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Chris Sieroty

Harrah's, Palms to offer Facebook bargains

12 November 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Facebook Deals, a new application that lets people find the best deals at local businesses, has signed Harrah's Entertainment Inc. and the Palms as initial participants in the program.

In addition to the hotels, Tao and Lavo nightclubs in Las Vegas will add users who check into a participating hotel to a future guest list at the clubs. The latest application introduced by the social network has also piqued the interest of Station Casinos.

"Our strategy is, we don't always have to be first, but we certainly evaluate every opportunity to see if it's right for us," said Scott Kreeger, Station's senior vice president. "We want to make sure it will bring more customers to the business and increase our profitability."

The locals casino operator was not among the initial 21 companies chosen by Facebook to participate in the program.

Beginning Nov. 17, guests can upgrade their rooms or extend their stays at the Palms for another night at no charge. The offer will be good until Dec. 29 and is based on a minimum two-night stay and availability, the company said.

Jason Gastwirth, chief marketing officer of the Palms, said social media gives the company an opportunity to interact with their guests on a more personal level.

"Our current focus is to generate awareness of events on property and to quickly respond to guest feedback, knowing the better we understand our customer, the more we can generate in sales," Gastwirth said.

He declined to discuss the cost of the hotel's free-stay offer through Facebook Deals. On the hotel's website, an average room was priced between $69 and $399 per night.

"These programs have resulted in a significant return on investment," Gastwirth said.

Facebook Deals is a new application within Facebook's iPhone app, but Android users can access the app via Touch "Places" and then touch "Check In," and nearby places with deals have a yellow icon.

There are four different types of offers. They are individual deals for a discount, free merchandise or other rewards; friend deals where you and your friends claim an offer together; loyalty deals for being a frequent visitor to a place; and charity deals where businesses pledge to donate to a cause when you check in.

In a blog post, John Fougner, principal of Facebook's product marketing team, said more businesses were expected to announce deals in the coming weeks.

"Social media campaigns like Facebook Places is another channel for us to maximize potential room nights, ticket sales and overall property business and is an integral part of our comprehensive marketing plan," Gastwirth said.

With the application, users can get a complimentary buffet or other gift at any of Harrah's 10 properties in Las Vegas, including Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood Resort, Rivera and the Flamingo.

"It's not about revenue at the moment, it's about engaging with our customers," said Monica Sullivan, vice president of advertising at Harrah's Entertainment. "We will look to do more with Facebook and other social media over time."

The importance of using social media to generate business can't be overstated, according to Leslie Hall, president of New York-based ICED Media, a marketing firm that represents the Palms.

Hall said for the Palms it was a "natural fit" to be part of the Deals application, because the hotel's target clientele were "men between the ages of 18-30 who are tech savvy."

"It was a big honor to be included," said Hall, who added the key to a successful social media campaign was finding an emerging technology and matching it to the right audience.

At Station Casinos, Kreeger said the traditional marketing channels were still very important to his company, including their loyalty card program.

While he liked the concept and could see participating in it, Kreeger was cautious, saying before Station Casinos would participate in any marketing campaign it would have "to demonstrate an added value to the business."
Harrah's, Palms to offer Facebook bargains is republished from