Believe it or not, this is the wrong week to ask me about how to develop a game on social media.
And, while I’m flattered at the many requests, there will be a few emails that will just have to wait until October 8th (because I usually need a week to find my new normal after September ends).
But I am always encouraged to see a number of programs kick off their own rendition of #30Days30Ways in their local communities.
Sometimes I know about the copycats (because they call me in advance) and sometimes I find them on September 1st when I’m sitting down to evaluate the online traffic surrounding our game.
Let me assure you that I’m always supportive of other programs following our model, but if I haven’t connected with them, I’m always curious to see if they learn the same lessons that we did in our first year.
- Gaming over 30 days in social media takes a special kind of stamina. You would think that asking a single question is easy, right?
- Targeting behavioral outcomes in players takes some thought. You have to ask questions in such a way that make sense and move people to consider taking action. And, not the kind of action that causes them to tune out in fear or panic!
- Giving directions that make sense to the general public can be tough (especially if you have been an emergency manager for longer than 2 years) . Once you speak “Emergenese,” things you think EVERYONE should understand often leaves a few folks scratching their heads.
- And finally, people engage with games for many different reasons and RARELY is it because they think emergency preparedness is just “awesome”
Now, in the past 4 years, we have also learned a lot of other lessons, too. One of our primary goals each year is to familiarize ourselves with new social media platforms.
- In 2010, we, at the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, were just learning how to use Facebook and Twitter. And we underestimated what would happen when community members started talking to each other. That taught us significant lessons about engagement and the importance of feedback to players.
- In 2011, we wanted to learn about the use of Google Forms and lost the engagement piece. It was easier to manage from a data-tracking process, but we still needed to learn that “engagement” lesson.
- In 2012, we went “back to the basics” of Year 1 and evaluated play on the blog, email, Facebook and Twitter. We also committed to engage with every player each day. And learned that 200+ players is enough to bury 2 full-time staff for 30 days straight. And the statistical tracking spreadsheet took up a full wall of my Emergency Operations Center in 9 point font.
- This year, we’ve changed up the game to evaluate some new platforms. We used “If This, Then That” formulas (AKA IFTTT) to set up 10 feeder formulas to a Tumblr account which we thought would help everyone’s ability to lurk and watch the game inputs. So far, we’re learning more from our failure in that area than its success. And Facebook has been the place where most people are huddling…..though Twitter and Instagram have both seen a number of game entries so far. We’re also checking out the use of Microsoft’s One Note to clip game entries.
Whether or not we are entirely successful this year, we can already count a number of wins for 2013.
- The Community Partners list is crazy huge. We did not anticipate the level of reach that we would have this year, but we will forever be grateful to everyone involved.
- The GoFundMe campaign has worked beautifully. We have over 100 prizes to give away and those will begin being announced on September 10th. (Our first “Award Hour” will even take place in front of our local newspaper reporters which is exciting for us!)
Most importantly, to us, people are talking. And that conversation, we know, will spark thought which ultimately will spark actions. Last year, players held community trivia contests, organized volunteer groups around emergency readiness, learned how to use Ham Radio (and 2 of our players have gone on to instruct Amateur Radio Operator courses), spoke to their governments in 3 different countries about emergency preparedness, and many sent us personal receipts for their emergency kits. And, ironically, nothing I just listed was a task in the game.
I will answer one of the most common questions we hear….why don’t you have an app yet?
We did work with 2 programs in the past year that we thought might be promising. The statistical tracking is the hardest part of the game for us, but we never received any results that we felt met our desire to engage with our community. While apps can award points & badges, they require very sanitized or pre-programmed responses from players which can often be cheated or clicked through without any action. Many apps just don’t allow for the humanity of personal story-telling which prompts activity and can be way out of our price range (which is under $100 beyond staff time & effort).
So, we’re still looking for a statistical solution that would allow us to get a little more sleep at night. But, until then, we’re committed to the heavy lifting of encouraging community engagement. And while September is a rather crazy month for my team, we love every minute of listening to our community and seeing what happens. So, if you have any questions about our gaming experiences, we’re happy to answer them…..just wait until October 9th, okay?