Are you confused about what role social media can or should play in your overall marketing strategy? If so, you’re not alone.
Most casinos have been “dabbling” in social media. You know your customers are online in social communities, so now you have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Foursquare pages, YouTube channels and Pinterest boards. But often these efforts are more or less “ad hoc,” and lack a clear vision of how they fit into a casino’s overall marketing efforts.
Well, the dabbling phase has ended. As casino marketers, we recognize that our customers and prospects are getting more and more of their information through these channels, and casinos are building critical mass in these communities. Many casinos now have more than 50,000 Facebook fans—some even have more than 100,000 fans. With success like this, the impact and potential of our social media efforts is growing exponentially.
Aligning social media strategies with your overall casino marketing objectives is the first rule for using social media effectively, but it often isn’t done. Your social media manager needs to be aware of your key marketing objectives, and those objectives should be guiding their social media initiatives and daily activities. Social media is a powerful resource that can help you meet many of your marketing goals.
Let’s look at some ways you can align your social media strategy with the key marketing objectives of brand awareness, customer service, lead generation and brand affinity.
Increasing Brand Awareness
Social media is a great way to elevate the awareness of your brand, your products and your offerings. Most casinos are doing this today by keeping their social communities updated on their latest casino promotions, amenities, restaurant offerings and entertainment. Done properly, you can create awareness not only among your existing brand fans, but also among thousands of potential customers at little to no cost.
Reaching new prospects is accomplished when your fans engage with your messaging, also referred to as content. Engagement is defined as liking, commenting on or sharing your messaging. Social media, after all, is about people being “social” and sharing information and content they think others will find interesting.
We like to think of social media as word of mouth on steroids.
The simple act of a fan or follower interacting with your content exposes your messaging to others. Every interaction a single fan has with you on Facebook has the potential to expose your brand to approximately 140 other people—the average number of Facebook friends each person has. For this reason, how your messaging is crafted is very important. To increase the reach of your messaging, it should encourage engagement by asking for a response, or by being valuable, unique or entertaining enough to share.
Social Media is in many ways becoming the new customer service call center. And you’re on duty 24/7/365. If your customers have a question, they are less likely to call you about it these days and more likely to turn to social media for answers and information. If they want to know what time the band begins playing, they might send you a tweet. If they want to know if you are offering a Mother’s Day brunch, they’ll check out your Facebook page or post a question.
The good news is, when you respond to one customer’s question, compliment or complaint through social media you are not just responding to them, but you are providing that information simultaneously to many others who may have the same question. And, the more often you respond to customers in a timely manner, the more often they will turn to these forums for the information they need.
Just as importantly, customer service in social media is about responding to customer compliments and complaints. And just as if you were to receive a call or letter, these compliments and complaints must be acknowledged in a timely manner, which in the social media world is within hours, and the sooner the better.
Unfortunately, we often find that casinos don’t know how to gracefully handle customer feedback, particularly negative customer feedback in social forums, so they ignore it and do nothing.
Except in very rare instances, it is totally unacceptable to ignore a customer’s complaint or compliment in your hosted social media communities. It is akin to hanging up on a customer when they call, or throwing a letter they send in the trash. And in social communities, it’s not just that particular customer who knows how the situation was handled; so do the thousands of other members in that community. Over time, handling online complaints in a positive manner has exponential benefits, and handling them poorly will have negative consequences.
And when you do get positive comments, don’t let them go to waste. Every time someone posts something positive about your property online, remember that this is your chance to engage them in conversation. Ask them what their favorite thing was at dinner, how their luck was, or even when they plan on coming back for another visit.
The more you can get them talking, the more their “word of mouth” endorsement of your property will spread across the web. Try it, you’ll see. It works.
