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Gamification can Tighten up Relationships and Create a Close-Knit, Highly Engaged Tribe

The following post is an entry by one of our spectacular finalists in our Awesome Engagement Strategies ContestFinalists showcase their ideas, and whoever gets the most traction (i.e. comments and social shares) within five days of publication will be crowned the winner! This was a wonderful contest with lots of great entries – you can see all of the winners right here!

gamify“In everything that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and snap! The job’s a game.” -Mary Poppins

Your email list is growing slowly but steadily.

You’ve started to see some regular commenters on your blog and start up some business relationships. But things have plateaued and you’re stumped for how to move things to the next level.

It’s not your fault. You’ve followed all the A-listers’ advice and poured your heart and soul into your writing. You dutifully spend time on social media and leave thoughtful comments on other blogs.

The problem isn’t you.

It’s the echo-chamber of the online community. So, quit beating your head against your monitor.

Here’s something that worked for me. I think you can take my gamification examples  and adapt them for your projects using a little business model innovation…

First, the Backstory

This past Fall, I did some research in preparation for my “Prosperity’s Kitchen” program.  (“Prosperity’s Kitchen” is a class I’ll be teaching that’s structured like a reality TV competition.)

Anyway, I put out a call for volunteers for a little experiment in gamification.

You might think it’s just a buzzword, but “gamification” is one way to create dynamic interactions with your audience and potential customers. (I’ve written more on Mirasee about using marketing gamification to promote your business.)

For me, it’s important that I don’t just put a bunch of free downloads out there (old-school content marketing) and then wait and hope for the best. I’m here to help people create positive change in their business. And that means, helping them take action – even if it’s just a small step every single day.

To that end, I’d already created a private Facebook group to encourage engagement, networking and sharing of ideas around marketing. (There’s no cost to belong to this – it’s a group created for the Word Chef tribe that every email subscriber gets invited to when they sign up). But engagement levels weren’t nearly as high as I hoped they’d be.

So with the dual aim to increase (dramatically) engagement levels in the group and test out different types of missions or quests, I launched the experiment and dubbed it “The Test Kitchen Project.”

The Test Kitchen Project consisted of 8 mini-games played over an 8-week period. We had 19 volunteers, with 17 of those taking part in at least one of the weekly quests and 83% participating in at least 4 or more games.

These were our rules:

  • Participants had to be a member my private Facebook Group.
  • Participation was optional each week. Players didn’t have to participate in all 8 weeks to be eligible to win anything, but they could only win something that week by participating.
  • Points and badges earned would determine the overall winner at the end of the 8 weeks.
  • Random prizes were awarded on a weekly basis to those who participate during that week. These awards could be likened to the gold coins you receive when playing a video game. They don’t happen every time for every player.
  • The focus (the person/business we helped as a group) of the following week’s mission was chosen from the prior week’s participants and was based on a combination of creativity/thoughtfulness and effort as demonstrated in the discussion thread for that week.
  • Participants were encouraged to go beyond the simple mission instructions and think creatively about the challenge and how to help the person/business who was the focus of that week’s mission.

The Mission Quests

At the beginning of each week, I’d post the mission to the Facebook group. Here’s an actual quest from the first week:

Tina’s got an email list that needs to grow. (Sound familiar?) She DOES have a give-away goodie that she offers folks when they subscribe, but – like ALL marketing we do – it could probably be a little more enticing.

Your mission (to earn 10 points + the Ideas Badge): Visit her site at [URL] and sign-up for her list so that you can get the freebie; then, examine it closely. What one piece of constructive advice could you offer Tina that might improve either 1) her giveaway item; or 2) how she “sells” that giveaway on her site?

Come back to this discussion thread and post your idea here – no later than midnight, Saturday [date] (pacific time).

For an extra 10 points: When you receive Tina’s newsletter, read it and hit reply and give her ONE piece of constructive feedback. Be sure to cc: Tea to earn your points.

Random Rewards (aka Gold Coins)

Each week, on no particular day or time, I would select one person who had already completed that week’s mission to receive some “Gold Coins.” Here’s an actual example from Week 6 (note the link to the sound effect of coins falling). The post was also accompanied by a picture of a gold coin:

[Winner’s name tagged] Congratulations! You have your choice of a copy The Pumpkin Plan (by Mike Michalowicz) OR a copy of Attract and Feed a Hungry Crowd (by yours truly). Whichever one you don’t choose, choose someone else who’s playing this week to receive the other book. http://soundcloud.com/cheripai/video-game

After each week’s round, I would post a leaderboard to the Facebook group, showing all points earned and total scores to-date. At the end of the 8th week, there was a bonus round for a chance to spin a wheel and earn up to 75 additional points.

Feedback from the group afterward was extremely positive. Here’s a look at the post-game survey:

Before you decided to play, what was your NUMBER ONE motivation for joining this experiment? (They could choose from: Get help with my own marketing; Help others with their marketing (and network in the process); Help you create better “missions” for Prosperity’s Kitchen; Earn prizes; and Other)

  • All of the above + Other: because it was fun (Most people selected this combo answer)
  • Get help with my own marketing (Second most-popular answer)
  • Help you create better “missions” for Prosperity’s Kitchen
  • Help others with their marketing (and network in the process)

After you began to play, what was your NUMBER ONE motivation for continuing to play?

  • Help others with their marketing (and network in the process) (Most popular answer)
  • Three people answered: All of the above
  • One person answered: Earn prizes

If your biz was chosen as the focus of a mission, how did the feedback from the other players work/not work for you? What did you like? Not like? Find surprising?

  • “It was all really great feedback. I am redesigning my whole site so I am working some of it into the new one.
  • Sometimes it was a little hard to hear, or it wasn’t something that I would implement. So it was a good learning experience in taking feedback and discerning what was right for me. Yes, very much so. I was surprised by some of the responses but they were all valuable.”
  • The feedback was fantastic. It has given me a totally new take on how to brand myself. I’m very grateful to everyone in the group who has participated.

At any time during the game (any of the 8 missions), did you find yourself non-motivated to play or bored? Why or why not?

  • “I struggled a little with the mission about sharing content because none of the content really felt relevant to my people.”
  • No. It was all great fun and sometimes challenging.
  • I didn’t participate in Week 6 because, honestly, I could not come up with anything to add to the discussion.
  • “The length of the game. As fun as this has been, it’s good that we are finished with this stage of it for now. “
  • The more I played the more interested I became. Critiquing the work of others and reading the critiques provided by the other members made me take a closer look at my own sites.
  • Too busy, seemed like a lot of work.
  • Nope, too busy a couple of times, but not non-motivated ever. I really enjoyed the idea of a collective group working to help each other and the game atmosphere only enhanced that concept.

Do you have anything other comments, questions or suggestions to help improve how the games are played?

