4 Social Apps that Turn the Mundane into a Game

by claire on September 12, 2009

I have discovered some new addictions I want to share with you.  Before I divulge, let’s look at a couple rules in creating a successful social app:

  1. Address a common problem
  2. Encourage interaction
  3. Give users a reason to come back

One of the oft overlooked drivers of success in the Social Web is: COMPETITION

Every game, be it sports or Monopoly, has an element of competition.  Humans, in nature, are competitive – hunt or be hunted, fight or flight, but even more than that, there’s an adrenaline rush that is just plain FUN that drives us to compete.  The competition is also rooted in our desire to be famous – that Inner Celebrity screaming to come out, no matter how much of a wallflower we claim to be.

So that’s where my new addictions come into play.  These 4 apps offer a chance for me to let that inner celebrity out a little, flex my game muscle, and satisfy my greater-than-most need for everything I do to be layered with adventure:

  1. Urbanspoon

  2. [my profile: @claire-hawley]
    urbanspoon-2urbanspoon-1

    Mundane Problem it Tackles: Stuck in that let’s-eat-at-Marix-for-the-4th-time-this-week rut.  Sure, we have our favorite haunts, but I live in Los Angeles – which is possibly one of the top 5 places in the world to try foods of all cultures, at both hole-in-the-wall joints and fancy-smancy spots imbibed with celebrities, so there’s no excuse for being a Food Bore.

    How it’s a Game: Get the iPhone app.  Grab a friend to keep you accountable (Hollywood Homemaker is one of my favorite gals to grab for this game).  Decide how many “shakes/spins” you’ll try – or just do one.  Then, shake away and choose the best of 3 (idea here is also to try places you’ve never been).  You have to agree ahead of time that you’re going to go to that place no matter what… so if you want to spend a little or a lot, or are not in the mood for Chinese, be sure to lock in what you’re in the mood for.

    Why I Keep Coming Back: Urbanspoon has a couple of cool features that keep me interested.  They have a wishlist – where you can add the restaurants your friends’ favorite restaurants.  This becomes a game in itself, as you try to check off as many of your wishlist restaurants as possible.  You can also upload photos and reviews straight from your phone.

  3. Waze

  4. [my profile: @eclaire]
    waze-1waze-2
    Mundane Problem it Tackles: Los Angeles traffic.  ‘nuf said… but in summary, Waze tackles the problem of predicting traffic and anticipating hazards in real-time, by using the GPS of your phone and relying on users to report the issue as they come across them.

    How it’s a Game: Users get points for driving and increased points for driving down roads that no one else has traveled – the car in the app actually turns into a Pac-Man-esque creature that chomps away at the points as you drive.  This makes it enticing to try and drive different routes, even in your usually mundane morning commute.  The downside to this may be that it encourages increased mileage and thus, doesn’t lend itself to being very green-friendly.

    Why I Keep Coming Back: There are a growing number of users of the app, and you’re ranked against others.  If you don’t turn it on on your phone, you’ll quickly see your rank decrease.  It’s still pretty new and the userbase, although growing, is still small, so the usefulness of it isn’t that great yet, but somehow I feel like I’m helping the greater good by using it, so as any good addict would, I turn it on every time I’m in a moving vehicle (including my scoot).

  5. Foursquare

  6. [my profile: @eclairebears]
    foursquare-1foursquare-2
    Mundane Problem it Tackles: Foursquare is a location-notification tool like Loopt, but it takes it one step further.  When you go to a place, you can leave a tip or a to do for other people, so it makes everything, from the trip to the grocery store to the raucous night out, a little more entertaining.  Plus, if you’re bored and unsure what to do for the evening, you may very well find a friend who’s out and join them.

    How it’s a Game: Like Urbanspoon, you can make a game out of reading other people’s tips at a location and doing them.  Also, you get badges for the different things you do.

    Why I Keep Coming Back: It’s fun to get new badges and to see how many points you can rack up – with a little effort to get out and go places, you can get to the top 100 leaderboard during the week.

  7. DailyBurn

  8. [my profile: @eclaires]
    dailyburn-1dailyburn-2
    Mundane Problem it Tackles: Counting calories and exercising in order to watch your weight.

    How it’s a Game: You can enter challenges or just challenge yourself to stay within a particular calorie range or do a certain amount of exercise activities.

    Why I Keep Coming Back: Actually, I don’t yet.  This post inspired me to look at several sites to see if any peeked my interest.  I think this is an area that still hasn’t been fully tapped for social apps.  For instance, DailyBurn.com has groups and challenges, yet the iPhone app doesn’t integrate them yet.  However, I’m going to give it a try and maybe join one of the challenges.  Speaking of challenges, I happened across a site taking a completely unique approach to it – Weight Loss Wars – which uses a money pool as the motivator for the challenge.

In conclusion, if you’re creating a social site, I’m living proof of what works – you have to make it fun, challenging and insert a dose of competition.  Plus, it’s important to make it available on a variety of different platforms, especially a cell phone.

So, friends, do you have an addiction to a social site you’d care to admit to?  Or, do you think there’s a gap or need out there that hasn’t been fulfilled by an existing app?

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