The internet has transformed the rules of the overall marketing world. A marketer has to transform marketing strategies to make the most from the web-enabled ideas and technologies and this includes social media and social networking.
The trouble with any discussion about social media and social networking is the vague definition of either term. In discussions with some marketing executives, I have found that some marketing executives do not see a difference between the two terms. If you search the terms social media and social networking, thousands of definitions come up and all the definitions between both social media and social networking intertwine and overlap.
Social Media is an ever growing and evolving collection of online tools, platforms and applications. Social Media provides a way for people to share ideas, content, thoughts, and relationships online. Social media differs from so-called “traditional media” or “mainstream media” in that anyone can create, comment on, and add to social media content. From Wikipedia 2008, social media was defined as the online technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives with each other. Social media includes blogs, wikis, video and photo sharing and much more. Social media also includes travel review sites, restaurant review sites, and any site where people can exchange opinions.
Social Networking is a sub-set to social media. Social networking occurs when people or businesses create a profile and interact to become part of a community of friends and like-minded people. The most important part of this definition is the word; interact. To this day, there are many casino companies that still use social media and social networking as a medium of advertising and do not engage a conversation with the audience.
Many casino executives that I have discussed social media marketing with have said that their marketing plans have very minimal objectives in social media because of the many issues that can arise from using social media. One issue I hear from many casinos that is a major concern is a story (good or bad) going viral, which ultimately impacts the public perception of the casino, its offerings and the brand. Despite the potential for negative public relations, the marketing opportunity from social media is such that all casino operators will eventually have to engage in social media and not just use it as an advertising medium. Most people associate social media with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, but it is so much more. To reiterate the definition from above, Social media also includes web sites such as Foursquare, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, blog sites, photo sharing sites – literally hundreds of places where people, including casino visitors, share news and opinions about their experiences. Whether or not a casino operator says they are not going to get involved with social media, more than likely their business already is because it is being discussed on a social media site.
Operators need to know what their customers are saying online. There are a lot of online tools to use to listen to what is being said online about your business. For instance, you can do things like Google alerts as a tool to find what people are saying about your business, your hotel, your restaurants, your games or any number of parts of your business. It helps with finding out what is being said about your business and also helps to find out where your customers are talking about your business. The key is to establish keywords such as property name, name of restaurants, promotions, entertainers, etc. Just because Facebook is the #1 social media site, does not mean that is where your customers are talking about your business. They could be talking about your business on review sites or in blog postings. Using the right online tools can help you find your customers and where your business is being talked about.
Providing the right content on the right social media site and engaging with the customers is only part of the equation. When negative postings appear, the casino operator has to know how to react. Deleting the negative posting should not be an option. It will only lead to a social media crisis and can escalate to epic proportions in minutes, because the negativity will grow from not being addressed and will keep appearing on other sites and blogs. When a crisis management plan is put into place by casino management, it needs to have an entire section dedicated to social media. Every casino company should have a social media policy, not just for the marketing department and customer service staff, but for the entire company because most of the employees at a casino are on social media. Every department in a casino is impacted by social media and needs to be prepared to address issues that may arise on social media that pertain to their department(s). Sometimes complaints are legitimate and the casino operator should take advantage to improve the product and / or service. Address the complaint in the public forum. Always remember, if it is a complaint that cannot be validated, or needs to be addressed with a customer on a personal level, take it offline by addressing through email, phone or in person, but let the public know that it is being addressed.
Like any form of marketing, social media takes a lot of thought and planning. Social media creates opportunities for casinos to solidify relationships with their best players, but it does come with risk as social media can also expose a casino operator’s weaknesses and mistakes. Exposing weakness and mistakes can also create opportunities for a casino operator, as long as the operator has a good social media policy and social media plan in place.