I.B.M. Uses Gamification to Encourage Offline and Online Connections

Find out how the tech giant used a game to drive engagement at its conference.

By Mitra Sorrells February 4, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

Game participants at I.B.M. Connect earned points for offline activities, such as building the tallest Lego structure, as well as online activities such as sharing conference content on Twitter and Instagram.

Photo: Oliver Heinz

Social sharing has become the norm at meetings and conferences, encouraged by organizers looking to extend the reach of their events through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks. In the midst of the push to share things digitally, it can be easy to lose sight of the value of facilitating face-to-face connections among attendees. At I.B.M. Connect, which took place January 26 to 30 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel, organizers promoted both in-person and online interaction by creating a game that awarded points for both types of engagement.

“We want people to meet each other, because once you make that in-person connection you can do so much more online afterwards,” said Colleen Burns, I.B.M.’s influencer relations strategist.

To encourage interaction, organizers assigned participants to one of four teams and created activities that required them to work together, such as a Lego-building competition the first night of the conference. Designated team tables in the conference dining room also created an opportunity for people to get to know one another. While attendees could earn points for online activities—such as posting on Twitter and Instagram with the event hashtags—they earned even more points for offline activities that required participation at the conference. For example, participants earned five points for a tweet and 10 if someone retweeted them, but they earned 25 for attending a book signing or 50 if they submitted a comment about an I.B.M. product in the event's design lab.

“We are driving people to the activities that we are placing a level of importance on. We’re actually adding value to things people are already doing at the conference,” Burns said. “And we wanted everyone to participate. Sometimes people just aren’t inclined to tweet about something, so you want them to still feel they are driving the game and the engagement.”

I.B.M. awarded daily individual prizes and one overall team prize. Organizers reported a 66 percent increase in mentions and retweets using the #IBMConnect hashtag compared to last year, and 73 game participants earned a trophy for achieving more than 25 retweets in one day. The game's design and operating system was created by Bunchball.

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