A few weeks ago, we shared part of our conversation about the battle for digital attention from Casino Marketing Boot Camp. Digital marketing expert Justin Shank talked about how marketers are constantly struggling for the attention of existing and target customers, the challenge of creating great content, and, more importantly, how we can make a case for digital marketing when you’re fighting for budget dollars.
Today, we are sharing more of that very valuable and enlightening conversation.
Before the pandemic, we started a private Facebook group for casino marketers. We envisioned it as a place where casino marketers could use each other as sounding boards or share great ideas. During the pandemic, it grew faster than we ever imagined, even drawing international counterparts.
Private groups provide a way to share exclusive content and create camaraderie. Some casino operators have created similar private communities by inviting players club members, giving them direct access to the decision-makers at their properties.
Shank recalled working with a property trying to manage costs while not disenfranchising their higher-worth guests. It is an ever-present quandary for casino marketers: how do we encourage repeat visitation without buying the business? “We had to work on new strategies,” shared Shank, “The way we discovered some of the solutions was by having these private group conversations with customers.”
How can you take advantage of this opportunity?
Twitter is a channel we tend to use for listening purposes, but poker players and sports enthusiasts (i.e., bettors) are very active on Twitter. Not only do they look for the valuable content they can reshare, but they are also on the lookout for tips that can give them an edge.
This is the type of content they consider valuable. (Note the emphasis on what followers value rather than what marketing values.)
Shank advises casino marketers who are trying to grab more of the attention of these types of casino customers to work in that channel. He also encourages marketers to look outside of the department to maximize their efforts. “Perhaps help comes from the personalities that you have in your poker department or maybe from someone who can speak well to the sports betting fan,” he noted. “Sports betting has its own language, and so does poker.”
Shank recalled his start in the casino industry. “I had to learn a new language and a lot of the games. I spent a lot of time walking the floor talking to our dealers, slot techs, our slot director, and others on the operations teams. The conversations lead to the discovery of content that could be developed to engage customers. I really started to find a lot of value in just listening and asking questions.”
Strategy and Tactics
As always, strategy is essential. Shank says, “We do not see very many places that have specific social media strategies. It’s usually a part of the marketing strategy and often a bit of a throwaway line item that” somehow made it into the plan. More often (and unfortunately), it can look more like a resizing of traditional advertising concepts posted to social channels.
In the Casino Advertising Masterclass that I co-host with media planner and strategist Adele George, we talk about having both a media strategy and a messaging strategy. As casino marketers, we seldom have the time to think like this. Most of the time, we see marketers responding to a need: I have a promotion. I need an ad. I need this and that. As a result, we often settle on a message and resize and distribute it through all channels.
We should take a breath, sit back, and ask, “How does this fit into X or Y or Z.” Only then can our communications truly resonate because we are considering the mindset of the target while they are in a specific channel.
Shank agrees, “We should have a plan for each channel, even if the plan is that a particular channel is not the right fit.”
Ultimately your social media strategy and plan need to be in line with the overall organizational goals.
Let’s say your property is a standalone casino and will do something as significant as a rebrand or capital-intensive such as building a new hotel. You’ll want to shift your strategy to take those significant changes into account. The life of the project must be mirrored in your plans.
But small changes such as converting an existing food and beverage outlet into something new or introducing new casino games also require a shift in what we are doing.
The bottom line is that it is essential to be in the loop of your property plans when creating your social strategy and planning the creation and gathering of content.
We need to understand each platform, along with the resources we have. This type of review can aid us in prioritizing one channel over the other in the same way we assess traditional media channels. Shank advises you to ask the following for each channel you use or are considering using.
- Are your players in there?
- Do you think you can make a splash in the channel?
- Do you have the resources to be able to manage that platform properly?
Identical or Unique Approaches
One of our resource-strapped attendees asked about replicating posts across their various social channels during our Boot Camp discussion.
Shank recommends a similarapproach to creating a strategy – understanding the road ahead. Step one is to have a general strategy – the direction you would like to take with social media. From there, you should evaluate each platform. Consider the number of followers and subscribers that you know on each platform. Then start to identify the data points you want to consider signs of success and how you can move the needle. An in-depth analysis will help you get the buy-in and resources you need.
Resources and Support
We would love to do everything and use every channel, yet most of us wouldn’t consider self-producing a television spot because we either do not have the bandwidth or the skill set. It is reasonable for us to ask ourselves how we will develop and produce great social content and continue to listen and engage with fans and followers actively.
Also critical is to have executive and team support. In my conversation with casino marketers, it is rare to have both. Getting each requires a different approach.
For executive support, marketers must be able to connect the social media dot to the revenue dot. A great starting point is in website and channel analytics combined with careful crafting of posts. Being able to show likes and engagements only brings us halfway to our goal. Posts need to create an intent to visit and then ultimately a physical visit.
For team member support, we must create excitement around the application of a social media strategy. Team member resources can be an undiscovered gem. Do you have a bartender with a tremendous on-screen persona? How about a slot tech that has the inside scoop on the best machines to play? We all have stars in the making in our ranks. They know the guests, but more importantly, the guests know (and like) them.
Shank adds, “Sometimes we’ll bring those people in to be a part of creating a property’s strategy.” “We’ll do things like filming team members once a month (or week),” he continues. “We tell the story of the team member and let them introduce the property happenings.”
Team members can aid you in the creation of original content as well. Shank Marketing will often search team members that may be drone hobbyists or amateur photographers. He tells the story of a
security guard that would come in before his shift started at 4:00 am to take a simple sunrise photo. “It was a remarkable view of the bay with the islands,” recalls Shank. When the call went out for content, he raised his hand and instantly became a part of the social team.
Who is responsible for measuring success?
There is a saying. That which gets measured gets done.
Likewise, that which is appropriately measured gets budget.
Much like you can recruit amateur photographers to your social team, you can recruit some analysts. Get their support to monitor and measure your efforts and in the production of meaningful reports.
Understand what metrics align with standard reports and business goals so that you can illustrate how you are reaching your goals and creating value.
It comes as no surprise the brand guidelines need to be a part of your approach to social media. Very often, graphic standards are developed with traditional communications channels in mind. Only recently have we seen social media included.
While platforms tweak and adjust their photo and video specifications, one thing that remains very constant is our brand language has to “fit” the channel, or more accurately, the audience’s mindset.
Tonight, study one person in your household. Watch what they react to and how they navigate messages on the many channels they use in one night. You will quickly see how our messaging MUST adjust appropriately. It is easy to cut and paste. It is wiser to edit and post.
ABE: Always Be Entertaining
We must never forget we are marketing entertainment destinations that provide an escape. Even considering current constraints, some casinos have managed to create events that provide the escapism our core audience craves.
Social media is a great platform to extend that entertainment value. Experiment with live streams that allow players to interact with you.
Be creative. Have fun in social in the same way we do on our casino floors.
Our properties are in constant change, whether that is adding amenities or a new slot machine.
New promotions and events.
Every change is an opportunity to create a social moment.
Building relationships with other departments is essential in knowing what tools you have to work with and creating the exciting posts your audiences will pay attention to versus just scrolling through and ignoring.
Whether you are part of your social media department or not, follow your property and others in various channels. This has the added advantage of being able to spot trends that you can leverage.