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What Works

How online marketing and social networking can attract real players to your casino

What Works

In the first article of this series, published in the October issue of Global Gaming Business, the goal was to begin exploring the world of social media and how it will impact the gaming industry. In this second article, we are focusing on the question that most everyone is asking: “What works?”

The question for businesses today is no longer, “Do I need to have a social media presence?” The questions are now, “What should our social presence look like?” and “What works?” In a recent survey by the Center for Media Research, respondents said they are more likely to engage in social media marketing than direct mail, TV, radio and print.

There aren’t any straightforward answers to these questions. Social media marketing, just like most other forms of marketing that preceded it, is not one-size-fits-all. Countless factors should be considered while planning to launch (or re-launch) a social media campaign. Many of these factors are the same ones that marketers have looked at for years: target demographics, geographic location, income, propensity to travel, etc. Just as it has always been, if you don’t know who your customers are, it is much more difficult (and expensive) to market to them.

The principal changes social media bring to the table are in the areas of personalization and customization. As online marketers, we caught a glimpse of what was on the horizon a decade ago; online publishers began to offer display (or banner) advertisers the ability to target their audience in ways that had never been seen before offline. From geo-targeting to selecting the time of day that ads appeared, this was the beginning of a whole new world of targeted advertising.

Fast-forward 10 years, and today we have the ability to place ads on Facebook which target people whose hobbies may range from frequenting nightclubs to playing poker to shopping at luxury boutiques-all things that should be of interest to a marketer of a luxury Vegas resort. Note the screenshot above from Facebook Advertising for an ad group targeting males over 21 with relevant interests including poker and nightclubs.


Does your property have an online persona?
People (another name for our potential customers) usually like to interact with people like themselves and/or with people whom they find interesting or funny. A key challenge to social media marketers is to identify which traits would be appealing to the target audience and then create a personality for the property (or casino or resort) centered around those traits.

As marketers, we used to think about what we could put in our magazine and newspaper ads that would appeal to our universe of potential customers. With social media, we need to take numerous steps to create an entire persona to be the face of our business on social websites. People will follow (and hopefully interact with) your property because they enjoy the comments, information, offers, links, content and everything else being put forth by the person managing your social accounts.

Now, you do not need to create some off-the-wall character to be the voice of your property online. However, you do need to be sure that the person managing your social media accounts can interact with followers on their level.

Think of it this way: Those who opt to follow you on Twitter or friend/fan you on Facebook are effectively saying, “I care what you have to say.” And we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the actual person whith whom your followers are developing a relationship is the person you have managing these channels.


It requires a balance ofpersonality/marketing points.
People decide to follow a business for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is because you asked them via on-property signage or on your website. Others, perhaps, because a friend or colleague told them about the great offers or entertaining banter that can always be found on your Facebook page. Still others find themselves on your social sites when they are considering a visit. Our challenge as marketers is to make sure we put forth balanced content so all of these different audience members find what they are looking for.


Staying Relevant
There are two pretty straightforward goals of any social campaign: Build a strong audience base and keep that audience base loyal. Countless articles and strategies are out there for building an online following, but not enough marketers are concerning themselves with the strategies needed to retain those followings.

People should find interesting and insightful conversations about your property on your Facebook page. They should be able to get a sense of all the different venues of your property from your YouTube channel. (Yes-you should have a YouTube channel!) The internet allows us to experience things without having to be there, and that fact lends itself incredibly well to our industry.

People want to know what the action is like in your poker room, how hot the pool scene is on an August weekend and what the food is all about at your signature restaurant. Not everyone cares about each of these things, but there are subsets of your current and prospective audience that do care.


Willingness to evolve is critical.
In an online landscape that is evolving faster than most of us can keep up with, it is critical that whoever is managing your social presence stay current with what is happening in the space. From knowledge of the most popular (and current) tools of the trade like TweetDeck and Posterous.com to the many industry insights that can be found daily by reading Mashable, it is the online marketer that focuses on continuing education that will stand out from the noise.

Like anything we do in business, we should have a plan of action before commencing. Social media are no different, and any good campaign will start with a strategic plan and a media calendar. And just like with any other plan and calendar, things will inevitably go off plan when implementation time comes around. Because of the constant change in the social media landscape, the likelihood of going off plan is increased. It is difficult to predict which new social networking site is going to catch on or which new video trend will take off.

A key part of the willingness to evolve lies in the ability to listen to and move with your audience. In this new world where there is two-way communication between marketers and customers, it is critical to listen to, understand and embrace the direction to which your customers want you to move.


Listen to your customers, and engage in two-way communication.
How many times have you been seated at a conference room table, attempting to dream up a prize to make a contest compelling to your current and prospective customers? Or tried to figure out what promotion would generate the highest conversion rate if blasted to your database (or an appropriate subset of said database)?

Instead of postulating as to what will resonate with your target population, why not ask them? Whether you have 100 followers on Twitter or you’re the Wynn Las Vegas (follow Wynn at twitter.com/WynnLasvegas) with over 330,000 followers, if you ask them, they will answer. Imagine you are seeking buy-in on a promotion that you came up with by bouncing ideas off of your following. Instead of telling management that you want to do this promotion because you feel it will work, you can say that in discussing various ideas with your followers, there was a clear consensus that the third-night-free promotion would be the most compelling offer to them.


Be aware: There is someone on your property tweeting right now.
Think about this statement for a minute: There is someone on your property tweeting right now.  If your property is a Las Vegas resort with thousands of rooms, a dozen F&B outlets and multiple shows, it would be pretty safe to say that there is someone tweeting about one of those restaurants or one of those shows every day.

Now think about the opportunity that this creates for us as marketers. If the customer’s tweet was an endorsement of the show, you should make sure that you respond and thank them for the compliment. Better yet, imagine the compliment was about a specific performer in the show. Reach out to that performer and see if they have a response they would like to tweet back to the customer for the entire world to see.

The simple point to “there is someone tweeting in your property right now” is that the two-way communication path which is enabled by social media provides for countless opportunities to promote positive comments, respond to negative ones (and resolve when possible) and provide real value and recognition to your customers. Remember the old adage-people like to feel like they are being heard!


Paying for Social Media Stars
One new trend we are starting to see emerge on the social media landscape is really just a 21st century version of the good old-fashioned “celebrity” endorsement. The difference today is that instead of utilizing a known celebrity from the worlds or TV, movies or sports, social media marketers are enlisting online celebs (YouTube stars, top bloggers, etc.) to drive their followers to special events or blog about exclusive promotions.

To some social media purists, the concept of paying for coverage might seem to go against what social media is all about. Someone who is a businessman first and internet marketer second will tell you that if something is both ethical and  makes good business sense, then there is usually a reason to do it. Let’s suppose you want to have a strong turnout for an opening of a new wine bar at your property. Now suppose there is an online group of wine enthusiasts in your town that is led by a local wine expert. Wouldn’t it make sense to compensate that leader to get his group of enthusiasts to turn out for your opening?

The next installment in this social media series will be diving much deeper into the specifics of what has worked and is working for resorts with a specific focus inside the Las Vegas market. From viral video to the most successful online contests, stay tuned for an in-depth analysis of the State of Social Media in Las Vegas.

Justin Cohen is a partner at Internet Marketing Inc., a full-service online marketing consulting firm that focuses on assisting its clients with interactive marketing and strategic planning to increase online exposure, improve conversion rates, and help businesses grow revenue and profits. Cohen manages the firm’s Las Vegas Gaming and Hospitality office and oversees all aspects of the company’s business operations in the Southwest and mountain regions. He can be reached at [email protected] or 702-835-6986.

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