When did being social online turn into so much work? Somewhere along the way, the rules changed. Now there are guidelines and protocol you need to follow. Social Networks feature unique versions of scoring and prizes. Social Media is now a game… plain and simple. It’s a game with very obvious winners and losers and your score is determined in real time. The consequences are immediate and passivity is punished. Is the payoff worth the trouble?
Foursquare doesn’t describe themselves as game anywhere on their website. But how can it not be? It has rules and rewards. It even makes you compete for titles. Foursquare doesn’t just let you “Check In” to the businesses you visit on a regular basis. It also keeps a tally of how many times you visit each location and how often. The rules are simple: The more you visit, the closer you get to earning badges. Badges don’t necessarily entitle you to any special privileges or special discounts, but they have some pretty cool titles like “Superstar” or “Jet Setter.”
Foursquare is like playing Super Mario Brothers. (That’s right, I’m old school). You play level after level until you finally come face to face with Bowser. After defeating him in a momentous battle, he still manages to escape with the princess. You have to follow him to the next level if you ever want to conquer him. Every time you beat a new level, you are very aware of how much closer you are to your last Bowser faceoff. You don’t brag about beating the first level. You brag after you save the princess.
Foursquare is a lot like that. No one wants the “Newbie” badge. That means you’ve only Checked In to one place. So you shoot for the “Adventurer” badge. Afterall, it’s ony 9 Check Ins away. Every time you go somewhere, you move one Check In closer to another badge. (I’m guessing the creators look back pretty fondly on their days in the Boys Scouts.)
It’s funny because Foursquare very specifically lays out how to get badges, but other Social Networks are not so obvious about their similarities to the gaming world. Their rewards are a little different and the rules are harder to find and more difficult to follow. Twitter doesn’t give out titles for the most followed. It doesn’t say, “Hey, if you follow Mashable, you’ll pick up at least 5-10 new followers.”
It wasn’t until we had an unfortunate incident on Twitter that I made the gaming connection. We had scheduled a day’s worth of tweets for The Social Vista to ensure a constant stream of quality content. Little did we know that the site we scheduled them through was experiencing server problems. No tweets were sent out for an entire day and we saw an immediate drop in our following…. After ONE day! I was floored by the immediate response to our lack of activity. All that hard work and diligence to make sure our Twitter page was constantly generating timely material was down the drain.
It made me think back to my former obsession with a Nintendo DS game called Animal Crossing. I won’t go into all the game details here. All you need to know is that it featured a little town and every day a few weeds would grow. My character was supposed to pick those weeds every day or the other characters would get cranky. If you missed one day of weeding, it was no big deal. But miss a week or a month and it would be like starting the game all over again. It required diligent observance and constant contact.
Twitter is the same in that you neglect your page for a day and you’ll lose some followers. You neglect your page for a week or two – you might as well start over from scratch. There are endless websites dedicated to teaching the unwritten rules of Twitter etiquette as well as tips and tricks to attract people to your site. Fail to learn and follow the rules, and the consequences are hefty and immediate. Hence the multitude of sites dedicated to finding out which followers left you and why.
The whole point of the game is to grow your following and keep the followers you have. I’ll be the first to admit it – I get a little giddy when I open my email and see the list of new followers. Then, I get a little bummed out when I see any of them jump ship before I even got a chance to DM them a “Thank You.” Mind you, I’m not talking about friends and family cutting off their association with me. I’m talking about perfect strangers… and yes… it bugs me. People put just as much time into growing their following as they do into keeping it.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “It’s Just A Game.”