How clever operators are using social to speak to customers

How clever operators are using social to speak to customers

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Social media is a perfect way of engaging an audience, but operators need to be cautious

The World Cup took place earlier this year and caused quite a sensation - the World Cup of Crisps, that is, a competition run on Twitter by British TV personality Richard Osman over the Easter weekend.

In asking the Twitter audience to whittle down 48 snack contenders in a series of groups stages and knock-out rounds, Osman’s search for a winner under the hashtag #wcocr2016 attracted over 1 million votes and countless retweets and articles. It even attracted the attention of Betfair which published odds on the eventual winner (Monster Much Pickled Onion flavour if you were wondering).

“You only have to look at the World Cup of Crisps to see the potential reach of social media,” says Alex Drummond, betting pools operator at Colossus Bets. “It is unparalleled as a marketing channel when aiming to engage the maximum amount of people, for the minimum cost.”

Not everyone can hope to capture the zeitgeist in the same manner as Osman. But the potential offered up by the engaging and fast-moving nature of sports gives sports-betting operators an opportunity to leverage interest and turn it into player sign-ups.

“Sport is such a massive deal in everyone’s lives,” says Ross Paterson, community manager at specialist social media marketing agency Pilot Fish which has previously worked sports-betting and gambling operators including 10bet and RealDealBet. “There is so much more for fans to learn. The statistics are so readily available. Nowadays, you have hours upon hours of reading, videos, podcasts."

Ed Nicholson, head of UK marketing and PR at Unibet agrees. “The great thing about a gambling operator being on social is that we can tap into consumer trends when it comes to betting, but also dovetail that approach with the emotion, affiliation and passion of sports fans,” he says.

But just knowing a content-thirsty sports audience is out there is one thing; being able to harness it is another. The hard part is being able to cut through the noise, says Paterson. “There will always be someone who wants to use your product, who wants to hear your views and wants to read your content,” he says. “But it’s about finding those people efficiently.”

Crimson Hexagon is another social media marketing agency and head of EMEA marketing Liliana Osorio points out that the “key with all things social is to understand what people care about”. “Before starting a campaign or a conversation, sports-betting companies should listen to what players are saying,” she adds. “What do they like, when they like to play, how have their preferences been changing over time.”

It is also about doing more than just the obvious, says Drummond. “Bland score updates and free bets don’t engage customers and they contribute little when it comes to differentiating your brand in a very congested space.”

Colossus Bets’ own efforts have centred around its own free-to-play football predictor game FreePlay6 which allows players the chance to win £1m every week. It comes with a ‘tweet my bet’ option that encourages continued use by offering free entries for future competitions. “Our primary aim was to boost acquisition figures and in the three months following the release of FreePlay6 and ‘Tweet my bet’, our average monthly sign-ups were up 650% compared to the previous three months,” says Drummond.

Similarly hoping to engage with the audience is Unibet which runs live-price boost campaigns on Twitter allowing customers to vote on which player they would like to see boosted in the next goalscorer markets which a match is in-play. “These have been hugely successful,” says Nicholson. “If a bettor feels he or she has been a part of the odds-compiling process then they are more likely to engage with the brand and ultimately more likely to place that bet.”

This last plays on one of the most important aspects of social media. It is a two-way conversation between the brand and the customer. “If you are honest with your users, through social, and you have a personable tone of voice and content that they enjoy, then that’s what you should be aiming for,” says Paterson. “Create a community of people who are loyal, then they will always come back to your product.”

All are agreed that if there is one company which has managed this feat it is Paddy Power. The company declined to participate in this article, but the other respondents were full of praise for the company’s efforts to date. Paterson says the company has a “brilliant tone of voice” while Drummond at Colossus Bets is similarly impressed: “Paddy Power is a league above when it comes to social,” he says. “Many operators struggle to perfect their efforts into one social media platform yet Paddy Power have been able to conquer multiple platforms, ranking number one for Facebook shares, Twitter retweets and YouTube subscribers.”

Yet as Paterson says, Paddy Power’s marketing and PR efforts can often be “close to the line” and he warns against operators believing that in a social environment apparent flippancy should be anything other than well-considered. Going viral can be a positive thing, if you have the sure touch of a Richard Osman. But it can also have a negative side. “For me, what should be happening is that you should never post a post which puts the brand at risk,” says Paterson. “Social is a fantastic tool but it can also totally destroy.”

Social media is binary. Negatives can travel just as fast as positives and users know it. “The public are now aware that the quickest way to resolve any issue is by raising it on social media, since operators want to avoid a messy resolution that could have adverse effects on their brand’s reputation,” says Drummond.

Community management plays a vital role, says Paterson who suggests operators need in place 24-hour-a-day support to answer queries and issues as they arise. “Markets are open 24-hours a day; so if I have a support problem at 10pm, and I get in contact and don’t get an email back until tomorrow morning, then I could have lost out on a lot of betting activity.”

Totally Gaming says: Paddy Power is obviously doing something right when it comes to social media but those following in the company’s wake should beware thinking that it is easily replicable. Clearly, a strategic plan is needed with full support. There is a fine line to be towed between boring followers with bland offers and being too controversial.

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