  • “Could we get extra credits (both anticipated/known and unanticipated/random) for extra input where requested – as well as dispensation for when real emergencies interfere (such as hurricanes. . . )? Also I’d love a few more players in the game.”
  • “I really enjoyed doing this. I’ve talked a lot about it with my husband too as he is owns his own I.T. company. It’s given us some ideas of how to integrate the whole idea of gamification into our own businesses and possibly into the lives/businesses of our clients. Thanks Tea!”
  • It worked fine for me. Can’t think of anything that needs improving.
  • A website would be a much better format than a FB group. FB groups are not user friendly in so many ways. And twice I entered comments and they were lost…no huge deal, but much more out of your control. And I would like to see bios posted of the subjects that are easy to refer to, with links to the “contestants” sites or projects easier to find, a resource page that could aggregate the suggestions people made that could then be rated (most educational, most financially impactful, etc.) Perhaps take this to the Slow Marketing site?

Other comments received during the game on Facebook:

  • This has been a great experience. Thank you. Meeting such a great group of participants is a big take away from the last 8 weeks. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with everyone on this page.
  • I’m exhilarated by the input from this group. Looking forward to staying connected. Thanks all around! Great work!
  • Thanks for bringing this community to life, Tea. Yes, if you make a paid membership site in the future, I’d love to be in it.
  • Thank you all! Thank you, Tea Silvestre! There are so many great ideas here. I’ve seen a spike in our analytics from all of your sharing and hope we can continue to earn our growing audience’s interest so that they return. I am grateful to each of you for taking the time to consider our content and bringing your individual expertise to us here, to help us reach our (BHAG) goals.
  • Hello lovely Test Kitchen Folk, just thought you might like to know the results of your hard work and support of my pitch. Of 55 people, 32 pitched during the day and my peers voted me in number 3, so I got into the top ten, and was able to deliver the pitch to the audience and panel of judges with some really positive feedback. More fantastic than that was being able to share this journey with people like you who invested so much in helping me. As a result the final pitch is very different and a little bit of all of you was on stage with me that night. Thank you all!
  • I’ve been having a great time watching, learning and participating. Congrats to everyone who is playing 😀
  • The gamification definitely drove me to get involved before the deadline each week, but reading through each project did take time and there was pressure. There are very valuable insights from members to the various projects, which I will apply to my own site.

Summary & Take-aways

Overall, this was an interesting experiment in keeping community members motivated and accountable to a particular project or class. The weekly missions functioned like case studies for those who participated – they got to give feedback and suggestions, and then learn from what others said, too. These kinds of living gamification examples proved the theory for me – and I hope for some of my participants as well.

The main goal was to see which types of missions/quests would generate the most participation. In general, there was very little variation from mission to mission on that count. Some types of quests were obviously more relevant to some types of businesses. It’s important to keep that in mind, if you decide to do something similar.

My secondary goal was to see how well participants could give and receive positive feedback without too much intervention on my part.

I set the rules at the beginning and did my best to keep the missions clear and focused, but didn’t ask any additional questions of the players while they were playing. The only prompting I did was during the first two weeks (via email) to remind volunteers that the game missions were up and that they had X many days left to tackle it. I also posted random awards once or twice each week, which I really think helped stimulate excitement.

After about the 2nd week, the participation levels overcame the starting inertia, and most players remained thoroughly engaged.

Unfortunately, group participation has dropped back down to pre-game levels. So this type of project would need to be repeated soon in order to boost engagement back up.

What about you? Have you ever participated in something like this before? Do you have any other gamification examples that have worked well in the past? Or do you have ideas for implementing something like this in your business? Share with us in a comment and let’s keep the conversation going.

About Tea Silvestre

Tea Silvestre (@TeaSilvestre) is founder of the Small Biz Storytelling Soiree (in Portland); author of Attract & Feed a Hungry Crowd - Zero-Hype marketer. Join her at Story Bistro.

115 comments

  1. Rohit Sharma says:

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  2. Shannon Lagasse says:

    As I keep reading these posts about gamification, my brain is buzzing with ways I could apply this to my own business. Part of me is like, focus on growing your list and boosting engagement FIRST, then take on something bigger and more time-consuming like a contest. But part of me thinks that a contest or competition might be the perfect way to grow my list, boost engagement, and increase visibility.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I’m struggling with figuring out what my priorities are in terms of marketing. I have HUNDREDS of great ideas and things “to do”, but I’m never really sure where to start. I know that my stats have increased considerably in the two weeks since the Scavenger Hunt began, maybe because of motivation and maybe because of the specific tasks, I’m not sure.

    Any thoughts?

    1. I’m not sure exactly where you are in the lifecycle of your biz, Shannon, but most of what we do with marketing has to be a little experimental. If you’ve already tried the “normal” ways of building your email list (offer up a freebie in exchange for an address) and you’ve done about 3 or 4 iterations of that, it might be time to bump up your game with a contest. Contests tho also require a certain critical mass to be effective and that critical mass usually comes from your existing list. As long as you’re focusing like a laser on your ideal client and what THEY need, you’ll probably stay on track just fine. The list of bright shiny objects can be tackled as time and resources allow. Good luck!

  3. MelAnn says:

    I really enjoyed reading about this! I definitely have some implementation Ideas for this! Or versions of this. How did you “randomly” choose participants as winners?

    I am on the lookout for new, innovative ideas am this captured my interest! Love it!

  4. Hi Tea,

    I had read about this interesting challenge at Carol Lynn’s blog and I really wanted to participate, but my busy life got in the way I guess.

    What a great concept it was. I hope you’ll do it again sometime. I bet people got tons of great feebacks and ideas they would have never thought about on their own. The power of the mastermind.

  5. WOW….I am SUCH a Word Chef, Prosperity Kitchen & overall Tea Silvestre Fan!!!
    Tea you are the diva of innovation! You definitely know how to engage an audience!!! Woo hoo!!! I will admit that my attention span, while seated, is limited and I could barely get through all your fan mail comments above!! I’m not a gamer, and now YOU are forcing me to resurrect those under Sudoku’ed brain cells! I would love to observe the next experiment!!! I love your ideal client board in Pinterest and if gamers are your ideal client, then this is SPOT ON!!! Gold coins for all!!! Yay!!!

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      Your enthusiasm honors me, Michele. Thank you! And looking forward to seeing you around Prosperity’s Kitchen.

  6. The real time Google Hangout chat amongst all the players and audience members is a great addition to the experience, so if you are free on Mondays at 10 am PST, you should give a listen. You can even ask your own burning business question – though of course the focus is on the show’s public contestants.

    The winners of the first week’s mission were also just posted at http://prosperityskitchen.com/week-1-completed-missions-the-ideal-client-profile-on-a-pinterest-board/ with some great feedback for the players.

  7. Linda Griego says:

    Tea…the short and sweet of it, since I follow the advice, ‘few words – strong results’, is that Prosperity’s Kitchen is a unique AND creative concept! Thanks!

  8. MamaRed says:

    Tea, you’ve got some of the most creative ideas for generating buzz and developing new companies. LOVE what you’ve done!

