you can reward meaningful connections, such as:

  • The employee with the highest number of customer conversations
  • The employee that inspires the most conversions
  • The employee with the most comments on his/her posts
  • The employee with the most new connections in a month
  • The employee who makes the most progress

The more you work to ensure that everyone in your team has a chance to thrive, the more accessible your advocacy strategies will become.

3. Measure Creativity

Finally, If your employees are just joining your advocacy program because they want to win something, their efforts won’t feel authentic when they’re read by a potential employee or customer.

Part of what makes employee advocacy so successful is the fact that it allows people outside of your brand to connect with people who appear honest and transparent. If your team seems like nothing but a sounding board for your brand, then they won’t be able to build those all-important relationships that translate into better reputations and repeat customers.

With that in mind, it might be a good idea to reward employees that go above and beyond to make your messages their own.

For instance, look at how your advocates interact with the content that you curate on their behalf. Do they share it with a message about what they thought was interesting? Or do they simply try to get it out to as many people as fast as possible?

The whole purpose of gamification is to get more employee advocates invested in becoming “influencers” for your company. Unfortunately, if they’re only logging onto your advocacy platform to blast news updates out to as many people as possible as often as possible, they may not be having the right impact on your brand.

Since the purpose of an employee advocacy program is to amplify awareness for your brand and demonstrate your expertise in your industry, it’s also important to check whether your people are using your advocacy platform for the right reasons.

How to Succeed with Gamification

Ultimately, gamification can be a powerful addition to your employee advocacy strategy. However, just like any other engagement solution, it requires careful planning and consideration if you want to achieve the best possible results.

By focusing on engagement, creativity, and adoption as your gamification milestones, you’ll help to make sure that your efforts to inspire and motivate your employees don’t end up leading to a prize-hungry team, instead of a group of powerful micro-influencers.