Apply Social Gaming Strategies to Win Public Relations Battles


The massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill is no game, but the oil industry could help salvage its battered reputation by making a socially responsible game of it.
The players already are in place. Many individuals in the communities affected by the oil spill have self-organized on Facebook. For example, 5,000 residents of beachside communities in northwest Florida formed the group NWFL Panhandle Beach Clean Up.
The gaming mentality also is strong on Facebook and other social networks. Of the nearly 500 million Facebook users, roughly 75 million are monthly active users of FarmVille, the most popular social game.
Now imagine a game — call it "Coastal Cleanup" that connects people online for a good cause in their local communities offline. Volunteers could "check in" at locations via Foursquare and unlock badges for their volunteer efforts. Or they could earn patches of the ocean as rewards similar to the (Lil) Green Patch game on Facebook that empowers users to fight global warming.
That's just the kind of strategy companies and organizations need to be pursuing to win public relations battles in this social networking era.
By now it is clear that people spend a lot of time online, much of it on social networking sites. And gaming is one of their favorite online activities.

FarmVille, which engaged its community to raise money for Haiti earthquake relief, leads the pack, but other social-gaming venues are rapidly becoming popular. For instance, more than 500,000 users "check in" regularly to earn badges, mayorships and more on Foursquare, which is only a year old, and reportedly growing by 15,000 users each day.

Gaming accounts for much of the time users spend on social networks. Data from a recent survey commissioned by Popcap Games show that nearly half (49%) of the times that users of social games access social networks, they do so to play. The survey also found that social gamers play regularly, with the vast majority (95%) playing multiple times per week and 64% playing at least once a day. Of FarmVille's 75 million monthly active users, more than 23 million play every day.  And consumption of social-networking games is largely increasing.
So what makes social gaming so popular? Data from the Popcap survey shows that 35 percent of social gamers cited the "opportunity to win prizes" as a primary reason for why they play.

Social gaming presents a unique opportunity for marketers to capitalize from its popularity. As an example, Zynga, the creator of games including FarmVille and Mafia Wars, recently teamed with 7-Eleven stores to link real and virtual goods. 7-Eleven has placed codes on 35 of its products, like Slurpees and Big Bite hot dogs, and they can be used in FarmVille, Mafia Wars and YoVille. The partnership will help drive more people to Zynga's games and boost 7-Eleven's brand.
 
Stephanie Hope, 7-Eleven's director of marketing, explained to AdWeek that Zynga's audience represents an "attractive constituency to build loyalty and repeat visits from customers, particularly millennials," and that the company hopes the partnership will give customers "experiences that they'll enjoy and will drive them back to 7-Eleven."

Foursquare is also a valuable resource for businesses as it allows them to glean valuable, real-time data about their customers, including who has visited their physical stores, when they arrived, the male-to-female customer ratio and which times of day are more active for certain customers. Businesses also can offer instant promotions to lure new customers and retain current ones.

The implications of social gaming for businesses that seek to promote products and services are easily discernible, but social games also present a rare opportunity for companies that are fighting public relations battles.

Social gaming has real implications for businesses and organizations. The key to being successful on social networks is to deliver information to targeted users through the mediums they use regularly. Rewarding them attracts attention and keeps them engaged in a campaign, whether the ultimate goal is to sell a product or service or to change negative public perceptions.
 
David All is the president of the David All Group an interactive grassroots firm based in Washington, D.C. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidAll.




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  • Pooky Amsterdam

    Using avatar based 3D virtual world platforms to originate games and actually game shows, has been a great way to create a game within a game scenario.
    It also enables a broadcast to a larger audience with a real time massive game quality. This gives people something of value to play with and as time is the new currency, a sure win.

  • Cato

    This is a terrible idea. Making a “game” out of cleanup for a disaster that is destroying the coast? Yea that’d be awesome for their PR image.

  • Sandra All

    You are “Right On”, David.