  9. Sarah Kohl says:

    This is how to make work fun! Prosperity’s kitchen taps two innate qualities: curiosity and helpfulness. We all want to find out who will win– that’ one of the secrets to keeping us watcing the raft of reality shows. It’s also fun to help eachother– it gives us purpose (and we get some good ideas to boot!)
    Kudos to Tea for figuing this out! Takes a facebook working group to a new level.

  10. Sharon Hurley Hall ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thanks for this interesting case study, Tea. I’m particularly fascinated to see how the lessons you’ve learned feed into the Prosperity’s Kitchen contest you’re running now.

    1. It’s funny, Sharon — our missions are structured completely different this time around. PK has folks working in teams as well as doing solo projects (vs everyone working solo and the mission revolving around providing feedback). Mostly because the PK project also involves a weekly lesson on a particular marketing topic (vs TK which didn’t have any lessons from me). But I think the dynamics are very similar and yes, I’m also curious to see how it all “plays” out.

  11. SandyMc says:

    Ahh, Tea, you do things so well. The level of comment you’ve generated by this detailed case study is a good indication of that.

    What struck me about the Test Kitchen experiment, having been an active participant, was the merit of a great community leader, well exemplified by your involvement. You set it up, gave clear instructions, set an expectation, selected ‘your team’, monitored it, but didn’t interfere, rewarded appropriately and then wrapped it up.

    As a result, the level of participation and engagement was really extraordinary. I submitted a sales brochure for scrutiny. The feedback was as relevant, creative and pertinent as had I hired a marketing consultant; more so because it came from so many voices.

    In all cases, I imagine it spurred people on to greater involvement.

    I wondered throughout the experiment about the results for you. Beyond raising your significant profile further and cementing your a clan within your community (which is I believe great reward in and of itself), can you summarize your take-out from the experience?

    What could one do with gamefication, where the community were involved in making a positive impact for a common cause?

    I’ve seen first hand the results of introducing creative ‘challenges’ from the charity I’m involved in. Incredible! As humans we respond well to being given permission to play. And even better, when that play has a positive impact on others.

    Thank you for the privilege of participating and for writing such a detailed review.

    1. Great questions, Sandy. For me, the #1 purpose was to learn about how game mechanics really worked when used for my own “tribe.” Every audience has its own culture and just because something works really well for one biz, doesn’t mean it will always translate to another.
      As for using games to accomplish something good for the world, you should Google Jane McGonigal. She’s doing amazing things for the world through games.

  12. Docprov says:

    Contests engage people and encourage continuous improvement. This wave will soon be accepted by all as technology increases and learning becomes an every day adventure! There is so much to learn so jump in and absorb what you can and watch your business flourish!

  13. Nancy Boyd says:

    Tea, I have a new question for you. How do you know what kinds of engagement your particular tribe prefers? After all, if you get a mismatch of the wrong game with the right tribe, that might not work out as well as you’d intended. So my question is about getting the match in a sweet spot for your audience and tribe. I suppose that would be a separate article (or book!) all by itself ~ but I bet I’m not the only one who has this question, either. Comments?

    1. Interesting question, Nancy. I think it boils down to knowing your audience before you begin. There are lots of ways to do this (a few I’ve found particularly useful have involved mini-chats via skype with folks on my email list and short surveys that are more fun than business), but essentially you’ll have to dip your toe in at some point with an experiment of your own to find out. There’s a difference tho between conscious and deliberate testing and just throwing something against the wall to see if it sticks. The former usually helps us make a lot more progress in whatever we endeavor to do.

  14. Jane-Michele says:

    Kudos to you for using this a way to build your online brand.

    Although I was not part of the experiment (would like to be for Round #2), it sounds like it was helpful for those involved… and that you got some useful data. It was interesting to see a “new” way of encouraging online community involvement. I wonder if people would have been as willing to participate each week without the prizes… and if it is possible for “strangers” to be willing to help one another solely knowing that they, too, could get input for their own businesses (perhaps something to consider for Round #2). It would be a little like creating a “mastermind” group – without the trust having been built among participants ahead of time… a neat idea.

    The researcher in me would like to know: How did you recruit your participants initially? I saw the intro landing page (using the link above)… but how did you drive people to it? Is there something you could change in the inital recruiting process that might have changed the participation levels? Something that you might want to test for next time.

    In any event, I wish you well with this “contest” and your future endeavours!
    Regards, Jane-Michele (jmc@theQgroup.com)

    1. Good questions, Jane-Michele. I drove visitors to the blog post via the usual methods — my email list and social media connections. So most of the folks who raised their hands were already part of my “tribe.” If I were going to do this type of thing again (TK, not PK) I might look at creating a JV project so that other audiences could be reached. Of course, there’s always PPC advertising. But I prefer to stay away from that unless I there’s enough ROI (which I usually don’t see). More questions to answer for next round! Thank you.

  15. Sounds like a very successful experiment, Tea.

    I love the way you dive into your projects whole-heartedly, then let the players run the game. I’m sure it’s hard for you to resist trying to tweak and steer things along the way. We’ve all seen FB threads veer off into the wilderness, sometimes in ways that are unproductive, frustrating, or annoying.

    I’ve been a fan of yours for some time now, and look forward to perhaps joining the next round. Best of luck to you in all your efforts.

    1. Thanks, Jim. Yes – it IS hard to find the balance between guiding the group dynamics and letting them bubble up where they will. Because the TK project was an experiment in engagement between players I was very conscious of not inserting myself too much (e.g., too many reminders, too many rules, etc.). Definitely would like to have you in on the next round.

  16. Helene Poulakou says:

    It’s interesting how you experiment with new ideas and strategies, Tea.

    Right now, I’m following your Year of the (Marketing) Snake project, although somewhat loosely, and I expect it to help me promote my (definitely-needing-some-redesigning-and-refocusing) site,

    Because, frankly, marketing is not my ideal field of activity…

    1. Welcome, Helene! Ah yes, the Year of the Marketing Snake… Making marketing fun as well as effective is important to me for the just reason you pointed out: many folks don’t like to do it, procrastinate about it and generally give their efforts half-hearted attempts at best. If I’m ever going to have a chance at helping my clients be successful, I’ve got to figure this stuff out. Glad to have you along for the ride.

  17. Great question, Mary. Most of the folks who participated in the first experiment were existing audience members (so in terms of “new” people, no not really). However, those folks did create new relationships with each other and have become more active members in general.
    The PK project is a whole other animal and it remains to be seen whether or not it will result in a positive change to my bottom line. It’s definitely gotten me lots of new awareness and exposure so far! Check back with me in 12 weeks and I’ll let you know.

  18. Mary C. Weaver, CSCS says:

    Tea, this is brilliant! You’ve got me thinking about how some variation of this could benefit my community . . .

    I would love to know whether, on balance, you believe the experiment “paid” for itself in number of warm leads, sales, web traffic to your site, or brand recognition?

    Thanks!

  19. Julia Hayes says:

    The gamification element of this experiment definitely gave it a fun edge and kept me involved. Lynette commented it was more relevant to young people but as one of the the oldest members in the group I can say the game appealed to me just for the fun of it.

