Online Poker Needs an Attitude Adjustment

Again, just like yesterday’s post, The Value of Free, today’s post is partially inspired by Kim Lund’s great post Why was five years ahead of its time. And it’s also inspired by questions Michael has asked in The Value of Free. Specifically Michael asks:

Another excellent post on a much discussed subject. I am really struggling to understand why I am reading so many blog posts by you and others on this subject and yet I can see so little happening in the poker rooms!!

The executives at Stars and Tilt maybe able to sit back and relax as they have the volume (although I would never recommend it) but I can not understand why every other site is happy just to sit back and apparently do nothing when in reality a good creative idea can be relatively cheap and if successful can produce huge rewards.

I cover some of my thoughts on this in Why Affiliates Will Always Trump Online Poker Rooms. Part of this is how they’ve approached marketing. Most of the largest online poker rooms have become branding companies. They’re establishing a brand and gaining more and more of their new customers via their own marketing efforts.

The problem is that most of the people running online poker sites come from traditional marketing backgrounds. They think old school. For instance, when I heard that AlCan’tHang had been hired by Full Tilt I was somewhat surprised. I know Al. I’ve raised (ahem) a few drinks with the guy. So I mean this in no disrespectful way when I say that he’s not exactly corporate-friendly. He’s a character. A guy with a personality that comes through in everything he writes. I don’t even think it’s possible for him to write the bland, boring crap that most poker sites spew out and call marketing copy (maybe he can, Al, but please don’t).

I was surprised because this is a huge departure from the cookie-cutter, SEO friendly stuff that poker rooms try to produce. Here’s an actual personality. Someone people can love or hate (I side on the former).

I remember at Party when I took over as the poker room manager I made a plan to become more accessible on 2+2. We had gotten such a bad rap for not listening to players that I wanted to bring something new to the table. So I went on 2+2 and announced my intentions. And I was warmly welcomed by the courteous members of the site. Just kidding. I got flamed mercilessly.

But I held my ground. I took people’s suggestions and fast tracked them through the system and they saw the results. Many were stunned that I was actually someone who could get stuff done. But some things I simply had to say “no” to because they weren’t in the company’s best interest and I was firm on those issues. And I would explain my decisions in very clear details even if it meant admitting that we had to make some money.

Pretty soon when someone would come by and slag me off or take a personal pot shot at me the other 2+2 members would jump on them and defend me since they knew that I was sincere in wanting to help. By not being a corporate shill, by actually delivering on my promises, and by openly talking about things, I had gained (some) people’s respect.

But I also remember how bad of an idea many people within the company thought this was. They reasoned that it would only invite complaints and I might slip and say something that I shouldn’t. This is old-school thinking. Hide from the customer.

And social media is exactly the opposite of that attitude. It’s about having a personality. It’s about promoting your brand even when you’re not promoting your brand.

Can you imagine if the head-tweetmeister for a poker site randomly ran across some no-name blog where some guy was complaining about getting bad beat by some guy who called three bets pre-flop with 93o [see Kim’s linked to article for the reference] and you wrote a tweet with a link to the guy’s blog and offered a $1000 freeroll for anybody who sends you a screen shot of themselves playing 93o?

Which do you think makes your brand look better, an inside joke with your Twitter followers like the one above or spamming another freeroll tournament into your Twitter feed?

But I can just see the hand wringing this would result in at many online poker rooms. “Did you run that by legal? What if we get sued because we’re promoting playing bad hands?” “$1000 freeroll? Hmmm . . . we gotta see which budget that should come out of and we need the BI guys to run some numbers to make sure that we don’t lose our asses on this (usually coming from a guy who spends millions every month with traditional media and has no way to measure results).”

That’s not a policy change. That’s an attitude change. As Kim says in his post “You’re a human being. Act like one. Talk like one. React like one.”

Social media is about so much more than just Twitter and Facebook. It’s about an attitude that embraces your customers. It’s about not being afraid if they criticize you and actually welcoming the feedback so you can fix what’s wrong.

That’s the reason so few online poker sites can do social media or anything I mentioned in yesterday’s post. How can you really get creative about providing value if you come from a mindset that’s stuck in the old-school way of thinking? If your attitude is that social media is just another broadcast medium where you constantly barrage people with offers until they click you’re simply not understanding the medium even on the most fundamental level.

It’s time for an attitude adjustment in online poker.

2 thoughts on “Online Poker Needs an Attitude Adjustment”

  1. Thanks for a great response. I am obviously naive. I thought that the people who have successfully built various online poker brands, which to be honest is still an impressive feat, would be clued up enough to understand exactly what they have to do to stay ahead in the modern internet world. The fact that people such as yourself, F-Train and others keep on point this out should tell them that this is something they really need to address. Surely this is the very basics of business.

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