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Shamification: Gamification with a Twist of Social Pressure

Written by Andy Steggles | on June 27, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Last week I attended an interesting event at Deloitte's Technology Venture Center which has me thinking about the concept of gamification. The presenter, Dan Yates, CEO and Founder of Opower led a discussion about how the use of consumer peer pressure saves money, reduces energy consumption and helped build a multi-million dollar company.

Opower is a SaaS platform which focuses on the energy industry. Yates recognized how incredibly useless a traditional energy bill was and decided to do something about it. After performing some tests, he proved the more traditional utility-to-consumer message of "Save 20% on your energy bill just by doing X,Y or Z" was not working. Yates said how he decided to "benchmark against the norm" by telling customers how they were doing relative to their neighbors. His message was essentially "70% of your 100 nearby neighbors use less energy than you." This new message recognized an almost immediate significant reduction in energy consumption which is what has driven his company through its exponential growth.

As I listened to his presentation, I couldn't help but think that this approach would fall under not so much "gamification" but maybe "shamification". I couldn't help but wonder how many people reduced their energy consumption as a result of their inert natural competitive instincts (gamification) vs. those that did it because they felt a sense of personal guilt after being called-out by his company. It reminds me of another study I heard about where one test was made for hotel users where they posted the message along the lines of "please hang your towels to save energy," which had a mediocre effect compared to the alternative message of "70% of people who stay in this room use their towel for more than one day," which significantly increased the towel re-use of occupants.

So whether it's gamification or shamification, does it really matter as long as it achieves the needed outcome? I guess that depends on the use case. Of course while pondering this, I couldn't help but consider how to use such an approach to increase engagement in a private online community.

For example, a community manager could develop messaging tactics like "70% of your industry peers are more engaged than you" or "80% of your peers have a more completed profile than you," or even something along the lines of "60% of your contacts have registered for the annual conference." I couldn't help but wonder whether messages like these could spur - or "shame" - users to higher engagement levels out of a natural inclination to do better than their peers and/or make the most of their membership benefits.

The model could go something like this: identify the 20% of members who are least engaged (with "engagement" defined by the organization rather than by some universal metric) and then reach out with a call to action where the organization asks those members to complete three simple steps to become more engaged. Or, if not via an email campaign, the same approach could be taken with the completeness bar which indicates how complete a user profile is. Encourage people to try to improve their "completeness" by saying something like "80% of your peers have a more completed profile than you (and are therefore more connected). Click here to update and complete your profile."

So in the spirit of shamification, if you're a Higher Logic client and are interested in testing the waters with engagement or completeness related shamification, let me know and I'll help you develop the messaging and the method of deployment, as well as help you analyze the results. Contact me if you're game (sorry, couldn't resist the pun).

Topics: Online Community Management, Social Media

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