    At first for me it was about being part of a marketing self-help group under Tea’s mentoring. I had no idea what gamification was for the first weeks.

    It was sometimes hard to research and reply by the given time but was I involved and inspired enough to participate even if I missed the deadline.
    The sense of community was strong. I still visit the FB page. We learned a lot from each other as Tea stepped back and let us get on with each challenge, nudging us here and there.

    The random awards were important, so those that fell behind in the points scores were still possible overall winners.

    This post has taken me to other posts on Firepole Marketing. From comments and responses we can see that free downloads that lie unopened in desktop files have no value to the reader.

    So why do marketers still push their valuable content in free download formats?

    Maybe we don’t give enough respect to free anythings.

    Are there not enough people out there happy to pay a subscriptions to websites that continually put out quality material aligned to their business needs, or which develop new games and activities and groups that help push us into taking action?

    When we download free pdfs or ebooks we often leave them filed, or share them with others, who don’t have time to read them so file and forget them.

    When we take action and get results, we talk about it and recommend our sources.

    So as well as the move to ‘Slow Marketing’ maybe we could add ‘Pay for Value’ ?

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      Good questions, Julia! I think what we’re looking at is symptomatic of a much larger problem — namely, the vast proliferation of websites, blogs and internet businesses that are all competing for attention (and following the same advice about how to build an email list, fan base, etc.). It’s the echo chamber referenced earlier. Many MANY more of us need to stop and think about whether or not the advice we’re getting is really appropriate for our target markets and business models. And even more than that, we need to ask ourselves if there’s a different way. If everyone is shouting, “Here’s how to build a 6-figure business in 90 days,” then maybe we need to talk about Slow Marketing. Ask yourself what everyone else in your space is doing and saying and then turn around and take a look at what it might do for you if you said/did the opposite.

  20. Anita says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article; not only for the information or analysis, but also for the integration of a loyal fan/follower base, which is what we all strive for, and Tea does it so well. Active audience engagement is something I really want to build my skills in, as my work creates a more contemplative outcome rather than instant feedback.

    I really love the concept of PK and feel so blessed to have been given this wonderful opportunity to take part. Tea’s creativity in applying learning in an interesting format, is fascinating. I have already learnt a lot in week one, so very grateful.

    I am probably different in that I am not really concerned with the contest aspect (but I can see why that would help many in engagement), I am looking forward to learning as much as I can from Tea, and the other wonderful mentors and participants, and apply it effectively. 🙂

    Thank You Tea.

    1. Good to know (about your competitiveness and motivations to participate)! Our generation has a lot of overlap with the younger gamers, so it always fascinates me to look these types of projects from that perspective. Glad to have you along for the ride this time, Anita!

  21. Birdy Diamond says:

    So does this mean that the prevalent passivity may *gasp!* be coming to an end? That it turns out that we AREN’T a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings but rather are learning to not waste our valuable time on things that do not interest us???

    I am so loving this whole concept of gamification and yes, I can honestly say it has changed my life. From the 800+ day streak on 750words.com that reminds me that yes, I CAN stick to things when I value them, to the business Progress I’ve made through your Kitchen projects, gamification has been helping me to make Teh Progresses right, left, and center.

    Mike & I are definitely doing the thinky-thoughting on how we can bring gamification to ‘Paranormal Avians’ and our ‘#CakeinHawaii’ project for ‘A2Abundance’. Both widening your worldview and learning to create business abundance can be hard.

    Very hard. :>

    Gamification makes it just that little bit easier, and definitely gives you the encouragement to continue on THROUGH the Hard.

    All the best, Tea, and may we be seeing versions of the Kitchen for a long time to come! 🙂 *hugs!*

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      Thank you, Birdy! Yes – I do believe that there IS hope for the human condition. The more we learn about how our brains work — what motivates us and keeps us on track toward completion — the better off we’ll be. It’s an evolution I’m happy to participate in!

  22. Linda Bahner says:

    Playing at home in Prosperity’s Kitchen at home game this season. Hoping to learn more about gamification. Don’t know how far I’ll get as I am having some personal challenges right now, but am trying all the same.

  23. Mary says:

    Tea always has an innovative idea or two in the oven! No exception here. Loved the post. I love the game component – it draws on our human nature and kepos us motivated to move to goal….the goodies and gold are a great treat for the participants. Way to go Tea.

  24. Lynette says:

    While the game aspect probably wouldn’t have attracted my attention had I been aware of this program, I know it would tend to hold greater appeal to younger people of the “gaming generations.” On the other hand, it was a tremendous way to engage an audience to provide constructive feedback for your eight missions, so it did perform a useful service in that respect.

  25. Fab-o-matic post and case study, Tea! Thanks for sharing the inside scoop and skinny on how your Test Kitchen project played itself out.

    Here’s how I see things and please keep in mind, I pitch my tent in the quirky camp:

    As solopreneurs and online marketers, we’ll all a bunch of “parallel lines” … working independent of one another yet reaching for similar outcomes and our fair share of the market. And what did geometry class teach us? Parallel lines will eventually intersect, right? (I hated math in school but a few tidbits of trivia managed to stick). What I see you’re doing is finding fun, interactive, educational, and rewarding ways to encourage those lines to cross. AMEN to that idea!

    Who doesn’t gain from words of encouragement, concrete suggestions, direction, inspiration, and such?! 🙂

    To me, I see the Test Kitchen and Prosperity’s Kitchen as …
    “Independence to Intersection” … “Parallel to Partnership”. 🙂

    Let the games begin!
    (In my case — word games) LOL!!

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      I think you win this round of word games, Melanie. (Like Stephen Colbert says, “You are a formidable opponent!” — but also a fabulous friend and colleague. Thanks for all your help spreading the word. I don’t know how I lucked out, but am so glad to have you on my team!

      1. The sentiment is mutual, Tea — I’m a lucky duck to be on your team!

        As an aside …
        I wonder if anyone else is having as much fun as me discovering new people to connect with here. That’s one of features of the proverbial “peanut gallery” I like best — checking out the other commenters. Great way to make new friends!

  26. Grace Judson says:

    What a fascinating idea. My brain is spinning wildly – I can see that this will generate ideas for how I could use gamification in some way.

    As a member of our local American Society for Training & Development chapter in San Diego, we talk often about how to use gamification to enhance training programs. I’ve never thought, though, about how to bring that over from the training arena into a marketing context, and as I said … I’m fascinated by the idea!

    Thank you, Tea!

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      I think it works for what I’m doing, Grace, because I’m using it for training. If I just tried to incorporate gaming elements into the promotion of my biz then we’d probably be looking at something much different. Luckily enough, those of us who teach/train also need to market ourselves — so in this case it’s a wonderful fit. Thanks for chiming in!

      1. Grace Judson says:

        Oh, I totally get that you’re using it as part of an education process. But in the end, it’s my feeling that all marketing … um. Scuse me. All *relationship-building* marketing (which in my view is the best type of marketing and the only type I prefer to practice) is education. And so I’m pretty convinced there’s a way to work this in.

