Cornerstones of successful social media programs in gaming
As I page my way through various casino industry conference programs, digital marketing seems to be an ever-present topic of panel discussions.
While most of these sessions seem to agree digital marketing is a universal need, the jury is still out on how best to accomplish this task and how to be truly effective at it, specifically as it relates to social media.
As marketers, we’ve rushed to establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. We Periscoped for five seconds. Anyone remember Meerkat? Is Snapchat still a thing? The choice of communications channels continues to grow and change. So how do you develop the correct approach? How to you develop a solution that is scalable, flexible and responsive?
Like all effective marketing programs, it starts with strategy, infrastructure and measurement.
If there is one word more misused than “strategy,” I don’t know what it is. Strategy often seems to be interchangeable with tactics, but I’m here to tell you the two are not the same. Since so many are unclear about the true meaning of strategy, I’m not surprised that they struggle with development of a proper strategic plan. Every post, response and comment should align with an overall strategic business plan.
The most important step to setting up such a social media plan is to truly understand the overarching goal of the strategy. That is the engine that will drive the company growth. Social media is just one part of the engine, and like an engine, each business effort is a piece that fits in a specific way; if you force pieces in, you’ll find the engine won’t run. In other words, a social media strategy must work in conjunction with all other business efforts within the company… if all the parts are running independently you’ll never arrive at your destination. Take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and hone your piece of the engine so it drops easily and properly in place.
Once you understand the strategy, you can start to develop some social tactics. For instance, if the business strategy is growth by expanding into a new market, your social media plan could include developing relationships with influencers in that market or creating posts that drive top-of-the-funnel traffic from that target market.
Tip: when you speak of your plans, try saying “to (insert business strategy here) we’re going to (insert social media plan here).” If the sentence makes no logical connection to the strategy, go back and rethink your tactics.
Many businesses have approached social media with a “why not” attitude… “Since it’s free, let’s see what happens.” The truth is that we all rushed to establish a social media presence. We chased social media solutions with little care to any sort of plan or infrastructure. Now that these platforms allow us to market in much smarter ways, we need to understand the infrastructure we should have in place in order to maintain as well as grow our efforts.
I recently had a chance to speak with the vice president of marketing at a casino. She mentioned the concept of “digital kindergarten,” and how important a step it was to their success in the digital space. My version of this kindergarten involves the following elements, which you should review as you develop your social media infrastructure:
Understand the parameters. Carefully review policies and procedures as well as regulatory requirements.
Truly understand the goals and objectives of the company and those individual department goals that align with the overall vision. The social media team is the new face of the business. It’s important they have a proper understanding of what is going on enterprise-wide.
Culture Check. Success means your social media efforts are more than checking a box; it means cultivating a social mindset. Is your company “built for social?”
Tools and technology. Active listening means identifying the right tools that capture conversations, track trends, hashtags and mentions in real-time. It also means delivering that information to the proper resources for quick response. Recent studies have shown that 32 percent of customers who attempt to contact a brand, product or company through social media expect a response within 30 minutes. 42 percent expect a response within 60 minutes.
Develop a pipeline of content. Social media marketing requires a pipeline of content and assets as well as curation (which is very different from sharing). There are a variety ways to curate content. When you are thinking through the curation process, you must prioritize content that mirrors your brand and advances your strategy. It’s the same old story of quality over content.
In many ways, you will subconsciously be judged by what you post, whether it’s your original content or something curated from a third party. Think about your images and how you can create a signature for your brand. Try this exercise: take all the images you’ve posted to social media in the last 30 days. Place them side-by-side at the same size. Do you see a signature or is it just a collection?
Staffing. It’s fair to say that we’ve gone beyond the point of just dropping social media into the advertising or PR duties. The skill set is different as is the creative and time requirements. Do you have room for added FTEs?
MEASURE MORE THAN TWICE
Measurement has been the lifeblood of the gaming industry, but it seems we still struggle with justifying our media efforts—advertising, public relations and social media, to be specific. To justify your efforts in these areas you need to understand their impact… with no measurements, you essentially close the door on any opportunities to improve.
In the past, we used to chase fans, followers and likes to satisfy social media measurement requirements. These are often referred to as “vanity metrics;” they look great on graphs as the numbers grow. But are they meaningful to the business?
My point of view is that measuring website traffic, signups (or subscribers if you are a B2B marketer using newsletters) and social shares can be tied to your sales funnel (if you’re a B2B marketer) and to revenue. Communications efforts can impact revenue. I know that is a bold statement and many of you may disagree with me. But I would argue that opinion is because as “soft-skilled” marketers, some of us have lagged behind in understanding how the two tie together. Therefore, our efforts have not been wisely implemented. Here is why a deeper dive into measuring results is a good thing:
- Monitoring website traffic is a smart and simple way to hold your marketing team (and outside vendors) accountable. A simple click of your Google Analytics can tell you the story of where your traffic is originating, the engagement level of your visitors and the effectiveness of your content.
- Sign-ups for both your players clubs and newsletters provide you with the power of your owned media. I talked about that in the October 2016 issue of Casino Journal. Additionally, as we look to move more of our database marketing into digital, it is even more important to drive subscriber growth.
- The power of your social media efforts is not in the beautiful images you create or the number of likes you get. It is in your followers sharing your content to their networks. This third-party endorsement is the difference between talking to a handful of people and broadcasting your message.
As you can see, social media isn’t as “free” as we once thought… it takes time and effort to get it right. It is important to have these three elements of strategy, infrastructure and measurement in place so that your programs can grow and create revenue opportunities.