Published Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | 7:33 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | 12:33 a.m.
Type "gastric band Las Vegas" into Google and the top result is for the Gastric Band Institute, with the header "Free Informational Seminar on Gastric Band and Bypass Surgery."
That's no accident. In the competitive field of weight-loss surgery, the Gastric Band Institute has embraced "social media" as a part of its marketing strategy and to make sure it's recognized in Google searches.
There is no set definition of "social media." But plainly, it involves networking among professionals and friends; and marketing directly to consumers -- in both cases through the Internet, smart phones and other devices.
The use of free social media tools is exploding worldwide, with professionals, customers, prospects and friends scrambling to sign up and then keep up with each other with blogs and postings. These postings are made on Internet sites and free social-networking meet-up places like LinkedIN, Facebook and Twitter.
Las Vegas is no exception. With more and more companies and professionals here posting information both relevant and irrelevant, requiring users to spend more and more time reviewing the posts, one local Twitter user, or "tweeter," asked this week: "Who's in control...??? Me or Twitter?"
At the Gastric Band Institute in Las Vegas, Drs. James Atkinson and Darren Soong and their staff are focusing on their Internet site and YouTube as their main social networking tools.
They use the Internet to promote events and resources for current and former patients such as the institute's online support group and clothing exchanges, in which patients can trade in garments that no longer fit and hear from a stylist who offers fashion and shopping tips for their new bodies.
The doctors also post blogs on topics like how patients can benefit from support groups as they try to keep weight loss a top priority. And YouTube videos highlight patient success stories.
"It's been a very friendly way to communicate with patients,'' Dr. Soong said of the various social media tools. He added that his marketing advisers have told him that the more the institute blogs and uses social media, the higher the institute name pops up in Google searches.
The Gastric Band Institute isn't the only local weight-loss surgery provider using social media.
A typical blog post at the University of Nevada School of Medicine's University Health System begins like this: "Dr. Shawn Tsuda answers the question: 'What happens if I regain the weight I lose after gastric bypass surgery? Can the surgery be redone?'"
We found that, of course, by typing in on Google "weight loss surgery Vegas."
Look for more of the same from businesses in pretty much every industry as well as nonprofits and government agencies.
Social media sites and even old-fashioned technology like e-mail will be buzzing during the next week in preparation for Earth Day on April 22.
One thing that caught our attention was the plan for the Palms Casino Resort and N9NE Group to mark Earth Day.
"N9NE Group is very excited about Earth Weekend," N9NE co-owner and Director of Community Relations Jenna Morton said in a statement. "We are honored to work with innovative companies in pioneering creative concepts like the Regional Transportation Commission’s Grease Bus and Sustainable Wave’s solar-powered DJ booth. Earth Weekend gives N9NE Group a chance to celebrate our passion for the environment and our community."
The plans include:
April 17 at 11 a.m. N9NE Group and the RTC introduce Las Vegas’ first bus operating on used vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is provided by N9NE Steakhouse in the Palms. The Grease Bus will be wrapped in green-themed artwork created by students from Becker Middle School and Mojave High School.
April 17 at noon N9NE Group will unveil what it calls Las Vegas’ first solar-powered DJ booth at Palms Pool & Bungalows. Miller Lite is a sponsor with its banners on biodegradable vinyl, of course.
April 17 at 7 p.m. CineVegas presents an exclusive showing of the film Gashole in Brenden Theatres at the Palms. Gashole traces the "development and sinister demise'' of the 100-mpg fuel technology. All profit from the film screening will benefit Conservation International, which promotes biodiversity.
April 17 at 11 p.m. Rain Nightclub hosts the official "green Friday after-party.'' Rain and its private event facility are carbon neutral, partly through the planting 2,054 trees in the Mendocino National Forest.
April 18 from noon – 7 p.m., the company Sustainable Waves invites guests to Palms Pool & Bungalows to experience its display of green house gas-eating algae generators.
April 18 at 7 p.m. CineVegas presents an exclusive showing of the film Food Inc. in Brenden Theatres. Directed by Robert Kenner, the film "demonstrates the shocking truth about what we eat.'' The profit again benefits Conservation International.
April 19 at 7 p.m. CineVegas presents an exclusive showing of the film Everything's Cool in Brenden Theatres. Directed by Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfland, the film tracks the growth of the sustainability movement and again benefits Conservation International.
April 19 at 10:30 p.m. Moon Nightclub hosts the "Earth Weekend'' closing party with a portion of the proceeds going to Conservation International.
A $2.50 "BeGreen Ticket" is being offered by N9NE Group, Green Mountain Energy Co. and Sustainable Waves, giving event-goers the opportunity to "green up" their Earth Weekend experience. For each ticket, Green Mountain will provide 250 kilowatt-hours renewable energy.
The Nevada Division of Insurance and the Nevada Surplus Lines Association launched a public education campaign addressing uncertainties that surround insurance and the issue of protecting personal assets.
The program promotes sound, well-researched insurance plans, products and policies.
The campaign launched statewide includes television spots, website banners and information on www.nvinsurancealert.com.
The 2009 "Take No Chance" campaign gives Nevada consumers a first-hand perspective of six everyday thrill seekers participating in extreme outdoor activities; Rowena Singer- downhill skier; Richard Blocki – bull rider; Dana Gregg – sky diver; Mark Jary – rock climber; Jim Stephens – kayaker and Sally Sidders – acrobatic pilot - each living life to the fullest and enjoying their extreme sport of choice. The spots reveal that despite their enthusiasm for extreme recreational sports, they will not take any chances or unnecessary risks when it comes to their insurance plans to protect their loved ones, businesses and valued assets.
This year’s campaign also drives consumers to www.nvinsurancealert.com to further educate them about the risks of unauthorized insurance companies or illegitimate insurance policies and products.
It reminds consumers to "Check before you write a check." Nevada consumers can also call 888 467-4195 to verify whether their insurance plan or policy is placed with an authorized insurance company.