        As I said: brain spinning. I’ll let it work on this and see what sparks it tosses out! 😉

  27. Janet says:

    Hi Tea-

    Great to see that so much research and experimentation was involved before the 1st season of Prosperity’s Kitchen (which I’m currently a part of). I had not yet found your community during the time you did a test group but am SO happy I found Word Chef and Slow Marketing et al. since then. It really resonates with me and I’m glad to be one of the participants for Prosperity’s Kitchen. Game on!

    This is a brilliant idea and I am so impressed. You’re willing to question A-Lister tactics and the “echo chamber”, think outside of the box, and come up with what I believe is a better solution in a lot of ways. E-courses and ebooks, lets face it, can be a waste of money because we all know implementation levels are low and even when they throw in a ‘members forum’ to sell you on the product more, it doesn’t get used much or it ends up being a circle jerk of everyone’s own self-promotion with not much real engagement.

    The gamification technique adds a whole new dimension and FUN to the process! You are ‘forced’ to engage with others in your team, and other contestants and in fact, the MORE you engage, the better you’ll do with the game and ultimately winning prizes. Love the ‘gold coins’ idea or spin the wheel too.

    I’m still not sure how I can take your example and add this to my business model but I have a feeling that I’ll come up with some sort of blog challenge vs. blog contest. Where blog contests fall short is that it is often for a short-term gain. People want to win the prize (an iPad mini, for example) and you bribe them to get more likes, follows, etc. But that is shallow level engagement. Are those TRUE fans or just random people that want an iPad mini? The better thing to do is create a blog challenge that engages participants. It’s like a longer-term game, certainly can still be a contest with prize incentives, but instead of choosing someone random to win, you actually create guidelines and rules for participants to implement and then set the time frame. From there, you start to build a community of people who are engaged with YOU and your brand, and are excited to see a positive life changing outcome for themselves. Their like and follow is more genuine because they have a relationship with you, are invested in the process, and respect you as someone who leads the challenge and therefore has some level of expertise that they can learn from.

    Did I mention this is brilliant yet??

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      I’m sure you’ll figure out the perfect way to make this kind of model work for your biz, Janet. Let the idea simmer on the back burner of your brain for awhile and it will happen when the time is right.
      SO happy to have you participating this time around…and to know that you’re finding it valuable.

  28. Tea, I “stumbled” upon your blog in May, 2012 after I signed up for Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging class. I saw where you had taken his class so I decided to look you up (no, I wasn’t stalking you – well, maybe a little.) Holy Cow am I glad I did!

    You’re “foodie” website drew me in and your writing personality kept me there. The more I looked around Google for you, the more I read and the more I liked. When I saw the invitation to join this “Test Kitchen thingy”, I thought, “What the hell.”

    Not only did I met some fantastic people, I feel like I’ve connected with a whole new group of highly diverse online entrepreneurs. Honestly, I feel like I’ve got a new family that finally “gets me” and why I am passionate about doing what I’m doing.

    I loved playing the games in the Test Kitchen. I kept waiting for the “I’m only out for #1,” but it never manifested itself. What did happen every week was the feeling of knowing that I was genuinely helping out another living and breathing person and they were sincerely grateful for it was the biggest reward.

    Now that I’m one of the 15 contestants on Prosperity’s Kitchen, I’m finding immense joy in the fact that I got a fantastic “warm-up” in the Test Kitchen.

    Thanks for all your hard work. It hasn’t gone unnoticed 😀

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      Isn’t it fun how we find each other? I found Danny after taking Jon’s class. Hmm…so glad you landed so gracefully on my site and decided to stick around for a while, Colleen. As I told Peter, YOUR attitude and energy are a huge part of why you get so far. Love having you on the team.

  29. Gypsy ~ Kimberly says:

    The whole concept of PK I think is genius! It’s real people with real mentors, not like that annoying “reality show” that Trump holds o.O It’s fake, it’s scripted, and how does it really help those of us at home? (outside of wasting an hour of your life every week) PK is REAL! It not only is helping the participating contestants and those of us playing at home, but you are creating a space for everyone to who visits the PK website to learn something that they can implement themselves.

    Being the Sister and MOM of gamers (I’m oldschool Nintendo myself LOL), I found this whole concept of “gamification” fascinating and really fun. Thank you so much for sharing your pre-game findings. And I am so looking forward to seeing this through the next 12 weeks we have left. It’s a LOT, but the end results for all of us is a better concept of what we need to do with our businesses and how we can build it, grow it, and share it out to the world! You rock, Tea!! As always!!

    1. Ha! I remember watching the Donald’s first season and thinking it was pretty cool. But Oy! The melodrama, right? We can always take the best parts of things to create new, better things and I’m sure there will be more programs like this that are even sweeter.
      For me, it’s been interesting to see how enjoyable it is for people to collaborate as they compete. Looking forward to watching this all unfold with you, Kimberly!

  30. Kerri says:

    I personally believe that when you bring people together to work on anything
    and it is done in the right spirit that growth/expansion is achieved. When you add fun to the mix then it is also done with such ease that together we want to do more.
    Generally, there are a lot of steps involved in building your brand so for me its an easy choice to make it fun as it guarantees persistence and the success you are seeking. Most businesses give up just before turning the corner because they are tired and have lost self belief.
    Tea’s gamification is a wonderful way of creating a community to support one another as we all grow.
    Congratulations!

  31. Katherine Kasmir says:

    I love how Tea, like an excellent Chef, takes all the delicious ingredients and experiments with new ways to put them together and make something both delicious and sustaining. Lately I’ve been too busy to get in and participate much, but even just peeking in and seeing what’s going on is motivating and helpful.

  32. Peter Sterlacci says:

    I participated in this entire Test Kitchen Project and enjoyed every single week. Not only did I have fun and challenge myself with each case study, but I met a whole new community of people who have since joined my small and growing community. I believe strongly in what I call “Me to the Power of We” and Tea’s experiment proved the this. Our success is based both on our ability to communicate our individual value and our community / networks capability to magnify who we are. In other words, our brand grows exponentially by the power of the community we build and engage. I have downloaded soooooo many eBooks, guides, free webinars, etc. from many A-listers out there and guess what…they are all sitting in a folder on my desk top. I do not feel engaged or committed to doing anything with 95% of them. What Tea did here was totally motivate me to see the next mission each week and TRULY WANT TO play an active role.

    1. Whoop, whoop! So glad you found the experiment helpful, Peter. AND that you’re with us in this larger project. Your attitude — and those of your cohorts — are an important part of why the first project was a success. It’s definitely a team effort.

