Is Social Commerce about to transform the betting industry?

Is Social Commerce about to transform the betting industry?

I spend a lot of my time working with clients, figuring out the best way to apply Social Commerce to their calendar, to their brand and to their industry. Sometimes, everything just adds up and it's a super-easy fit: retail, travel, pharma, FMCGs. Sometimes, it's not so simple (I'm recalling an interesting discussion with a sewerage wholesaler here - it might have been viable, but the project just smelled a bit 'off').

But one of the things I've always figured would be a real no-brainer is betting. What does Social Commerce excel at? Replicating the thrill of offline shopping online, adding value as people come together, ceding control to the customer in exchange for more and better business. And what does betting excel at? It's thrilling, it's about getting the most value for your stake and it's about getting one over on the house and increasing your chances of a win. Ladies and gentlemen - we have a perfect match.

So it was very cool to read this morning about Paddy Power's forthcoming real-money sports betting app, which has just started beta-ing its way through Facebook's test-tubes. The concept is simple and clever, adding: "social engagement to online betting, enabling customers to bet on a wide variety of sporting events through Facebook, while also giving them visibility of, and the opportunity to engage with, other users." So, kinda like the Amazon Facebook app except, instead of buying a shirt, you could lose the shirt off your back.

Boom. Tish.

Naff puns aside, we're excited to see where this could lead, and for a number of reasons - not least of which is it's nice to see a mega-network like Facebook not running scared of an industry that's occasionally painted as dark and immoral (usually by people with far more pernicious agendas themselves). Gambling addiction is a horrible, terrible thing. But gambling itself is no more evil or dangerous than responsible sex, moderate drinking or eating the occasional burger. Moderation, folks. Moderation...

But, for all Paddy Power's good work, we think they're missing a trick here. Betting's just like any other industry - it's governed by economies of scale. So doesn't it make sense that, if I can find 99 friends who also want to put a bet on Emmanuel Adebayor scoring the opening goal of the upcoming Premiership season, we should collectively get better odds? (Yeah, I know - that's a stupid bet. A better bet would be Emmanuel Adebayor scoring _any _goal this season.)

And seeing as how bookies have always taken non-standard requests (£50 my son plays for the Lions, £20 Bono gets appointed as the next Pope, £1m Elvis returns from the dead before the year 2020), shouldn't Paddy Power add a function where you can lodge your crazy idea for a punt, then share that request with your friends?

While we're making suggestions: the customer acquisition model for betting is desperately archaic and expensive. Join today and get a free £50 bet? That's ripe for reinvention in a socially-connected age. At buyapowa, we've seen incredible results from adding gamification to retail - customers spend more, customers share more, customers engage more. And, if ever there was an audience that's ripe for product gamification, it's this one.

So, instead of blanket incentives for new acquisitions (or the user-get-user rewards which have essentially failed for the private sales and daily deal sites), why not publish a leaderboard of the customers who've introduced the most friends that day, week or month and reward the most productive ones with a showcase prize? That speaks the language of betting and the element of competition adds a frisson which really sparks engagement.

These are just our suggestions, and we'll see just what Paddy Power's app offers when it surfaces officially in the next few weeks, but the door's still open for Paddy's competitors to really nail this market. Who's going to get it bang on and win the jackpot?

Robin Bresnark