* This is a post in our ongoing series of the best of gamification on the web, and is our take on Google+'s smart use of game mechanics to build a loyal community.
Game mechanics, applied smartly, drive us to want to perform certain behaviors. The most buzzed about application on the web right now, Google+, must have a gamification strategist on board, as it has a variety of game mechanics that are helping make it a fast-growing success.
Here are 5 of the most noticeable game mechanics that they're using for their early experience:
1. Limited Access
We're guessing Google planned to cut off invite access to Google+ as soon as it spread to a certain number of people, to create a huge buzz around the program. This is a common game mechanic used to make something seem exclusive, making those on the inside feel special (and want to engage more) and those on the outside want to get in (and makes the experience once they are in psychologically more important.) Facebook also did this well early on.
Luckily, a few members of the Badgeville team, myself included, scored an invite just in the knick of time. As I started to browse through Google+, I noticed a ton of well-designed game mechanics that have kept me glued to my computer for most of the weekend thus far.
2. Fill Up Your Circles: Onboarding a New Concept
How do you teach people about a new way to group friends and strangers online for a different type of social experience?
Google+ smartly onboards its users by showing them a few empty circles with suggested groups, and showing contacts from gmail that can be dragged into those groups. This game mechanic educates the user how to interact with circles. There is a positive reward when the user drags a contact into a circle, as it has a fun interactive visual that shows the contact being added to the circle.
3. Circles: Are You In or Are You Out?
The Googlers around the site say that it isn't about "who has circled you," but for many of us, the desire to be liked by others makes us happy when one new person adds us to their circle. Google is basically teaching us that people will follow us if we're interesting. If we're not in any circles, clearly we're "losing" the Google+ game.
Meanwhile, the number of circles you are in is displayed prominently on your profile, and there have already been posts about who is in the most circles on Google+. The good game mechanic use here is that this is driving positive behavior. In order to get into a lot of circles, besides being Ashton Kutcher or Robert Scoble, you have to add valuable content to the community. This game mechanic is driving quality conversation, which is at the core of what makes Google+ a success so far.
Robert Scoble is in many more circles than I am right now, but Google+ teaches me that as long as I contribute quality content to the community, I will be added to more people's circles. Even for people preferring private networks, the game mechanic of follower/friend count makes us feel good.
Fast Company's E.B. Boyd goes as far as to manually make a "Leaderboard for G+ Influentials"
4. Instant Gratification: Real Time Feedback
Google+ is built around the game mechanic of instant feedback. Like Echo's real-time notifications, and Badgeville's real-time rewards, Google+ offers real-time notifications and communication experiences. If you respond to a post on someone else's page, anyone's response to that post will appear in real time. That social game mechanic is a powerful motivator for continuing to contribute.
5. The +1 in Google+
Most importantly, at the very heart of Google+ is the +1 concept, which not only functions as a "like" of content on the web, but also lets friends and followers +1 your comments and content. The feedback for having someone +1 your content appears to the user in real time (see #4).
Google+ also has a share feature, where other users can share your posts, and you are awarded for that as well. Posts with most comments and +1s automatically bubble up to the top of everyone's feeds. This makes everyone want to create content that inspires conversation.
And Google is trying to get us all to play the larger game of +1'ing content so its search results can remain relevant. +1'ing an article on the web is a game in and of itself, to help promote content that you enjoy to others.
At the end of the day, the creators of Google+ clearly know their success rides on whether they can keep the influencers engaged and creating enough ongoing content that would engage a community. They've smartly used the above game mechanics and others to have a successful launch. We expect Google+ to roll out even more gamification features as it grows and needs to guide users to create quality content.