Social media is cheap and effective, but…

Interesting story about the Las Vegas Hilton’s Twitter initiative, though the timing couldn’t be worse, coming on the heels of yesterday’s LV Sun article about the Hilton’s abysmal 4Q earnings. From

The marketing budget for Las Vegas Hilton is miniscule when compared to multi-property powerhouse rivals like MGM Mirage, Harrah's Entertainment and Wynn Resorts. And despite being relatively late to the social media party, the hotel has picked up enough incremental business from Twitter and Facebook to convince once-skeptical executive management to fund a full-time social media coordinator position.

The Hilton’s first “tweet-up” last year drew 130 participants to the hotel—the vast majority of them as first-time guests. “It caught the attention of our executives—they said, 'Wow, you did this with nothing?’” says Peter Arceo, executive director of casino marketing. “These have become loyal customers spending money at the bar, talking about the hotel. That was the buy-in [the executive team] needed to fund this.”

Monthly tweet-ups keep growing in size.In less than a year, @LasVegasHilton has accumulated more than 23,000 Twitter followers. While other properties in Vegas complement social media marketing with heavily promoted contests, viral videos and even digital Twitter billboards, the Hilton has no social media budget, so it instead focuses on building personal relationships with brand advocates that extend beyond the computer screen into real life. “We’re trying to build solid, loyal fans and followers—people who want to come here,” Arceo says.

via Hotel Social Media On A Shoestring Budget – 2010-04-01 07:00:00 | Hotels.

Here’s the Las Vegas Hilton Twitter stream. Seems like an awful lot of #hash #tags to me. Here’s a sample post:

Have you tried #Benihana? One of The Most Popular #LasVegas #Japanese #Restaurants around.

If Twitter is reaping such benefits for the hotel, that’s great, since this is likely the most challenging year the property’s ever faced, including the aftermath of the 1981 fire. Clearly, though, this isn’t enough to compensate for the bigger economic problems that are to blame for the Hilton’s poor performance over the last year.

I can see Twitter helping draw a few more FIT people in, but the Hilton will rise or fall based on its convention business.

Speaking of drawing incrementally more business, it’s worth saying that the September 2008 closing of Star Trek: The Experience has left a huge hole at the Hilton. With the new movie coming out last year, I can only imagine what kind of traffic it would be drawing right now.

7 Responses to 'Social media is cheap and effective, but…'

  1. American Gaming Guru says:

    Dr. Dave, as you know the Hilton is operated under Colony Capital’s Resorts International subsidiary (but owned by Colony and Goldman Sachs). Here is what continues to alarm me about what they have been doing at Resorts over the past few years. Colony/Resorts International assembled a decent portfolio of assets, some (including the LV Hilton) were purchased at very attractive prices but others I believe they over-paid for. Regardless, Colony/Resorts sold off some good assets (A large ownership piece of the LV Hilton to Goldman, Resorts East Chicago and the Dunes/AC High school sites) for enormous profits when the economy was roaring. Additionally, they mortgaged up some of their assets like its name sake Resorts AC and the LV Hilton. Now they have major problems not including Colony’s investment in Station. Since the economy tanked there is no doubt that business levels have suffered tremendously; however, if Colony/Resorts was prudent when the going was good, they would have properly leveraged their portfolio with sale proceeds and probably would not be in the dangerous position that they now find themselves. Resorts AC has already been taken over by its lenders and I am concerned that a few more of their assets are not far behind.

  2. WestVegas says:

    I’ve only been a member of Twitter for a few weeks. I’ve grown to rely on it as a good source of info-gathering. I like reading about the good offers (even though I can’t yet take advantage of them).

    It’s fun to see all the energy, events and enticements casino Twitterers put out. One twit I liked seeing was the invitation to come have a free beer at the Palms, courtesy of Vegas 7. I didn’t go (due to personal reasons), but it was fun to feel like I was receivng some up-to-the-minute announcement.

    The Las Vegas Twitter announcements make me feel like I’m tuned into a 1970s FM radio station (where the DJ provides ‘timely inside info’ on events, news, happenings, discounts and occasional freebies).

    Viewing my LV Twitter page makes me feel like I’m reading a ‘ticker tape’ or listening in on a 70s CB radio club. Twitter is much better than I expected it to be, though I still don’t understand what the # marks mean or even what a ‘tiny url’ is – let alone a Retweet or several other things.

    Palms has good announcements.

    BTW. I’m looking forward to the VG podcast by the Pod Cats.

    BTW 2. Rockabilly Weekend is at the Orleans this weekend. I hope to get some photos along the fringes of the event (without paying the $100 entry fee). 1950s looking, Punkish Girls wearing June Clever and Betty and Veronica dresses, penny-loafers, shoulder tattoos and nose-rings. Is that a dichotomy or what?).

  3. Patti Shock says:

    My Social Media in Hospitality class at UNLV is doing a project for the Las Vegas Hilton this semester. They will present their social media marketing plans to Peter Arceo and Rob Gaines (the full time social media person they hired – both grads of the UNLV Hotel College)in a couple of weeks. Peter came and talked to the class earlier in the semester to let them know what was currently going on in the social media arena. I am looking forward to seeing what the students have come up with.

  4. I went to the Nightclub and Bar Convention in March of 2007 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and I had quite a long walk from the parking garage at the Las Vegas Hilton to the Las Vegas Convention Center. It was probably a one-half mile walk each way.

    Hopefully the Twitter advertising will help The Las Vegas Hilton attract some new customers to the property. It’s great that Patti Shock (above) is teaching a class at UNLV that is talking about and implementing new social media outlets to help increase tourism in Las Vegas.

  5. WestVegas says:

    Just a quick note (slightly) relating to your Downtown study. Last Friday night I was driving around downtown with a lady friend. The Gold Spike’s marquee announced “Sexy $3 Blackjack”. The sign got me distracted and I accidentally made a right turn (southward on 4th Street). It was a one-way street!

    I immediately realized my mistake at the very same moment that a policeman decided to block our car with his car (via a 45 degree blockade using his police-car).

    Luckily and thankfully he didn’t give me the $200+ ticket he was in full right to give me. He actually made a joke out of my mistake and was extremely nice. It was good to find out that the cops Downtown are lenient towards such unintended blunders.

    But, I still never did find out what the heck Gold Spike’s sign was advertising with that term “Sexy $3 Blackjack”. How sexy can Blackjack get, anyway? Especially at the Gold Spike?! I wonder what they are promoting inside there.

  6. Peter Arceo says:

    Interesting post. To believe that social media will be able to generate enough revenue and profits to compensate for a down economy and increase in room inventory in Las Vegas is not realistic. You have to consider the big picture. Our social media efforts are the Las Vegas Hilton are very effective and is only part of a much larger marketing strategy and effort.


  7. Dave says:

    Thanks for reading, Peter. Who said that social media would generate enough revenue to compensate for a down economy?