This year, I’ve listened to a whole bunch of conference sessions on new media in gaming. Facebook. Twitter. Foursquare. iPhones. Text messaging. It sounds almost too good to be true: “It’s so incredibly cheap! … You reach so many people, plus the social networks of those people! … It’s the only way young people communicate nowadays!” Except, I’m not buying all of this - yet.
From what I’m hearing, the average casino spends less than 2 percent of its marketing budget on new media tactics. Heck, a casino spends more than that on bungee cords for slot club cards. So what gives here?
First, let me confess my biases. I’m an old guy. I don’t carry a Blackberry. I can navigate the Internet, but by no means am I a wizard. I’m on LinkedIn but rarely use it. Same with Facebook. And I just found out what Foursquare actually is.
But then, too, I’m not an idiot. I can see this new media thing coming like a freight train. I see the waves of young people communicating on mobile devices in parsed words as they drive cars and nearly bump into me on the sidewalk.
Yet through all of this new media revolution something continues to gnaw at me. And I think I would categorize it as this: Decisions on new media marketing in the gaming industry are being made by casino marketing executives who are getting younger and younger on behalf of core casino customers who are getting older and older. Or to put it more succinctly, I see a generation gap in casinos (even smart ones) moving aggressively into new media.
There, I’ve said it, a “Generation Gap”.
Now, generation gaps have always been around. In music. In clothes. In leisure activity choices. In language. And now we see it in communication choices. Young people Tweet, and old people still go to the mailbox. And, yes, I know that it is all slowly changing and seniors represent the fastest-growing segment of Internet users. I just think casinos are not paying enough attention to this generation gap as they plunge wildly into strategies involving new media.
I have heard some very smart new media experts give strategic advice to the casino industry in the past year. Their suggestions have varied, but I would categorize the overall messages as incorporating one or more of the following:
1) Start playing around with social media as a marketing tool and see what you learn.
2) Investigate successful new media strategies from other industries and copy them as appropriate for the gaming industry.
3) Hire a smart new media executive for your casino marketing department and develop a strategy and make a financial commitment now before your casino falls behind successful new media first-movers.
What I have not heard from any new media expert yet is the advice that “You should gather information from your key customer groups (and non-customer groups), listen really hard, and attempt to understand their current and potential usage of new media communication vehicles.”
Maybe that’s too simple. But if it’s a sound strategy I guess you’d need to ask these customers some good questions, like: Do you Tweet? Would you respond to a Twitter offer from us? Do you text? Would you respond to a text message from us? What’s your preferred form of communication from us? Are you more likely to read an e-mail communication or a direct-mail communication? Do you share casino information with your Facebook friends?
Then if you’ve asked good questions of the right customers (and I am not suggesting these are the only questions to ask), then you will certainly have gathered a body of useful information about social media. You might even have your customers and potential customers rated on a “social media savviness” scale. You might develop a list of those willing to receive new media communications right now. You might know who will never use new media tools. You might start to figure out if new media can augment your direct-mail communications or even replace them.
If you’re like me you’ve probably been amazed by all this new media stuff and certainly more than a little confused by what you should intelligently be doing with it to help your business. And when I’m confused I do two things: I try to simplify, and I try to listen to my customers. I believe that’s what you should be doing if you don’t want to have a casino Facebook page that no one reads or text-message offers that are only redeemed by 20-somethings with little gaming value.