Gamification is an ingenious strategy in which game mechanics are applied in non-game situations; for social brands, it can be used to increase engagement and encourage fan interaction. Recent multi-layered campaigns by Skittles are an excellent example of social gamification in action.

Skittles had a large social media audience on Facebook, but needed to increase engagement. Thanks to the viral nature of Facebook posts, where fan posts are displayed not only on the brand page but in the newsfeeds of friends, gamification is also a good audience building tool.

Skittles Mob the Rainbow uses social gamification to engage fans.

In order to activate their fans, Skittles planned a series of campaigns designed to spur Facebook fans to take part in real-life, physical events. In February 2010, they launched their first “mob” initiative. You might recognize their rainbow theme from television commercials and print ads; Skittles carried this theme over to their social gamification campaign with “Valentine the Rainbow.”

That first campaign encouraged Facebook fans to send a Valentine’s card to a meter maid, who isn’t much loved the rest of the year. That week, over 43,000 fans sent cards to Skittles’ designated recipient meter maids. A van covered in Skittles stickers carried a cupid playing guitar to serenade the meter maid and deliver the cards. Of course, a film crew was on hand to capture the display.

Skittles held a poll to ask fans what they should do next, putting their audience firmly in the driver’s seat. The Skittles Gifting Tree mob was born. A real tree was decorated with hundreds of packages of Skittles for passersby to enjoy.

Another popular mob event saw Facebook fans submit 100,000 Likes in order to qualify one lucky student for a $10,000 scholarship. Yet another resulted in the crashing of an 85-year old women’s birthday party, with hundreds of birthday wishes from Skittles fans.

Participation in each mob ranged from 40,000 to 144,000 people and Skittles were able to increase their Facebook fan audience from 3.5 million to 9 million in just 6 months!

Their continued commitment to interactive campaigns designed to employ game mechanics on Facebook has resulted in the growth of their following to over 25 million people. In 2012, their interactive agency EVB won bronze in the Facebook Studio Awards, judged by Facebook’s Creative Council.

Have you seen social gamification by brands in action? Share your stories in the comments!