There can be little doubt that social casinos and social poker rooms have become hugely popular. While the debate of whether the traffic on these verticals can be turned into higher grossing ‘Real Money Gaming’ players still rages, Sean Ryan from Facebook recently said that the lifetime value of a social casino player was around US$500.
It cannot be denied that a new audience has been engaged with the mechanics of how to play poker and how to play casino games. This really begs the question why has sports betting shunned engaging in cultivating and growing a social audience that could potentially be millions of sports enthusiasts making connections with their sports betting verticals.
One explanation could be that sports betting operators by their very nature are quantitative beings, operational and management teams are driven by metrics that can be filtered and communicated easily throughout their operational chain. These numbers are really the grease and cogs that drive a sportsbook. Operators are set to drill down performance numbers and aggregate their customer base into specific category types – VIP’s, mid-level players, first depositors etc.
Social games reward and engage users using more personalised methods such as status, achievements, influence, trust and dedication. These are factors that cannot be turned simply into blunt measurement instruments; they require qualitative and quantitative analysis in order to understand where the individual fits in the game’s wider arc.
As we have seen with the success stories in social casinos and poker rooms, monetisation is achieved once the player fully trusts, engages and deems the game to be worthwhile entertainment. The theory is no doubt harder than the practice.
Marrying sports betting and more socially engaged traffic has to be the aim of social betting, not just any Facebook or Twitter users, but rather fully-fledged socially engaged traffic that values its social status and its digital output – The kind of user who meticulously tweaks an online profile and persona for the whole world to view. Social betting has designs on becoming the reward mechanism for this traffic.
This ‘reward mechanism’ is vital if social betting is to harness the potential of a younger generation of gamers used to a constant flow of feedback. In video games, Microsoft’s achievement points and Sony’s trophy system provides users with an acute awareness of their technical prowess and their skill level in relation to other players. This drive to provide constant feedback and show a degree of differentiation between good, bad and average players has proved to be a crucial cog in motivating gameplay. It is visible in social games such as Farmville or even tracking reviews on TripAdvisor.
Without the ‘social’ element, a customer used to an unceasing flow of information and a constant sense of their relatedness to other users within the community can quickly become disinterested and disenchanted. Users are desperate to satisfy a simple psychological need to display competence in relation to others, and we have already seen this way of thinking in sports betting through separate communities on Facebook and Twitter who judge each other’s bets with a healthy sense of competition and a fair dose of one-upmanship.
This ties in neatly to an assessment of consumer motivation that often takes a backseat behind quantitative analysis. One must remember the symbolic and hedonistic motives that drive the average punter, for instance a desire to win and escape the monotony of normal life or a need to seek pleasure and play for the fun of it rather than simply looking for more money. Like video games, social betting provides a potential outlet for hedonists or those who want to escape.
Press reports state that some operators are willing to spend upwards of £9m on UK TV advertising to attract new customers. Is this unrelenting practice not a cause of saturation and stagnation – especially when every bookmaker follows suit?
In its current state the industry may struggle to tackle engagement and retention issues as the prevailing tendency to think mainly in numbers means losing out on the social dynamic. We can see that operators are constantly turning up the volume, but this does not mean the public are listening.
Content provided by Betting Business Magazine September 2013 – Click Here to view latest publications – http://content.yudu.com/Library/A2ehkc/BBi108/resources/index.htm