Social media case study: Crowdsourced crops and FarmVille in real life

Share Button
National Trust MyFarm branded bull

Courtesy of the National Trust

Most Facebook users will have heard of FarmVille, one of the most popular games on the social network, with almost 47 million monthly active users. And as social gaming has a massive following in the UK,  it’s interesting to hear that the National Trust have launched a real life interpretation of the popular FarmVille game.

The project, called MyFarm, hands over control of the real-life Wimpole Estate to online users, who then vote on all major decisions about running the farm. It’s worth noting that while membership is open to anyone, it costs £30 to sign up for a year, perhaps as a way of ensuring a level of commitment from members.

As the experiment aims to improve education about food-sourcing, their is the potential for families and schools to join in the debate. The project will accept up to 10,000 “farmers” and is actively driving recruitment through Facebook and Twitter.

It seems that MyFarm aims to eventually become an online community as the site has been seeded with blog content and they are using a community manager to liaise between the virtual and real life farmers. Discussions will be held after voting to reflect on how and why a decision was made, and at least one major decision is expected to be voted on per month. There is already a promising amount of high quality video content available, and I hope that be more produced as a great way of giving engaging feedback to the farmers, as well as showing how their online decisions have affected the real world.

While the site includes The National Trust branding in the main banner of the site, the call to action for signing up to the National Trust is featured well below the fold of the website-potentially a wasted opportunity to promote membership to the main charity. Perhaps it has been designed this way to reduce diversion from the primary aim of signing on farmers.

The first vote will open on May 26th and the National Trust aims to reach 10,000 farmers within 3 months. I hope that they are successful in reaching this goal, as the experimental and educational value of this project is exciting and it will be worth keeping an eye on to see how things develop.

Share Button

How charities are using virtual gifts on Facebook to raise money

Share Button
DIY Gift Tag
Image by Someday I’ll Learn via Flickr

Virtual gifts are big business. Even in its earlier days, many people on Facebook were paying money to give their friends virtual flowers, and Farmville makes a great success out of selling trees and sheep to people to gift to others as part of the game. What we have learned is that people are willing to pay money for virtual objects, and even more so when they are gifts to other people. Seeing this trend, many people are tying to explore ways to integrate virtual gifts into their social media strategy as a way to make money. Few are doing this successfully but as with many examples of successful social media there is much we can learn by looking at how it is being used in the not-for-profit sector.

Imagine that rather than spending £2 to buy your friend a bunch of virtual flowers, you could spend £2 on a virtual badge for your charity of choice. It would post that charity’s branding and logo on your friend’s Facebook page (and thus in the newsfeeds of all their friends) and the £2 would actually be a donation to that charity. This is the simple, but effective, idea that is JustGiving gifts. This app lets you show your support for a particular charity by buying a virtual badge for a friend. So, for example, if you wanted to show your support for Breast Cancer Care you can send your friend (or indeed yourself) a branded badge and a message about the charity and the work that they do. And when you buy the badge you pay a £2 donation through JustGiving for the virtual gift and are given the option if you choose at that point to set up more regular giving to this charity.

Its a simple idea but a really effective one that builds on the behaviour we are seeing in Facebook and in social media more broadly:

  1. Users like badges as ways of showing their allegiances - in recent user testing work we did at FreshNetworks we explored why people ‘Like’ things on Facebook. One reason that was popular with many is that it was a way to get a badge on their profile showing their interests and what support. If you are a fan of Arsenal Football Club, for example, one reason to ‘Like’ them on Facebook is that it will put an Arsenal badge on your Facebook profile showing your allegiance to this cause. The virtual badges given by the JustGiving gifts app do just this - they are a way of friends showcasing what they care about and displaying their allegiances on their profile
  2. Badges offer a way of highlighting particular updates - in the same testing we found that users like adding things to updates and messages on Facebook as a way of making theirs stand out or to add extra value to it. On a birthday, for example, they might add in links or photos in their ‘Happy Birthday’ Facebook wall posting. This is a great opportunity for this charity gifting as adding in a virtual gift adds the extra value to such birthday or other updates that users are looking for.
  3. This virtual badges capitalise upon the connections in Facebook - these virtual gifts are a great example of using the connections between people in Social Networks - when I send my friend a Breast Cancer Care badge it will not only tell her all about the work that they do, but also my friends and her friends. It is a good way of sharing and spreading the message about the charity and makes good use of the social network features of Facebook.

Perhaps what I love most about the JustGiving gifts app is that it is a simple solution that really works with the trends we are seeing in how people are using social networks and virtual gifts. They have not just seen that people are spending money on these kind of gifts but really explored why and how. It’s only by exploring and really understanding how users are interacting in social media that you can start to develop a social media strategy that will really bring you value.

Share Button