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.
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.
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.