Casinos need to up their game when it comes to rolling the dice on social media's 4 R's - Reputation, Relationships, Recommendations & Reach. While a tad behind the curve, casinos are catching up with the hospitality industry at large with their management of social media initiatives. Today, there are platforms, tools and marketing techniques that can help create a customer experience that can distinguish a casino brand from the pack, while exceeding traditional marketing results.
The guest service consulting firm Robinson & Associates, Inc. recently conducted a study of casinos involvement in the social media space and found that operators may not know the extent to which their reputation is at stake as customers communicate on the Internet about their less-than-stellar experiences at gaming properties.
“Casinos need to pay attention because their reputation, their relationships with customers and their bottom line are at stake,” says Martin R. Baird, chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates. “If general managers worry about what guests are tweeting about their property, well, they should hold onto their hat. There’s a lot more going on out there than they realize.”
The report goes on further to instruct casino operators to apply the same technology guests are using, and gain real-time customer feedback to stay ahead of the the social media commentary curve. "Casinos must know what guests are thinking and feeling as they are thinking and feeling it, not days or weeks later after they tabulate comment cards and surveys," adds Baird.
Few businesses are as well positioned to benefit from the incredible marketing power of social media as large casino resorts. With thousands of guestrooms to fill, myriad events taking place and a constant stream of promotions geared at attracting customers, sites like Facebook,Twitter and LinkedIn are ideal avenues to generate business.
For the Riviera Hotel & Casino, a Las Vegas Strip icon, the advent of social media offers a particularly important opportunity—to re-energize its brand identity and reach a younger demographic than its client base of the past. To that end, Riviera has recently begun working with Flip.to, a new social media marketing platform that turns guests into a hotel's strongest brand advocates, boosting brand awareness by engaging a pool of future guests and earning the hotel more booked room nights.
Flip.to's interface with the hotel's booking engine engages with guests immediately after they confirm a room online. Here, they are presented with the Riviera's branding message and an incentive to motivate them to communicate with their friends and followers on their social networks (i.e. Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn). In this example, once the guest has tweeted or updated his status, he or she is entitled to earn "$10 free slot play," which is redeemable upon arrival.
Communicating with guests at this optimal time is called "magnetic marketing." Differing from "push" or "pull" marketing, it is when the brand meets its customer while they're both traversing the "same wave length," at point of sale. This connection between buyer and seller is their strongest bond because of the common interest that exists between the two parties at this moment in time.
The average hotel guest has 130 Facebook friends, 300 Twitter followers and 60 LinkedIn connections. Because most consumers inherently trust the opinion of people in their social network far more than advertisements or marketing messages, that equates to a large number of friends, family and colleagues that are primed to be receptive to their contact's hotel recommendations. Flip.to taps into that sentiment, transforming guests into a huge, enthusiastic and trusted marketing force.
Traditional hotel marketing campaigns generate only about 2-3 percent return on engagement, but by offering incentives for participation, campaigns initiated by Flip.to’s social media marketing platform typically have ROE rates in the 15 to 25 percent range.
Furthermore, Flip.to is superior to other social media initiatives and apps in that it integrates directly with a hotel's booking engine and website, so that it’s a seamless part of the hotel’s brand with a uniquely personalized experience for each guest and each of their social connections. Flip.to has found that participating hotels have experienced a return on investment of least 10 times, and some properties have seen ROI as high as 66 times.
“For the Riviera, Flip.to is a natural extension of its new-found emphasis on social media engagement,” says Anthony Bender, the resort’s vice president of marketing and advertising.
“We have a significant number of visitors booking online daily, and so it makes perfect sense for us to engage them and expose their social network followers to the Riviera as well,” Bender says.
“Flip.to is an easy way for us to have real guests providing a positive endorsement about us to their social networks, allowing us to reach potential customers that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.”
In just its first month using Flip.to, Riviera has already generated substantial business as a direct result of the platform’s enhanced brand advocacy. More than 250 guests representing a 14.3% engagement rate took advantage of Riviera’s Flip.to incentive offering just for posting about their upcoming stay.
“Flip.to is a true win-win for us and our brand advocates,” Bender says. “It’s not just about getting the person who books hooked up with a nice perk, but it’s also putting the offer out to their social network to get it, too. It’s a simple way for us to say ‘thank you’ for getting the word out there, while Flip.to's real-time analytics and comprehensive tracking allows hoteliers to easily view how much business is being delivered via social media.”
“The platform also identifies a hotel’s top social media mavens—those guests drumming up the most traffic and bookings—making it easy to give special VIP treatment to the customers who have earned it, ” adds Bender.
MGM Resorts International has launched a program called "M life" that enables casino patrons to access their loyalty accounts and earn rewards via social media. The Venetian and The Palazzo casino hotels released their new VP Pocket Concierge™ app this past week, featuring the hospitality’s latest “wayfinding” technologies that are fully integrated with social media.
Bill Hornbuckle, CMO for MGM Resorts, said, “Through these strategic marketing relationships, we’ve enabled M life to identify and reward engaged members, whether they are at one of our resorts or interacting with us on their mobile phones and social networks. These new relationships enhance members’ travel experiences, recognize their loyalty and reward them for it.”
With platforms and programs such as Flip.to and M life, casinos will not only be able to push the 'social media' envelope, they have the opportunity to enhance their guests offerings, while improving their brand reputations, extending their reach, increasing their guest's positive recommendations and creating relationships that are meaningful and engaging for both the brand and the customer. And as an added bonus, they can accomplish all this while reaping the reward of exceeding the old school results of traditional marketing.