Between viruses and games

Enrique Dans. Professor. IE Business School

13 April 2012

The Web has brought a new dimension to the idea that man is a social animal – namely so-called viralization or gamification. Knowing how it works could play a key role in business success.

Moving around the social web has its fun side. And don’t think that this has nothing to do with you or your business. The whole web, from search engines to all types of projects and services, uses social structures to work. Newspapers strive to ensure that their news articles are not only read but commented on, shared, and sent around. Companies with premises open to the public want their clients to tell their friends that they are there. Restaurants and hotels want to get good evaluations on 11870, Minube or Tripadvisor... Every day, our activities acquire a greater social dimension.

This means new rules. If you want your messages to zip around networks driven by the force of the multiplying effect of user activity, it is essential to understand the dynamics of viralization. What makes a user share or resend a message? When we share, we add a personal component to the message. We stake our street cred on it, it bears our stamp of approval, it is something our friends read because it comes from us. We become micro-analysts, we serve as message “conduits”. Why? Maybe because it is fun, a novelty, because we feel a connection with it somehow, because we feel part of a kind of “cause”… for multiple reasons, which are studied more closely by the day at every level.

The latest trend is so-called gamification, which consists of getting users to collaborate by developing game techniques. Collecting badges, competing with other users in a ranking or trying to become the “mayor” of a place they go to often are the mechanics that underlie this fun and competitive element, which can make users perform a task, take part in something or collaborate with your business. A good value proposal can make the user transmit your viruses, collaborate in your games or build your product. But then these are just new words for something we have known all along – that man is a social being.

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