Derek Schoen

Derek Schoen’s career in social media started with some hard times.

Everything we do in our social media strategy revolves around storytelling.

With a degree in journalism and media studies and a minor in PR and integrated marketing, he started working as a PR coordinator for a small company in 2008. And when the economy crashed that year, Derek and half of the company’s employees were laid off.

He had just gotten married, just bought a house, and marketing and communications jobs were becoming few and far between in Las Vegas. So he started to look for jobs where he could use the same skill set that weren’t necessarily in marketing or PR.

That’s when he joined MGM Resorts International in employee programs and recruitment. There, he used back-of-house marketing to push programs and culture initiatives to employees and eventually moved to a role using data mining to reach hard-to-find job candidates.

He says that early experience at MGM Resorts and ARIA helped shape his current role as their Director of Interactive Marketing.

“Being a part of the opening team of this property before I moved into social media is one of the biggest keys to my success here now,” says Derek.

He says that since ARIA opened during horrible economic times in Las Vegas, the people who worked there during the months leading up to it had to pull together and do some things they normally wouldn’t do.

For example, even though he was in a communications role, Derek helped assemble 12,000 hard hats for the employees who needed to start training before the hotel could get an occupancy permit. He was also there for construction tours, learned where the materials came from, and saw how they were being installed.

Derek says, “Without being there from the opening and seeing all that stuff, I couldn’t tell our 1,000 different tiny stories on social media.”

“Everything we do in our social media strategy revolves around storytelling.”

If we can’t provide that exact same level of service online that we do in person, we might as well shut our digital doors.

According to Derek, their high-quality base of organic content has set them apart from their competition in social media. He says that before Facebook changed their algorithm, where most properties are seeing around five-percent engagement rate, ARIA Resort & Casino gets about 15-20.

In fact, with this strategy, in two years, ARIA went from an intern-run, dormant Facebook page to the largest single-location hotel page in the entire world. And in the hotel category in general, only Best Western and Hilton Worldwide were bigger.

“There’s nothing else we could attribute our success in social to other than our ability to tell really good stories and produce really interesting content.”

Another core piece of their social strategy: Guest services that match the five-star and five-diamond hotel’s standards.

“If we can’t provide that exact same level of service online that we do in person, we might as well shut our digital doors,” Derek says.

One way they do that is through using social to make things right when something during someone’s vacation goes wrong — whether or not it’s something under ARIA’s control.

“It often turns someone who would have been a detractor into one of our most hearty advocates.”

When you talk to Derek, you get the sense that he’s very proud of working and living in Las Vegas.

He says part of that comes from ARIA’s willingness to take risks to stay on the cutting edge of social. For example, they’re beta partners with Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks, testing the latest and greatest that fit with the brand’s marketing goals.

But he says that pride also comes from the unique culture in Las Vegas.

“The beauty of Las Vegas is the tight-knit community — you know all of the people in your same position in all of the other properties,” he explains.

“We get to take great pride in what we do, because we get to say that we’re a city like no other. And when it comes down to it, that’s what our hotel is full of and what our social presence is full of.”

Say hi to Derek on Twitter and ask him about what it was like growing up (and now raising a kid of his own) in Vegas. Derek’s been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2011.


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