Reggie Bradford of Vitrue guest-writes for Loyalty 360's State of the Industry series:
Social networks have become true destination sites that engage people for hours looking at pictures, keeping up with old friends, connecting with new friends, playing games, and sharing exciting new content of all kinds - the opportunities are endless. In fact, social networks and blogs now account for nearly a quarter of total time spent on the Internet. And because of this, Facebook in particular, with almost 800 million active users - more than 50% of which are logging on to Facebook at any given day - is a huge audience of engaged users brands want to reach. Marketers now understand that a brand's social presence is a must-have, but claiming your own profile on Twitter or Facebook is just the first step. Smart marketers need to build in creative elements to drive fan engagement, reach new audiences and create a dialogue.
At Vitrue, it's our job to have a firm grasp on emerging trends so our clients can execute fresh, new and innovative techniques on these social platforms. We built our Vitrue SRM platform with the necessary social marketing tools, technologies and capabilities that enable marketers for social success. Focusing on one of our latest integrations in particular (with two specific trends in mind), I want to dig into two of the aspects that we love about "social": social gaming and social responsibility. This is precisely why we recently acquired GamesThatGive, a social gaming platform designed to engage brands' customers in charitable activities through branded-gaming experiences.
First: social gaming. PopCap brought us Bejeweled back in 2001. Zynga brought us Farmville in 2009. Rovio brought us Angry Birds later in 2009 (and put it on Facebook in 2011). While we know that Americans are spending more and more time on the social Web, according to Nielsen, much of this time is spent playing games. In 2010 this Nielsen study found that games had actually surpassed email as the second most frequent Internet activity for Americans, behind social networks. As of last year, there were up to 265 million Facebook gamers and each gamer spent an average of 210 minutes playing games each month - that's 927 million hours of collective game time a month. So, it's no secret that social games are incredibly engaging and monopolizes people's time for hours on the Web. And it makes sense - social games provide entertainment value alongside the benefits of social interaction.
The growth of social gaming has been exponential over the last couple of years and marketers have caught on. In fact, the social gaming market is predicted to reach $1.25 billion this year. Many brand marketers have begun using gamification tactics to attract and retain fans while others are experimenting with other methods to enter the gaming world. Some are partnering with game developers or publishers to create entire games built around their brand. Cascadian Farms is one example of a company integrating with already well-known, ready-made games through labeled "in-game" goods, allowing them to reach existing, and possibly also, untapped audiences. And it's working. Last summer, Zynga's Farmville promoted Cascadian Farms, offering game players the choice to buy branded, organic blueberries and 310 million of them were sold. Similarly, Malibu Rum found that selling branded virtual goods on social sites resulted in significant boost to brand loyalty. During their campaign in 2009, more than 1 million virtual drinks were sent via Facebook and the marketer saw a 7% brand lift.
In-game advertising is another way marketers have successfully been able to gain access to the huge audience that is social gamers. In the fall of 2010, EA and Nielsen studied the effectiveness of in-game ads from Gatorade across 6 of their sports-themed games. They found that spending on the drink increased by 24% in households that had seen the ad. And another, more recent, success story - in June 2011, P&G's Bounty placed in-game ads in EA's Playfish social game "Restaurant City" and in just two weeks Bounty saw their Facebook fan count increase by half a million.
So we've covered one side of the equation and GamesThatGive takes advantage of some of these opportunities that social gaming presents; but let's tackle the element of charitable giving. Non-profits have found great success promoting campaigns and gaining supporters using the social Web. Some, like the Free the Children organization, simply used Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about a specific campaign. Others though, use social giving as incentive to drive fan engagement.
Tyson Hunger Relief is a great example: In September 2010 they announced that for every new "like" their fan page received in a week's time, they would donate 100 pounds of food (up to a 30,000 pound truckload) to the Food Bank for Monterey County. In just one week they reached their goal and donated 30,000 pounds of food to the Food Bank, but what's more is the Monterey Food Bank gained 900 new members to their organization. Tide also recently launched a social, charitable program, "Loads of Hope," which provides relief by means of a mobile Laundromat to the thousands of families affected by disasters across the country. Tide utilized both Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness for this campaign and were able to double their followers as well as double the average clicks per tweet, proving that Twitter, not just Facebook, can be a valuable platform to drive brand loyalty. Both of these brands recognized that people want to be socially responsible and they want to be associated with companies that are. In fact, in a survey conducted by Burson-Marsteller, Penn Schoen Berland and Landor Associates, backs it up: they found that more than 75 percent of consumers say that it's important for companies to give back to charity.
GamesThatGive capitalizes on this innate human desire. The company not only makes it possible for brands to create custom, fully branded games on Facebook, maintaining their visibility throughout gameplay, but it goes a step further by supporting the brand's charitable programs. When fans play a brand's game, that brand donates money to charities selected either by the brand or by the player. Donations can be given based on how long players play or when they reach a certain level. Not only are the games entertaining for consumers, the act of giving engages the customer even longer and helps promote goodwill and brand loyalty.
Here's an example: in the new Master Lock game, for each new level players reach within the game, Master Lock gives a set dollar amount to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Consumers can now feel good about spending time playing social games - it's "guiltless gaming" as GamesThatGive founder and now General Manager of Vitrue Games, Adam Archer calls it. And brands are able to drive brand visibility and engagement with consumers.
The average time spent on Facebook per month is 421 minutes. That's 7 hours and 1 minute. Given the opportunity to connect with current fans and attract new ones from previously unreached audiences, it's clear that social gaming is an incredibly effective way to drive engagement and charitable giving is a huge component in building brand loyalty. So the combination of branded, charitable, social games is clear - that's the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich of the social Web - not just the next big thing, the next staple.