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How to market online poker on Facebook

It was a pretty big deal when Facebook decided to ban all online poker ads late in 2009. Following in Google’s footsteps, the internet juggernaut decided to phase out all possibility of running into U.S. legal difficulties by cutting off all online gambling advertising at the source.

But that doesn’t mean that online poker isn’t heavily promoted on Facebook. And not just the free-play (but enormously popular) sites like Zynga. All major online gaming brands have official Facebook ads, from to Bodog. And these brands aren’t shy about leveraging just as much energy into their Facebook promos as companies in other industries.

And why not? It’s the hottest website online, with 750 million active users, 50 percent of whom visit the site every day. The only problem is that damn gambling ban.

Facebook and online gambling

Well, “ban” may be a strong word. Here’s Facebook’s official policy on internet gambling:

“Facebook does not accept advertisements that promote online gambling through our self-service advertising channel.

“Gambling advertising may be available through a direct sales partnership with Facebook. These partnerships require a minimum monthly spend of $30,000 USD. Please contact us if this is something you are interested in.

“Sites offering gambling tips or information may be acceptable, but are not permitted to link to or promote any other site that offers online gambling. We may also accept ads for casinos and other location-based gambling. All of these ads must be targeted to users over 18 years of age.”

So, it’s not really a ban—just an annoying set of restrictions.

But just as in dealing with Google AdWords and PPC, these restrictions shouldn’t stop online gambling operators and affiliates from leveraging Facebook to make more money. It’s a harder challenge than it is for standard niches, of course — but in gambling affiliate marketing, the commissions are also much higher, too.

Best practices

First of all, Facebook is the internet’s premier destination, no doubt about it. Even if you’re a Facebook hater, you have to be amazed at its sheer global power. A quick survey of your close friends and families, and even those in any other distant land you can name, will likely turn up at a ratio of at least 50% of Facebook users, across all ages.

And experts predict that Facebook’s fast-growing advertising model is set to pass Google. “Facebook‘s revenue for advertising alone — which excludes revenue for virtual currencies and other sources — came to an astonishing $1.86 billion” in 2010, reports Mashable.

“Facebook was on track to reach the $2 billion mark for revenue in 2010,” the report continues. “When other revenue streams are counted along with ad revenue, it’s easy to imagine that the $2 billion revenue was achieved and possibly exceeded in the past year.”

“As for the ads, Facebook’s serving more than 50 billion display ads per month and was on track to serve 1 trillion display ads for the year.”

What’s that mean? Facebook has huge marketing power, and enormous reach. So it’s stupid to imagine not speaking to this audience. But how?

Ways to advertise your poker affiliate site on Facebook

Barring traditional paid-for ads, here are some alternate ways you can successfully advertise on Facebook.

1. Post about the World Series of Poker — a hot ticket, with this year’s Main Event now wrapped up and anticipation set for the November Nine.

2. Post about poker celebrities. Annie Duke’s new poker league will soon be up and running, and is getting a lot of press.

3. Post about poker in general, about the results of your game play (online and offline). Share tips and tricks.

All these topics are poker-related, and they’re hardly the only ones. The idea is to just create content via Facebook that’s related to your niche, the way you would with your standard blog.

True, these won’t be monetized ads. But consider that every post you make is an ad to your site. And that’s the whole idea. As a poker affiliate, Facebook won‘t let you pay to do that. But it also doesn’t have a problem with any peer-to-peer marketing you may do, as long as you’re not spamming or annoying anyone. And Facebook’s basic set-up makes that sort of problem pretty rare, anyway.

What do you think?

What’s on your list for best practices when it comes to advertising on Facebook? Do you think it’s worth a lot of time — or maybe a waster of time? Sound off and let us know.