Badgeville, developers of an embeddable gamification platform that helps websites increase audience engagement, has just launched several new features it calls Social Fabric. Clients can now pay more to add personalized activity streams and a notification system to their websites.
Similar to Facebook’s news feed and notifications, the features show users relevant suggestions about what webpages to visit based on the behaviors of their friends and people similar to them, and alert them to actions such as other replying to their comments. To make these suggestions more compelling, Badgeville augments the activity stream entries with Facebook Open Graph protocol meta data that sites have added to their pages, and identifies a user’s friends and interests by piggybacking on Facebook registration.
Through Social Fabric, Badgeville lets websites integrate of the most engaging mechanics used by Facebook to drive more page views, conversions, and time-on-site. With more flexibility for data collection and display, Badgeville is now a competitor as well a complement to some of Facebook’s social plugins.
In just a year since launching, Badgeville has found success in assisting web publishers with increasing traffic. It now has 85 customers including NBC, Universal Music Group, and Orange telecom, has done $5-10 million in sales. Its team numbers 35 and it raised a $12.2 million Series B round in July bringing it to $15 million in total funding. The company says it clients experience a 25% or greater increase in user behavior.
Badgeville founder Kris Duggan tells us his company “isn’t walking from gamification” that formed the core of the product we reviewed last year. The Badgeville platform still allows sites to reward points, reputation, spots on leaderboards, and badges to loyal users. Instead, its layering the social graph over gamification such that users stay engaged not just because they’re formally rewarded, but because it’s easy to discover content vetted by their friends and people with similar behavior patterns to them while they earn these rewards.
Duggan explains that currently, sites that integrate Facebook plugins are focusing too much on the interest graph and not enough on what he calls the “behavior graph” — what people are actually doing rather than what they say they’re interested in. Badgeville lets sites track and/or display what visitors read, review, or purchase, “not just that a friend Liked a site’s Page three years ago, not just that they shared something.”
In this way, Badgeville is looking to replace Facebook’s Activity Feed and Recommendations social plugins that only report explicit behaviors of users. With 2.5 million sites having already integrated Facebook’s free plugins, its logical to assume there’s a premium market waiting to be addressed.
Now, sites who license Social Fabric can select which user behaviors they track for internal analysis, and which the surface through the activity stream and notifications. For example, it could show an activity story whenever a friend visits a URL on the site. That Page’s title or headline can be determined by crawling its Open Graph protocol meta data, which Duggan says 80% clients already have in place. Clients can also decide what actions trigger notifcations, such as comment replies or that a friend commented on the same page.
There are some privacy issues Badgeville will need to be careful with. Surfacing explicit actions such as shares or comments isn’t a big deal, but users might not want what they read or purchase shown to their friends or strangers. Duggan says that Badgeville advises clients, but doesn’t have an privacy messaging set up to accompany its widgets with disclaimers that inform users as to what will be published.
He says he doesn’t see privacy flare-ups harming Badgeville’s reputation as “we’re just the infrastructure”. But if a client gets slammed for publishing to a user’s friends that they bought an embarrassing product or read a controversial article similar to Facebook’s ill-fated Beacon, you can expect some backlash and dropped contracts for Badgeville. Therefore, the ability to display privacy warnings should be a high priority for the company.
Facebook is known for its massive time-on-site and reengagement metrics, which in part stem from the engrossing nature of the news feed and notifications, but the social plugins it currently offers can’t track or report as much data as sites might want. Using Badgeville’s flexible platform to inject the social graph alongside these mechanics into their own content-rich websites, clients may be able to inspire similar engagement by ensuring users always have relevant suggestions of where to click next.