A huge crowd gathers to
attend ICSC's general sessions.31,000 were in attendance
at ICSC ReCon 2012.O. Randall Woodbury, moderated a
panel on optimizing performance.

(Join the conversation with GlobeSt.com Editors Tweeting from ICSC.  Click Here!)

LAS VEGAS-More than 31,000 were in attendance Monday morning at ICSC’s ReCon 2012 event at the Las Vegas Convention Center. In one of the opening morning sessions, titled; “Optimizing Performance in a Lackluster Economy: Cautions, Challenges and Opportunities,” a panel of property and asset management executives touched on was the power of social media as a key tool when looking to solve key issues and challenges from the management perspective.

“The current, fragile economic environment poses formidable challenges for retailers and those who manage retail properties,” explained moderator O. Randall Woodbury, president of Woodbury Corp., based in Salt Lake City. “But today’s challenges can become tomorrow’s opportunities.”

One of the primary tools to overcome those challenges for Bill Goeke, SVP and director of Weingarten Realty Investors, based in Houston, was social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. “Twitter is a better medium for marketing, and getting information out to brokers, while facebook is so consumer friendly,” he said. He added that he looks at LinkedIn as the largest cocktail party in the world…”it is a great avenue for networking,” he said.

Other emerging social media sites Goeke touched on include GooglePlus, which he says is similar to facebook, but he says that “in having the ability to group your friends on it, the program can be more beneficial if you have a target audience you are trying to reach.”

Other tools include YouTube for marketing efforts, Flicker for photos and slideshows, and Slideshare, which is good for pushing Powerpoint presentations out, explained Goeke.

“Each social media outlet has its own niche use,” said Goeke. “We are in the process of trying to understand what works best for us.” For tenant communication, for example, Weingarten Realty uses Twitter to get information out to tenants specific to certain areas or centers.

Don’t forget, Goeke said, “using social media platforms for marketing is the best tool ever…it is free… you can receive realtime access to our company news, our vacancies, our corporate image, our brand.” He encouraged attendees to use social media as a real opportunity for revenue and for building relationships. “Our biggest struggle has been in educating our retailers on social media.”

Woodbury agrees with Goeke, noting that social media in “important in laying out a company’s future. They can serve as portals for investors.”

One important thing to note in regards to social media, according to Gregory Carbone, director of property operations at EDENS, based in Bethesda, MD, is that “you have to be dedicated to it and see the value in it.”

In another panel, Dana Telsey, CEO and chief research officer of Tesley Advisory Group LLC, touched on the subject of social media, and pointed out that retail operations are better today than they were in the past thanks to retailers investing in less inventory. “Social media sites like Facebook have played a big part in that change…all the data mining and all the know- how is changing the landscape. It is keeping people in the know.” She added that although you can never replace the touch and feel of a product in a store, “things like e-commerce and Facebook help teach retailers what to carry in their stores and make them smarter.”

Switching gears a bit, Carbone pointed out the importance of community connectivity at the company’s properties, and says that includes more than simply putting up a bench or an umbrella. “We want an emotional connection to the product. Make it an institution,” he said.

Carbone points out that in one of its centers, it put in a diner, which has helped create that “sort of feeling” he was referring to. He encouraged the audience to look at their centers and see what kind of concepts can be added to the center to help get that emotional connection.

The second stage, he said, is to engage actively in different parts of the center. “Is there a part of the center that can maybe support a pop-up retail on a Sunday? Or maybe you can engage the community on a Saturday sidewalk sale or Raffle or a ‘taste of’-type event …concepts to engage people that aren’t the typical,” he said.

For recent ICSC session coverage, click here