  33. Tanya Levy says:

    Hi Tea:
    I admire your willingness to try something interesting and engaging. I am percolating on how this is similar to teaching and education. In my full time role I am a counsellor and I am becoming more interested in how to keep students engaged in online education and teaching. I could see using the quest idea in this capacity. I truly value and appreciate you, I always learn when I read one of your posts. xo Tanya

  34. Sherry says:

    I have not personally participate in something like this before but I do like the idea of having a contest format. Engagement went up in your case but is coming back down. However, I would bet that each participant must have told at least one other person about the fact that they are part of this project which built more awareness for your business. I agree that engagement doesn’t equal sales; however, it can serve as an introduction to your business or to provide a sense of community to those who participate. We all know it takes multiple touchpoints before a customer actually signs up for services and this is an interesting way to make that happen. People respond to incentives and when they win they tell others about it too. I have considered adding in some sort of contest for my own community and this might serve as a nice template. For my purposes, I may need to simplify it a little bit more to work with the rest of my marketig plans. However, I would take the opportunity to highlight participants often especially in social media to give them the exposure 🙂

    1. You point out an important aspect, Sherry: the PR/social media benefits. We’re currently doing as much of that as we can with the PK project — and many of our contestants are seeing the benefits via local press coverage and increased visibility on social media. They’re also writing about their experiences on their own websites (not a mandatory part of the program, but helpful) which creates more wonderful content we can share via email and social media. A win-win for everyone.

  35. David Hodges says:

    Interesting article Tea.
    So you temporarily increased engagement. But did that result in any increase in sales to the participants during or after the game ?
    Or what was the point ?
    There seems to be a widespread assumption that engagement = sales, but this is frequently not the case.

    1. Tea Silvestre says:

      Good questions, David! We didn’t measure sales simply because the experiment was so short. As you know, sales cycles can be much longer than a simple 8 week project (especially for service professionals like those who participated). But sales SHOULD be measured. It’s really one of the Most Important Things we need to keep our eyes on as biz owners. We also need to understand what we can realistically expect to happen for our particular business. We’ll be addressing this topic in week 3 of Prosperity’s Kitchen. Hope you’ll watch!

  36. Catherine Cantieri says:

    What a great idea! I wish I had known about it a couple months ago so I could have played. 🙂

    My favorite part of the report was the comparison of the reasons people were playing before and after the game started. Initially, fun was a primary motivator, but once they started playing, it became helping others. I think sometimes we forget how much joy there is in helping others, and how wonderful it feels.

    I’m currently a member of a fledgling mastermind group, and I think I’m going to mention this post to the other members and see if we can add a gamification element to our group.

    Tea, promise me you’ll let me know if you ever plan to do it again!

    1. Tea Silvestre says:

      I’ll be sure to let you know when do this again, Catherine. Also happy to help your group if you get stuck.

      1. Birdy Diamond says:

        Yes, that was the one thing for me too, Tea. I almost didn’t find out about it. The only reason I did was that I am in a chat with another one of the peeps and she was mentioning it was starting, so I was able to pounce from the beginning. 🙂

        And yes… some kind of a continuing mission thing would be lovely. I personally haven’t been around due to an overall Facebook hiatus, but I know if there were something kyool like the ‘Test Kitchen’ missions going on, I’d log back in. 🙂

        Thnx, Tea, for being the catnip for this Bold Kitten Bird! You know how to get me moving and pouncing on all the stuffs that otherwise feel like so much *ugh* I never get to them. :>o<:

        *hugs!*

  37. Great post Tea! I am always amazed at how creative you are! The Prosperity’s Kitchen Project sounded like a win-win for everyone. I wish I had had the time to play along :(. I feel that I truly missed a great opportunity to learn some valuable marketing strategies (and have fun at the same time…who would of thought!) I loved the random rewards part too. Keep up the great work! My hats off to the chef!
    Best-
    Colleen

  38. Great post Tea! I am always amazed at how creative you are! The Prosperity’s Kitchen Project sounded like a win-win for everyone. I wish I had had the time to play along :(. I feel that I truly missed a great opportunity to learn some valuable marketing strategies (and have fun at the same time…who would of thought!) I loved the random rewards part too. Keep up the great work! My hats off the the chef!
    Best-
    Colleen

  39. Bill Walles says:

    For years, in my fiction critique group, the group has used the product of other members to evaluate presentation, effectiveness, persuasiveness, and more. Doing so, they transfer learnings to their work.
    Tea’s game model provides a similar model for non-fiction/business marketing and audience building. In a few weeks, her participants discern which comments have a greater impact. Instead of feeling chastised, they are liberated to perceive better options. Tea’s rules encourage constructive engagement working on a colleague’s project. This article moves beyond sound advice to smart participation. That’s solid teaching.
    As wise and engaging as the fine blogs I read can be, Tea’s invitation to become part of a smaller group for safe and accelerated growth gives me more.
    [I prefer the game/challenge to be on the website.]

  40. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

    Heck yes, Sarah! This type of project cries out for the right plugin. It’s the only way to be able to scale something like this. I’ll ping you so we can talk.
    Many thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  41. Sarah Lewis says:

    Great summary post, Tea! There were a few things that jumped out for me and will certainly help me on my own projects:

    1. You used the perfect mix of “random prizes” with “prizes based on merit,” and I bet that went a long way towards keep people engaged over time.

    When I’ve participated in various multi-week competitions, there have been times where life has gotten in the way (or I just get lazy!), and with the ones that are strictly merit-based (especially cumulative), that kills my momentum. It’s like the way most of us diet; once you’ve fallen off the wagon, the (very strong) temptation is to just give up entirely.

    On the other hand, competitions that are either strictly random or essentially popularity contests rarely feel like they’re worth putting a lot of effort into. Someone with strong intrinsic motivation for the tasks might work hard regardless, but they’re the rare ones who probably don’t need a lot of gamification in the first place.

    2. Similarly, you mixed “competition” with “cooperation” in a way that helped people give it their all and come away with budding relationships, which made the game very valuable for all the participants.

    Your “gold coins” prize was especially brilliant, particularly the way the winner got to choose a second winner. I imagine that made for fabulous camaraderie, as did the fundamental structure of helping each other for the missions.

    I think of the way that people as different as C.S. Lewis and Robert Cialdini have written about being concerned with other people’s interests: helping someone else not only engages reciprocity (the bit of Cialdini’s work that is probably best known) but also makes the helper more interested in helping further.

    Really well done! I’d also be curious to see the survey results presented graphically; like Clare, I’m amazed at an 83% engagement rate.

    Incidentally, I’m a WordPress programmer and (of course) instantly thought of the way a plugin could help with some of the logistics. If you’d be interested in partnering on a project like that, let me know. 🙂

  42. rjmelig says:

    I knew of the contest, but was not able to participate. To see the results laid out so plainly has given me an idea for a website I’m working on. What I appreciate about Tia and Firepole is the real life way they willing bare to their audiance what the struggle was, how it’s been approach, and how it’s evolving. Love this case study appraoch. Well done Tia, and thanks to Firepole for including it.

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      That’s wonderful, RJ. If you get stuck or want to bounce ideas around, come find me.

  43. GREAT post Tea! The breakdown of the entire process was hugely valuable.
    I’m in awe of what you’re doing with Prosperity’s Kitchen and your overall goal of getting people to implement, follow through on courses and products they’ve purchased.

