How to Gamify an Event with Social Media


Just as social media taps into our natural desire to share with each other, so do online and offline games succeed by capitalizing on our innate sense of play. So it’s no surprise that gamification, in the form of contests and interactive audience participation, is an increasingly popular way to engage an audience at an event. Social media gamification brings the added element of co-play and sharing, as well as the viral benefit of social. Relying on social also makes it possible for a brand to tap into a pre-built audience that naturally lives on different social channels. Following are some ways to make your event more memorable through social media gamification:

Identify your objectives. The first step for gamifying an event is establishing your objectives, such as better attendance, improved networking, greater social media impact, or heightened engagement with exhibitors. Applying the captivating, exciting and rewarding components of a game helps you achieve any of these objectives. The South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals (SxSW) is a great example of using gamification via social media to boost pre-event promotion. In 2013, SxSW spurred 120,000 attendees to tweet over 280,000 times during the five days leading up to the start of the event.

Don’t feel limited to tried-and-true options. There are no limits when it comes to gamification efforts for an event. Consider the method that U.K. singer Conor Maynard’s marketing team used to determine where their United States’ fans were located. They needed this information to plan a U.S. tour but didn’t have time to dig through piles of old receipts and emails. So they gave fans a map, which displayed where Maynard was generating the greatest social media buzz. Fans could generate their own points by liking, engaging with, or mentioning Maynard on five major social media channels. Fans loved being able to have a say in Maynard’s tour schedule, and the marketing team gained invaluable insight about the fans.

Kick off the gamification with pre-event marketing. Many companies choose to start their gamification efforts weeks before an event. Think about creating a Twitter chat for your event in which people will communicate about and share interests related to the event. Get chats going between speakers and attendees so that attendees have some idea what they’ll be getting at the event. The chat also allows attendees to meet one another ahead of time via Twitter.

Private YouTube broadcasts for a targeted audience are another great pre-event gamification tool. For example, consider challenging attendees to solve a set of clues to get the password for the YouTube video, which shows a sneak peek of the top speakers at the event.

Choose your social media outlets carefully. You know that you want to use social media outlets for pre-event initiatives as well as other aspects of gamification. But how do you decide which social media channels to use? As many as 84% of marketers use Facebook to promote events with 61% using Twitter and 42% using YouTube. The most important consideration is where your audience lives and plays. But if you lack detailed insight about your audience’s choice of social networks, then concentrate primarily on Facebook or Twitter first and pick one niche outlet such as Pinterest, Foursquare or Instagram.

Learning how to gamify an event is an ongoing process. Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to tweak your tactics at any point to keep improving your gamification methods.

For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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