Post written by Shahar Goldfinger

In the social media industry we have a well known phrase that’s been used so often it’s become sort of a cliché. The most common version is this: “It’s not the number of people you have on your page, it’s the amount of engagement that matters.”  While this point could be debated (but I won’t do it in this post) everyone agrees that engagement is the key to the future of social media.

Wait, future? Isn’t engagement already here? Well, current online engagement does exist, but is limited to the push of a button. However, we can peer in to the future of big social media by taking a look at a smaller social network. I am referring to the most engaging social network on the web, in my mind, which you’ve probably never used. ”But Shahar, you well endowed genius of a man,” you might ask, “what is this social network we’ve never heard of?”  Well, boys and girls, I’m talking about the most engaging social network on Earth. WOW.

WOW was not a word to describe what I just said (although it definitely does deserve a wow) it’s the name of the network itself.  WOW (World of Warcraft) is an MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game), loosely based on any fantasy film, book, or videogame known to man. In the game, your avatar (or profile picture, if you prefer) goes around the virtual world killing monsters and finishing quests (i.e. like us and participate in our campaigns), usually by being a part of a guild (group), interacting with other players and buying virtual goods (sometimes for real money).

So yeah, it’s a videogame, but it’s also a social network, and that brings me to my major point: It’s not the numbers, it’s the amount of engagement that matters (yeah, I know, I lied). WOW has a little over 11 million users, which makes it rather a lightweight in the social media biz,but it creates an ROI matched only by women in underwear. People are actually buying virtual goods for real cash, just think what brands can do with that. NIKE can sell limited edition boots of levitation, Coca-Cola can sell in-game healing potions – all as a part of their social media marketing campaign. Hell, Elite, a candy company in Israel, did the same thing with FarmVille. The ROI is so high because of one thing, the one thing that will change the future of social media and create engagement like nobody’s business, that thing, is Game Mechanics.

Game mechanics is the biggest engagement motivator there is. Don’t believe me? Just look at this one professor from Indiana who raised both attendance and participation among students by using RPG (Role Playing Game) like features (levels, quests, guilds) instead of traditional grades. Foursquare is doing it right now, with just a dash of game mechanics (levels, points, badges) it’s creating engagement never seen before. They actually got a person to go to the North Pole just for a badge.

So go off and get your likes and RTs, I’m going to kill a drago… I mean market research. I’m going to do some market research, that’s it.

Shahar has a Master’s degree from the University of Bowser in mushroom kingdom, as a result he is the only Israeli that can finish Super Mario 1 in 11 min 32 sec, very experienced in creative and new-media, internet and tech are his life, has recently successfully graduated from WOW rehab.