    One thing that came to mind as I was reading through your post and seems to be an ongoing “challenge” (opportunity?) with courses and follow through is possibly offering on-off’s with some of your missions.
    SO….using the opt-in offer mission you gave as an example.
    What if you that were just a single opportunity for people to engage, follow-through, etc. without a longer term commitment. Keeping all the same rules, process,etc. but let people participate in just a one-time task?

    I know for me as I go into year 5 in my business there are certain areas that need more focus than others so a long term commitment can seem daunting if it includes areas that I feel more confident in and are lower priorities to focus on.
    My guess would be that the maturity of the business and individual needs will determine someone’s commitment to a course (outside of the basic human nature issue and follow-through, but that’s a comment for a self-help blog I think! 😉 ).

    You constantly inspire me your drive and goals Tea!
    Great article.
    Kim

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      That’s a great idea, Kim. The cafeteria model could definitely work. (Plus, it might be easier to manage admin-wise.) We’ll have to look at doing this when PK is over.

  44. Stacey Shanks says:

    Love this article, Tea, and Prosperity’s Kitchen. You are so creative and inventive on how to make marketing fun. I am all about fun! In addition, this project is so helpful. I have never had the opportunity or know how to dive into the details. I love my experience in PK as a play-at-home contestant. I look forward to learning and growing in the kitchen.
    Thank you,
    Stacey

  45. carol says:

    Great case study with some interesting insights and thoughts from real businesses who took part in your test Kitchen too.

    I think in the social era things like PK gamification with people collaborating, putting themselves out their for the world to watch, support and learn from and with is just so cool.

    I think it is interesting that some people said they didn’t have time and yet if they had found the time – where would their business be now – what difference did those who played along see at the end of the test kitchen, did they have tangible results or was it more of an experience that they were participating for?

    As someone who is all for fun, collaboration and people working together, supporting each other , which helps everyone to move forward at a much faster and more effective speed than “doing it on your own” and bringing PK to a global audience in the process so many others can participate, learn and share the experiences is in my opinion a fantastic way to give more value to more people.

    I like the competitive factor and that the live PK project has people working in teams, to hold each other accountable, and spur each other on, look at ideas for their team mates not just themselves which increases the power of the mind and the results of the group individually too.

    I love that contestants will be thrown well and truly out of their comfort zones during this project and just cannot wait to see the results and also how people grow personally as well as in their business and am really intrigued to see what effect working together like this will have on everyone not just during PK but also in the future as I believe that many will have massive mindset shifts too.

    Congratulations to Tea for bringing imagination, uniqueness, fun and social altogether with business success……….

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      Thanks, Carol! The thing that’s most true is that we’re ALL out of our comfort zone with this project. (But that’s where the magic happens, right?)

  46. I like the idea of greater interaction not only between yourself and the client, but also between the clients themselves. Choosing who else will win is part of the Win-Win scenario that I like to foster in my business relationships. Thank you for sharing this. I’m going to look more deeply into the gamification concept.

  47. Tammy Vitale says:

    How fun! I didn’t know this already went on! So I’m actually getting 2 backstories – and they’re both fascinating (since I’m now participating in the current contest!). I’m one of the ones who joined to learn more – more the tech end – which I have assiduously (sp?) avoided for too long. I haven’t been disappointed. I’m way out of my comfort zone – well, not entirely. The mission using Pinterest was right down my alley! Tea – thanks for all the work you’ve done on this – and congratulations on the imagination that brought it together!

      1. Birdy Diamond says:

        So now we know, Tea! Makes me wonder what’s come up in the next whiles for us Kitchen-ers. (current Play-at-Home PK-er & winner of the Test Kitchen Summer Event)

  48. This is a very intriguing concept to consider… I’m working it around in my mind to see how I could apply it to my own business. Thanks for providing this case study, and I’m excited to be a part of ‘Prosperity’s Kitchen’! I’ve learned so much already, even after only one week.

  49. Elizabeth Todd says:

    Reading this post really made me realize the amount of effort that you’ve put into putting al this together. Having participated I’d have to say “Congratulations Tea, it was a job well done!”

    The amount of value that I received from feedback from you and the other participants has been amazing. I was totally stuck but with everyone throwing their hats into the ring and coming up with suggestions I’ve been able to find a way out of the doldrums and have completely re-branded myself. You’re a star Tea. Here’s hoping that your Prosperity’s Kitchen project will be equally successful. You’ll certainly have my vote of confidence.

    1. Birdy Diamond says:

      Elizabeth – just have to take a quick moment to say ‘OMG, YES!!!’ to how your site is looking these days. You are memorable in a good way, I DO feel confident in your abilities from the first moment I’m on your site, and I just signed up for your newsletter!!! Way to rock it on out!!! 🙂 :>

    2. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      Woot! That’s what I love to hear, Elizabeth. The fact that you made it over a big personal hump with the help from your fellow TKers is what makes me believe so strongly in the power of learning in groups. There’s SO much out there that allows you to learn on your own time and place, but it misses out when the community isn’t there to support it.

  50. I know, Carol Lynn…just THINK of the magic I could pull off if I was using some high falutin’ plugin for this. Right now, the PK project is fairly low-tech (things are being tracked by hand) so scaling this up would mean we’d need a programmer for sure.

    As for length — I think we’re pushing the boundary now at 13 weeks. But the project is a public one, and there’s a bigger prize at stake so I’m pretty confident it will be okay. I think for a private project we’d definitely look at a shorter term.

    1. Rachel says:

      Hi Tea- this sounds really neat; having dipped my toes a bit in instructional design, gaming is very big right now.

      As for making things easier, just wondering why you don’t use Rafflecopter? It’s free, and makes keeping track of things a LOT easier. It’s pretty widely used in a variety of types of blogs.

      1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

        I’ve used Rafflecopter for things like comments and sharing, but this project was about much more than that. Points needed to be awarded by a human who could determine whether or not the mission quest had been sufficiently addressed and who could also hand out random points just for fun. We also needed a leaderboard to see where everyone stood points-wise (Rafflecopter simply didn’t have what we needed). I’m confident that there will be more plugins to address this kind of thing soon.

        1. Rachel says:

          I hear what you’re saying Tea. Still, I think it is possible to make this more automatic. I don’t think you need a human to judge whether or not the mission quest had been addressed. In true gaming scenarios, it’s very clear what the player needs to do in order to get more points. I think what you need to do is create a rubric, which is a chart that helps people see what they need to do in order to win.

          It’s used in writing in classrooms, and it helps define what is considered excellent work, good work, average, or “do over” work. So for example, if a student is learning about how to write descriptive paragraphs, a good essay would need to have at least 3 descriptors, excellent would require 5, and so on.

