Casino operators become social media animals

Casino operators in Las Vegas know social media and social networking are reliable sources of generating business for their properties and promoting their individual brands.

But with a variety of social networking sites from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn to choose from, which platform is best to get a company’s message out and to increase awareness?

"We just can’t think about how large our network can become. We need to service the customers we do have, that’s how you are going to grow your network," said David Koloski, director of social media with Caesars Entertainment Corp.

He said Caesars Entertainment uses Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other sites to communicate with customers about deals to shows or coupons for buffets.

Social media executives argue it’s not all about Facebook when it comes to social media and social marketing.

"Facebook dominates, with Twitter not far behind," said Richard Weston-Smith, vice president of business development and strategic alliances for SocialGO, a social networking software firm.

According to a recent survey by Retrevo.com, 56 percent of social media users check Facebook at least once a day, while 12 percent of respondents check or use Facebook every couple of hours.

Weston-Smith said the growth of social media shows no signs of slowing, but the medium is changing as sites become more targeted like "special interest groups."

"They all want a network with like- minded people," Weston-Smith said.

He stressed casinos should target some of their outreach to those individual groups.

Neil Glassman, principal with the strategic marketing firm WhizBangPowWow, said casino companies need to create customers who are brand advocates to promote their companies on social networks.

"That’s the true level of success. The scary part is that you are giving up control," Glassman said.

He said a successful social media campaign would remember that customers are not always interested in what the company is saying.

"You need to listen to what they are saying and tailor your message to them," Glassman said. "Let people within the network speak up and create awareness."

The challenge for casinos is to build their network across all platforms.

"We have one team consisting of three people to manage our social media for all of our Las Vegas properties," Koloski said. "Our (philosophy) is simple because we don’t care what hotel you go to as long as it is one of our properties."

Koloski said an average customer visits five properties during a trip to Las Vegas.

From a social media perspective, he said the challenge for Caesars Entertainment was to manage a large amount of content and customer service. The company defines content as anything from a restaurant at Planet Hollywood Resort to a show at Caesars Palace.

"We do what we can to manage that content and get it out there," he said. "As an example, we might have a celebrity at a new restaurant and will send it out to grow awareness."

Koloski said the more people who pass that Facebook or Twitter message on to their friends, the more people Caesars can possibly get into one of its properties. He said the company also reaches out to bloggers.

"Our approach is to bring bloggers to our properties to experience our offerings," said Eric Petersen, manager of social marketing strategy for Caesars Entertainment.

In 2010, the company hosted three events for travel and food bloggers. Koloski said what they learned was you can schedule too much in a short period without giving them the time to really experience everything.

Both Peterson and Koloski said the blogger weekends led to good coverage, plus interest in Caesars’ properties from links sent out through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

There is a downside to social media and social networks — Koloski said if something goes wrong, it’s instantly online.

"These are people if they have a bad experience you could lose them forever. Customer service is a big deal to them," he said. "There is also the expectation that we will respond quickly to fix the issue."

Petersen used the example of the box office at the Flamingo losing tickets to a Boyz II Men concert for a group coming from Los Angeles. He said within a half hour of the incident being put up on Twitter, they were able to fix the problem.

"Hopefully, now these people will love the Flamingo," Petersen said. "You need to minimize the amount of customer uproar using Twitter and Facebook."

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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