Badgeville turns any website into a social network

Gamification start-up Badgeville is celebrating its one-year anniversary with an ambitious new effort that looks to build a social network out of any website. Badgeville’s Social Fabric technology allows a website to quickly add a host of real-time social features that charts user behavior, updates users on their on-site activities and allows people to follow any piece of content or fellow users.

It’s reminiscent of Mashable’s Follow social layer, which was introduced earlier this year and allows users to follow particular topics or users and easily share content on social networks. Badgeville would bring many of those same tools to any website that wanted to improve social interaction.

Kris Duggan, CEO of Badgeville, told me the start-up has been trying to change user behavior for companies using game mechanics: things like leaderboards, points, badges and loyalty programs. Now, he said, the next step is to weave in social mechanics, which goes beyond just identity and incorporates real interaction and on-site behavior. Social Fabric will revolve around what Duggan calls a behavior graph that will allow users to see what others are doing on a site, what they’ve missed since they were away, and who is interacting with people and topics that a user cares about.

Sites that implement Social Graph will be able to offer users an activity stream for topics or people they follow. For example, if a friend liked an article or shared something, it will show up in a user’s activity stream. Users will also get real-time notifications when someone responds to their comment or interacts with them. Social Graph will also enable real-time messaging between users.

Duggan said with Social Fabric, social sharing goes up 100 percent, and user-generated content increases by 50 percent. Page views also go up 20-30 percent. Websites can start to enjoy some of the engagement that has made Facebook so sticky.

“We’re taking the elements that make social networks so engaging and we’re taking those components and allowing other sites to have those experiences,” Duggan said.

Users will be able to register their identity through Facebook, Twitter, Janrain or through proprietary log-in systems. Duggan said site owners will be able to configure Social Graph so users will be able to determine what gets shared. That will be an important feature, because not everyone wants to broadcast all their activities on a site. And people have to fully understand how their activity will be broadcast to people who follow them. But Duggan said over time, he expects people will opt for more transparency.

Badgeville, which has raised about $15 million to date, has about 85 customers including NBC(s cmcsa)(s ge), Deloitte Digital, The Active Network and, and more than a half-dozen are expected to turn on Social Fabric in the coming weeks. It makes sense to bring more real-time feedback and social interactivity to websites, since it deepens a user’s engagement with a site and with their fellow users, helps them find more relevant content and creates a richer community around a website.

It’s also interesting to see how Badgeville acknowledges that game mechanics need to be paired with social loyalty to really drive engagement. It’s not enough to offer badges and points, it has to be all done in the context of community. That’s what can prompt real behavior motivation: seeing game dynamics play out socially. We’ll have to see if publishers and websites jump on board with Badgeville, but it seems like a promising tool for many sites looking for better engagement with users.