          I only say this because unless you can make things easier, you won’t be able to continue doing this type of gaming when you have even an audience just 25% larger. A good marketing method should not only be replicable, but also should be able to scale a bit even when you get larger numbers of people involved. Otherwise, each time you hit a new level, you’d have to start all over again…

          1. You’re absolutely right, Rachel and we do use a judging rubric for the PK project. Still — for now, we need humans to judge how well someone has met that criteria. Which isn’t to say that a plugin couldn’t be created to completely help with this, only that one hasn’t yet (for WordPress anyway). I’m set to talk with a programmer this week about how we might do that.

  51. Carol Lynn says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that this concept works so well (what surprises me more is that you can do it all, Tea!) Just think about how much we want the Foursquare mayorship or those completely useless Get Glue badges. We’re already programmed to want to play and win. Now you take this brilliant idea and combine learning with playing and winning and it sounds like the next revolution of education to me!

    I’m curious about the length too. Some people said they were busy and 8 weeks was too long, so making it longer would seem counterintuitive… so how do you keep engagement levels up? That’s the next question for a test kitchen! Bite-sized tasks? Taking a page from good old BF Skinner and making rewards more unpredictable? Hm, Tea, sounds like something you need to get on next 🙂

  52. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

    So glad you enjoyed playing, Nancy. The experiment WAS a great success in that it helped everyone learn by teaching (earning points by giving feedback was a big win). The fun factor also certainly helped.

    There were so many learnings (for me) that it’s hard to pinpoint which one was most important, but I’d like to find a way to scale this to a bigger group. One of the reasons the experiment worked so well (I think) is that our group was just about the right size — not too big or too small. It’s been my experience as a member of other groups, that when things get big (100+), you tend to lose cohesion and relationship-building takes longer or is sometimes impossible altogether.

  53. Active audience engagement is a never-ending task. But *how* you engage really matters. Implement the wrong strategy, and it becomes just another “Employee of the Month” kind of thing where you end up picking someone who hasn’t won yet (or deal with the grousing). What starts out as a positive quickly becomes a negative.

    That is what’s so great about Tea, and why her growing tribe loves her so much. She pops out new ideas and insights faster than the toaster at your favorite diner. Constantly giving us food for thought, new ideas to try in our own businesses (not just recycled recipes), and positive encouragement mixed gently with careful criticism. If you aren’t familiar with The Word Chef, I strongly suggest you go sign up for her blog, and join her group.

    Tea *will* help you find and perfect your Secret Sauce!

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      Awww, thanks Laurie! You’re definitely a great example of the kind of folks I want to engage with. It’s a two-way street and you are SO appreciated!

  54. Nancy Boyd says:

    Loved this article, as adding more fun and engagement is one of my top marketing goals. Your experiment was so much fun and so successful that I got inspired to try some of the techniques for one of the programs I’m tinkering with over at the Idea Factory. I am curious about what was your most critical learning so far; is there anything you’d change another time around, or something you see that would have made it work even better than it did? Is there anything you’d leave out next time?

    Thanks so much for helping us understand WHAT makes something fun and engaging, and some ways to make that happen for our audience and tribes.

  55. Clare says:

    This is one of the most thorough case studies I’ve seen in a long time. Great idea and process at the start and the real time interaction and flexibility on-going. Getting 83% participation for anything these days is a big win and making learning fun is always a challenge. Clearly you have succeeded here. I look for more from Tea and Prosperity Kitchen.

      1. Rachel says:

        I wonder if you could get increased participation on a more regular basis if you lowered the amount “players” need to do in order to win. I’m thinking in terms of behavioral psych: it’s easier to get people to do more of something, than it is to get people to do something completely new.

        The kind of participation you had for your readers is fantastic, but they won’t be able to maintain that kind of participation for long because it’s too big a jump from what they normally do to what you want them to do.

        I’d say you should define what you want your readers to do more of, while taking a look at what they are doing. Then your gaming experience should encourage them to do just a bit more of what they’re already doing more often. For example, if you want increased comments, and you see the average person comments about 2 times a week, then you could up that to about 4 times a week, by building in rewards for those who comment more.

        Some forums already do this by awarding titles and points to those who comment more, as do many online games. You could give your readers incentive to become super-commentors by figuring out what kind of rewards your readers really want – bigger rewards need more points. And then they can get more point by doing the things you define.

        There is probably some sort of plugin that does this already, if you look around. As an educator, this is how you would help instill habits in reluctant learners, and I imagine that readers on blogs wouldn’t be too different.

        1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

          Excellent points, Rachel. The behavior we were after for the TK project wasn’t always the same so it didn’t make for building new habits (other than to participate on a weekly basis). We were trying to motivate folks to examine someone else’s work and then provide feedback accordingly. And because each week changed, the existing plug-ins out there simply weren’t sufficient to handle what we needed. (Believe me, I’ve been researching them for months!) I think if I had created a separate membership website and then asked folks to provide feedback via a comment we would’ve been a lot closer to using a plugin, but the mission quests weren’t quite that simple. There’s definitely a balance to be found!

  56. Gloria M. Miele, Ph.D. says:

    Great summary of the game. I participated and really enjoyed the different challenges, interacting with others who had their own marketing challenges and learning from their solutions and thoughts of others. It definitely tapped into my competitive side and got me motivated. Can’t wait to see how P’s Kitchen turns out.

  57. jayne ubl says:

    Hey Tea,

    Very insightful experiment. As a contestant in the Prosperitys Kitchen contest I have witnessed Tea in action and am so impressed by her teaching skills, creative insights and the ability to keep things fun!

  58. Sarah Arrow ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Fascinating case-study Tea. I like how your gamification strove for and achieved positive outcomes, and that the rewards were very visual.

    Now, some questions surrounding the data, do you have an equal split of male/female participants or was one gender represented more than the other?

    If you had changed the prizes to something with a perceived higher value do you think the engagement outcomes would have increased?

    You mention that the levels have dropped back down to pre-game levels, is there a case for making the event a 12 week event rather than an 8 week event? Would a one day a month “blast” generate enough activity to last until the next event?

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      Good questions, Sarah! Like the make-up of my readers, the participants were mostly women. I would say we had a 3 to 1 ratio of women to men. Not sure if the size of the prize would make things better — the research shows that we tend to compete for non-tangibles more (e.g., feedback, relationships, feeling like a winner, etc.). But I do think that if the stakes are higher, the engagement levels rise along with them. In Prosperity’s Kitchen right now, I’m watching the teams REALLY spend a lot of time strategizing and collaborating — even among different teams! Once PK is over, I’m definitely going to experiment with shorter and longer events. Stay tuned!

  59. Annie Sisk ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I loved watching that experiment! I was in the midst of personal and business hell, so couldn’t participate myself, but I was really intrigued by the concept and wanted to see it play out. I was not disappointed. (Then again, if Tea’s behind it, I never am.) I think there’s a lot to this idea – haven’t quite figured out how, yet, but I’m committed to using it somehow in PJ Productivity’s big thing this year, the Fuzzy Slipper Camp.

    1. Tea Silvestre, aka the Word Chef says:

      I’m glad I could give you something to think about, Annie. Don’t rush it. If this process is right for you and your business, you’ll find the way.

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