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Not So Free To Be

Social media strategy and trends casino marketers should be watching

Not So Free To Be

In a recent Ascend2 report on digital marketing, respondents (marketing influencers) indicated that the most effective digital marketing tactics in 2018 will be social media marketing, with content marketing a very close second.

The results of the study may sound simple enough, but social media is no longer the easy, “free” channel marketers once thought.

The challenge is that Facebook, Twitter and the plethora of available channels are no longer nice-to-have places to push the latest promotion. Social media is now a necessity in our marketing plans, but as the medium matures, it becomes more difficult to increase the effectiveness of our efforts. According to Statista, 96 percent of businesses worldwide are using social media, and the U.S. is by far the largest social media advertising market.

Once thought of as the fun, easy-to-manage channel, it is now one that requires thought and strategy as well as resources and accountability. Lack of an effective strategy is one of the top barriers to successful achievement of goals (the other is budget). To be successful, you need to draw on experience, you have to plan, and you need to pay attention to details.

You must understand who your target is and how social fits into your plan to engage those targets. Toss vanity metrics (number of likes and followers) aside, as those do not necessarily equate to any sort of ROI if they are coming from an audience that is clicking away because they were simply entertained by your post. What you ultimately want your audience to do is convert by walking through your door and sliding their player’s cards into a slot machine—and if they aren’t, you should probably consider overhauling your social strategy.

As with all marketing approaches, there must be a clear understanding of the desired outcomes. You must realize that each tactic deserves careful attention. Creating compelling content for your social media channels is not only effective, but also difficult to execute if not aligned with your goals and objectives.

The type of content will vary if your goals are increasing website traffic versus increasing your audience size versus increasing engagement. Send the same message to everyone and you’ll find yourself wasting impressions. You should segment your social messages the same way you segment your offers.

In addition, the increased adoption of social media has driven a shift in the way consumers are using this channel. Savvy marketers will understand that adapting to these shifts could lead them to get ahead of the rest of the pack to engage customers in meaningful ways. There are some trends that seem to be leading the way: customer service, video, sponsored content and artificial intelligence.


At the Intersection of Marketing And Service

Social media isn’t all about brand promotion. Smart companies use their social media pages to interact with customers in fun, educational ways. They may even participate in conversations about recent events. By avoiding constant promotions, brands can make themselves seem like people who want to participate in the fun side of social media.

Customers are also increasingly using social channels as their preferred method of communicating with brands… and they expect quick, timely responses for everything from valid complaints to general inquiries. Let’s be honest: Who prefers to sit on hold, only to have an operator ask you to re-supply them with the information you entered during the initial, automated part of your call?

On average, 2 billion messages are being exchanged between businesses and customers each month via Facebook’s Messenger app. According to Facebook, 53 percent of people are more likely to shop with businesses they can message directly. Your call center agents can help you here.

Twitter may be stagnant in the growth department, but it is still crushing it in responses to customers. More and more customers are tweeting their issues, both good and bad. While the jury is still out as to whether this platform will go the way of MySpace, it’s important to stay on top of those messages.


Video and Stories

Facebook has stated that one in five videos shared are shared via their Live channel, and Instagram Stories usage went from zero in September 2016 to a whopping 250 million in July 2017. According to Hubspot, visual content is over 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.

The opportunities we now have for live video are opening a new, fresh way to communicate with customers and immerse them in a branded experience. Additionally, video and live stories allow for unscripted or off-the-cuff content that shows the human side of the brand.

Steve Olenski, a contributor to Forbes, notes, “Video content is gaining in popularity, and there are two main contributing factors. It’s highly effective and it’s no longer costly to produce. Today’s smartphones are equipped with cameras that produce high-quality 4K video that is comparable to expensive video equipment.”

Develop a plan that includes video, particularly real-time video which allows you to engage with fans and customers in an authentic way. The opportunities casinos have are endless. If you talk to your front-line employees, you’ll create a list of ideas that can take you through the year.


Sponsored Content

In the beginning, we simply had to create something and hit “post” to reach our audience. We didn’t have to think about relevance, much less buying our audiences.

“Prior to 2014, brands spent their resources building communities. After 2014, brands had to start spending money to reach them,” says ThinkTraffic Director of Strategy and Analytics Bjorn Talbot.

Today’s marketer has to be as savvy about social as they are about direct mail. The biggest challenge to marketers has been the decrease in Facebook’s organic reach in lieu of paid. While many continue to shake their fist at the unknown force that tinkered with the social media channel algorithms, the fact is you are better off focusing your energy on how to use the channel effectively. Using organic and paid posts together can actually improve your effectiveness. Think of your organic posts as the tools for long-term growth while paid posts are best used for short-term lifts.

Depending on the channel, brands can set campaign objectives—awareness, clicks, lead generation for B2B, etc. Targeting can be broad or tight depending on your needs and skill. Sponsored posts can be delivered on demographic, interests, keywords… even the television shows people watch or events they are likely to attend. Best of all, you can create custom audiences based on what you already know about your channel audience or database.

Social media advertising continues to grow at a rapid pace (some estimates put it at 20 percent per year). That pace is not going to slow down. The flip side of this stat is with the increase in advertising comes an increase in pricing. Facebook alone increased its pricing over 70 percent year-over-year in 2017. So, being smart about your messages and targeting becomes even more important.


Artificial Intelligence

Chatbots and artificial intelligence are no longer science fiction. From the pop-up you saw today on a website, to asking Siri for directions or asking Alexa to change the temperature set on your thermostat, artificial intelligence is now a very real part of our day.

A survey by HeyWire Business showed that “53 percent of consumers ages 18-34 said that they’d prefer to use electronic media—email, web chat, text or social—instead of the phone for customer support.”

Because they are quicker than human beings (particularly when providing data-related answers and taking requests), chatbots can efficiently provide 24/7 services. Facebook announced the “Bots for the Messenger” app at its annual conference almost two years ago. Today there have been over 12,000 bots created on the app.

According to Hannah Farrow of Sparxoo, “All you’ll have to do is send a message to a company’s chatbot and get an immediate response. There’s even a good chance that these chatbots will eliminate 1-800 numbers. Plus, as users crave immediacy and personalization, chatbots will become a handy resource.”

CRM has been one of the most important elements of a casino marketing strategy, and now it is also a tool that can greatly assist in social media.

The path is clear. The question of social media is no longer a question of “should we?” The questions are about how we use the channel to drive the business goals. But, we still face some challenges.

One of the biggest challenges when speaking to operators is that social has been siloed when it should be working hand in hand with all of the other marketing tactics. Customers see our operations as one entity rather than being made up of six or seven departments.

As you can see from the trends impacting marketers, there needs to be a free flow of information and cooperation with all elements of an operation. From customers looking for their favorite slots, information on restaurant times, and choosing between a visit to you or your competitor, the information they desire (even if they didn’t know there was a desire) needs to be available to them in a truly engaging fashion. Social media gives you the most flexible platform to do so. It goes without saying that marketing and technology must be in sync with an overall business strategy.