We’ve all read something along these lines before: “Company X announces new internal social network with gamification features”. With big names such as Samsung and Salesforce using this technology, there is clearly value to be had in having these gamified social networks. Inclusion of badges, points, and leaderboards all lead to increased user engagement but what happens when you take away these features from the network?
IBM Researchers Jennifer Thom, David R. Millen, and Joan DiMicco conducted an experiment in which they attempt to answer: “How does the removal of gamification features affect user activity within an enterprise social networking service?” While the introduction of the incentive system “dramatically increased the overall levels of content”, the paper’s findings suggest that users who are engaged with gamification in these networks had more activity than those without it and that the removal of these same features resulted in about 50% less activity. However it should be noted that the top users often wrote brief and salutatory posts to the extent of “hi” and removal of the point system decreased posts written in this manner. In a competitive and gamified environment, does increased activity through gamification actually increase meaningful engagement? Or does it merely just provide a reason for users to post terse comments?
IBM is careful to mention that the study is done within the context of their own work environment and that the effects of gamification can vary among cultures. For example, IBM found that users in India were far more likely to engage with users outside of India compared to American users who mostly stayed within their country. Whether this was a result of the Indian users being based in the service sector of the company or a result of geographical difference, it shows a difference in the way the IBM social network is being utilized by different employees. Companies considering the integration of gamification into their social networks should understand if the introduction of game mechanics will be appropriate for the work environment it is going to be a part of.
You can read the full paper here