Several months ago Yair emailed me about something I had written on Bill’s Poker Blog. We ended up exchanging a lot of insights and ideas though there were some key things that he and I had entirely different views on. It’s difficult for most online gaming personnel to exchange ideas and openly discuss certain topics because it’s such a hush-hush world.
When I heard through the grapevine that Yair had decided to move on from Playtech I popped him over an email and asked if he wanted to write a guest post on the site. I thought it would be interesting to hear someone other than myself rambling on about the industry :-)
Anyway, Yair agreed and so with the introductions out of the way . . .
Poker sites should have it so easy. Poker is a social game, and the whole world is moving towards social content and advertising. And yet a look at the social strategy of the large poker sites reveal an almost blind spot. Pokerstars are head of the pack (as always), but their efforts revolve around a very active Twitter account (linking to a poker league), and a handful of facebook pages. Full Tilt fall behind with twitter and facebook accounts which have an occasional tweet or post. All sites seem to do the minimum necessary, but don’t think outside the box, or create a real integration with social networks.
A successful poker social strategy is not about having twitter and facebook accounts (although they are crucial to have). It’s about making sure friends can play together and by themselves. It’s basically making sure the software and marketing bring home games online. Home games have retention factors online poker would kill to have. These days, when organic poker traffic is hard to come by, and the recreational players get eaten up too fast by the grind on the tables, sites should encourage friends to play together and without outside players should they want to (and no – the refer a friend programs are not even close). My friend list shouldn’t appear on a buddy list (which is a fish list for most players), but through the linking of my facebook account to my friends. The buddy list is in addition to that and should reflect my “online poker buddies”.
Using the social sphere for marketing is a given for companies large or small. A look at the brands which have shifted a considerable chunk of their marketing spend towards social marketing reveals startups as well as traditional blue chip companies utilizing the viral potential of the new internet. Ford decided to launch the new “Exporer” by announcing it on facebook, rather than the traditional car shows. Gap used foursquare (a leading geo-location service) in order to boost traffic during a one day sales event (with great success). Even the muppets are reviving their good ol’ days by releasing new videos on YouTube, which have brought them scores of views, and reminded the world of them.
So why is online poker so slow to adapt? Why do sites do the minimum necessary? Good questions. Sites spend millions on SEO, and yet do not divert any real marketing spend to social. One thing is for certain: in today’s world differentiation is rough. Every site gives you an option to play with celebs. What if I just want to play with my friends?
This is a guest blog by Yair Panet, an independent consultant to gaming companies, focusing of acquisition, retention, marketing and social strategies. Yair has filled several roles in the online poker industry, most recently head of poker for Playtech. You can follow Yair on Twitter here