Social media has been on the mind—and drawing boards—of every casino marketer for the past several years. When you can touch hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of customers and potential customers on a daily basis, it’s a marketer’s dream. But for the first couple of years, casinos struggled to utilize this channel effectively, and there were few examples to emulate.
Marketing firm Masterminds, based in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, just outside of Atlantic City, has been monitoring and utilizing social media channels for years, and last year noted a real uptick in the sophistication and effectiveness of casino campaigns in the U.S. As a result, the company decided to launch the first annual “Sherpie Awards,” named after its in-house “Social Sherpa” team.
“We noticed that the casino social media landscape has been changing dramatically and that it continues to do so,” says Nancy Smith, CEO of Masterminds. “Our team decided it was time to recognize and publicize the work of these innovative casino marketing professionals who are blazing new trails, so we created this award.”
The Sherpie Awards honor the most creative and notable uses of social media in the U.S. gaming industry. Masterminds studies casino tweets, posts, photos, videos and promotions. The Social Sherpa team then created seven categories that highlight the wide variety of social media programs possible. Masterminds did not include any of its own clients in the competition, to maintain fairness and the integrity of the process.
“The winners have truly embraced the power of social media and successfully integrated it into their marketing strategies,” says Smith. “We hope that these awards will inspire even more casino marketers to recognize the true potential of this exciting communication channel, and that we see even greater creativity in 2011.”
Masterminds and Global Gaming Business magazine will soon announce the deadlines, categories and parameters of the 2011 awards.
Best Fan Engagement on Facebook
I.P. Casino Resort & Spa • Biloxi, Mississippi
I.P. is always cooking up new and creative ways to get fans involved on its Facebook page. Just some of the casino’s contests from 2010 that brought great responses are “iPads are for Nerds,” “Show us Your Jackpot Face” and “NYE Resolutions.” These promos not only encourage user-generated content on the page, but also increase interaction as fans comment on their favorites.
Harrah’s – “Who’s In?” Trip Giveaway, various locations
It’s nice to see a casino family working together for a common goal. Harrah’s latest “Who’s In?” Trip Giveaway on Facebook helps promote five Harrah’s properties at the same time by letting fans enter for the getaway of their choice through a custom application. By working together cooperatively, this promotion increases their reach and effectiveness, and drives traffic and buzz for all of the casinos involved.
Most Engaging Use of Twitter
River City Casino • St. Louis, Missouri
Size doesn’t matter—it’s about the conversation. River Cty Casino certainly understands Twitter and knows how to communicate to its audience without being too pushy or promotional. This casino’s tweets are entertaining but genuine. It shows that officials are interested in relationships with their customers and care about their community. They recently participated in a Holiday Tweet Drive as well, which showed their committed involvement with their community.
Best Use of Social Media for Customer Service
The Mirage Resort & Casino, Las Vegas
This casino does a fantastic job catering to both happy and unhappy customers on Twitter and Facebook. This brand is on top of it, and is quick to respond to customers, whether it is to offer tips, or put out fires. Customer service may not always be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about social media, but it is one of the most important aspects of building a strong community for your brand—especially for a casino.
Best Integrated Social Promotion
MGM Grand Las Vegas – “Get-A-Life Giveaway”
Casinos run countless themed promos, but how often does the contest tie directly into the brand? MGM Grand’s Get-A-Life Giveaway accomplished exactly that, by asking people to submit videos essentially showing why they have no life—and rewarding them with a fun “Maximum Vegas” getaway that will hopefully give them something to talk about. The videos themselves were entertaining and worth spreading, which drove further traffic to the promo itself, and to the casino.
Most Viral Campaign
Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Las Vegas – “Phamous”
Chances are you’ve seen the “Phamous” flash mob that Planet Hollywood hosted on-property, using six YouTube influencers to create and leak this trend-tapping video. Then you may have seen the official “Phamous” music video that was unveiled several months later—again, shot entirely on-property and becoming an instant hit. But while the success of these videos may have happened overnight, the strategy behind them was carefully thought out, making PH Vegas truly Phamous in its own right.
Best Social Media Event
Tropicana Atlantic City – “Fan Appreciation Day”
What do you do to drive traffic to your casino during a typically slow period in the gaming industry? Turn it into a holiday and give away prizes to your fans that they can only redeem on-property. The Trop’s “Fan Appreciation Day” took place December 3, and the casino promoted it for a solid month beforehand, giving away rooms every week and tons of other on-property comps. This created significant buzz among Trop’s social media audiences, and best of all, made them feel like a valued part of the brand’s community.
These are the winners, but there are many casinos out there active on social media channels, and doing a pretty good job at it so far. So in recognition of those efforts, here is a list of other notable users. We look forward to great things from each of them in 2011.
• Barona Resort & Casino, San Diego
• Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Hollywood, Florida
• Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Biloxi
• Lumiere Place Casino & Hotel, St. Louis
• Monte Carlo Resort & Casino, Las Vegas
• Harrah’s St. Louis
• Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Masterminds is a full-service advertising agency specializing in the travel, leisure and gaming consumer. Casino clients include MGM Resorts International, Penn National Gaming, Pinnacle Entertainment, FireKeepers Casino and many more. Masterminds and its client, Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, earned the 2010 AGA Award for Best Social Media Campaign. To download a full copy of the Sherpie Awards report, visit www.masterminds1.com