Additional guidance for handling customer compliments and complaints in social communities:
• Be timely
• Be human
• Be genuine
• Acknowledge the customer’s feelings
• Always say thank you and I’m sorry as appropriate
• Guide the conversation offline if it gets complex
Of course, social media is a two-way street, and sometimes you want specific feedback from your customers. Most social media forums are perfect for just that. Just ask a question, and within minutes you’ll have information you can use. In some cases, social media can supplement or replace more traditional customer surveys and focus groups. There are many low-cost apps available to help you run polls and surveys from your social communities.
Traditionally, when thinking about lead generation, casino marketers tend to think along the lines of retail promotions, headliner entertainment and special offers tied to new club membership. Today, casino marketers should add social media channels into the mix. Social media has proven to be a very cost-effective way of reaching qualified prospects.
A well-developed social media strategy should include strategies specifically designed to increase your database of fans and follows. Social media databases are especially powerful, because they are the only databases that, when engaged, continue to grow organically and exponentially. The bigger and more engaged the database, the faster it will continue to grow on its own.
Acquisition strategies include, but are not limited to: special content development; influencer outreach; social promotions; and Facebook ads. Fan and follower acquisition strategies should then be combined or followed by social strategies to capture email addresses and to encourage property visits and membership in your players club. With carefully crafted social media strategies, you can build your social media databases, email databases and players club membership, and drive trial to your property.
Increasing Brand Affinity
The holy grail of all casino marketing activity is, of course, to drive additional trips and capture a greater share of wallet from all players. Social media can help you meet these objectives by strengthening players’ relationships with and affinity toward your brand.
Loyalty programs have probably consumed more of our time and effort as casino marketers than any other casino marketing program. The weakness of loyalty programs is that they focus almost entirely on creating “loyalty” by tying customers into expensive benefits programs—benefits that can easily be matched or exceeded by competitors.
Building brand affinity through social media focuses not on monetary benefits (although offering some from time to time is good) but on strengthening customers’ positive feelings about the brand and their relationship to others in your brand’s community.
For this reason, it is important to humanize your brand voice in social media channels. Social media is no place for corporate rhetoric, regurgitated advertising messages or PR speak. For the traditional casino marketer, it may be helpful to think of these social communities as online player development parties, because that is, in fact, what they are.
All the same rules of etiquette and engagement apply online as would apply at a brick-and-mortar player development event. No hard selling. Be a good listener. Be charming and entertaining. Be likeable. Be human. Be someone that your customers and prospects can relate to and will want to interact with.
Social media communities not only give your customers a way to easily interact with you, but perhaps just as importantly, they provide a forum for them to interact with like-minded people. As we all know, for most people, the act of going to a casino and gambling is a social experience, especially for our regular customers. They look forward not only to playing but to interacting with other players they see on a regular basis. Having vibrant and active social communities provides a way for your customers to interact, not only with you but with your other customers, while they are not on property. This interaction strengthens the bonds customers have with each other and enhances the importance of your property in their lives.
How to Calculate your Facebook Engagement Score
When talking about Facebook objectives, we often stress the importance of increasing the engagement level of your fans. It’s an important indicator of a healthy Facebook page. But exactly how can engagement levels be measured and tracked? There’s a simple formula for that. And you should use it to establish benchmarks and track improvement. Simply go to your wall and look at your “likes” and “talking about this” numbers located near your icon. Take the number of people “talking about this” and divide it by the number of “likes” your page has, and voila—you have your engagement score.
According to Social Media Examiner, healthy Facebook pages have engagement levels between 1 percent and 5 percent. As you can see in the chart below, several casinos are far surpassing that average.
There are many ways your fans can interact with your page to increase your “talking about this” number, thereby boosting your engagement levels:
• Posting to your page’s wall
• Liking, commenting on or sharing a page post (or other content on your page, such as photos, videos or albums)
• Answering a question posted
• RSVPing to an event
• Mentioning your page in a post
• Phototagging your page
• Liking or sharing a check-in deal
• Checking in at a place (if your page has a place merged with it)
• Interacting with an application
Not only can you measure the engagement levels of your own Facebook page, but you can also compare it to the engagement levels of your competition.