Otherwise reasonable people bombard us on Facebook with Candy Crush Saga requests. Your spouse plays Angry Birds in bed. The colleague who scorned Spider Solitaire has succumbed to the sweet Call of Duty.
Why do people get addicted to games, but can’t be bothered to read your newsletter or participate in your online community?
Human behavior is endlessly fascinating – and puzzling. If we figure out the attraction (and addiction) to games, we can apply those principles to the membership experience. Members join with the intention of fully taking advantage of their membership, but then life gets in the way. Maybe we can help.
In Fast Company, business strategist Daniel W. Rasmus identified a few reasons for Flappy Bird’s immediate success in addicting players.
Simplicity. The game was extremely understandable and accessible. He suggests examining processes, for example, new member onboarding, “through the lens of simplicity and strip out superfluous elements” so you can “expose the most important, and therefore most likely to engage, elements.” Members might be overwhelmed with the menu of association benefits, programs and services. If you truly know your members, you’ll know what would be most valuable to them – start them there.
Early wins. Change management experts recommend celebrating early wins when implementing a new process or system. If you want to introduce change to a new member’s life, provide “rapid gratification” for new habits or behavior related to membership. Rasmus says, “Products that make people wait for the payoff may lose customers due to lack of patience.” Think of the non-renewing associate members who complained about not getting any new business during their first year of membership. We know trust and relationships take time to develop, but what kind of early win can you give to them?
“Apple designs the box experience separate from the device user experience because opening the box is the first win that any product offers its owner.” Do you think about the design of your welcome experience? Or does your association do what’s expected? Why not unexpectedly delight that new member?
Serendipity. No one would have bet on Flappy Bird – an unexpected success from an unknown developer. Many people didn’t think Twitter would last either, but part of its success is based on the serendipitous pleasures it provides: random articles, news, people and conversations. Is there space in your association for the serendipitous encounter between people and/or ideas? Are members given the opportunity to hear or test new ideas, or do you offer them the expected industry topics and speakers?
Exploring beyond Rasmus’ article, I found a few other reasons for game addiction that could be applied to associations.
Reward. When we’re repeatedly rewarded for accomplishing a task, our brain builds the connection and craves more rewards and, therefore, the opportunity to win them. Regular volunteers keep coming back. Online community participants check in regularly. Find out why – the reward – and market that to others.
Call of duty. Gamers feel obligated to go online and play because others on their team are relying on them to take out the enemy. The community values and needs their contribution – collaboration is necessary for everyone to move forward toward victory. How can you replicate that?
Belonging. People want to belong. Merely joining an association doesn’t provide that sense of belonging. How can you help a member truly belong – to be known, trusted, appreciated and, yes, loved.
Social affirmation. Some avid gamers are introverts or people with poor social skills. Games give them social affirmation without the discomfort they normally feel in social situations. Many of your members might be more comfortable participating online than showing up in “real life.” How can you make sure the membership experience is just as meaningful to them?
Personalization. A study on sports video games found that users who use personalization options enjoy the game more and spend more time playing it than those who don’t. Can you give members the opportunity to create their own personalized learning experiences?
Escapism. Another study said escapism was the largest reported factor for addiction. Not relevant, you say? Think about it this way: how can you provide a professional sanctuary for members? Be a resource to help them cope with stress, work/life balance and other issues related to their work. Can you provide a forum where members can anonymously seek advice from other members? Also, keep this yearning for escapism in mind when planning conferences.
Gamers share their favorite games through word of mouth and social sharing. If you create a membership experience that is just as addictive as a game, your members will spread the word too.
Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who doesn’t admit to any game addictions.