Early this summer at a party for Mac King’s 10th anniversary as a Vegas headliner, I asked Las Vegas Sun columnist John Katsilometes where he was sitting. “Over there with the Twitter guys,” Kats answered.
Everybody uses Twitter these days, which is why I was intrigued that I knew, without hesitation, that Kats meant Bill Cody, aka @VegasBill, and Chris Rauschnot, aka @24k. In an Internet minute, the duo had gone from suspiciously regarded unknowns to publicist-adored media fixtures, invited or given access to all sorts of fancy events.
They were on the tarmac when President Obama arrived in Vegas in February, on the USS Midway when William Shatner landed for a publicity stunt during this year’s ComicCon, on the red carpet for the Academy Awards. They had almost as much access for CityCenter’s opening as I did.
“It was very difficult working with press companies a year and a half ago,” said Rauschnot over lunch at Bagelmania last week. “They didn’t know what new media was, they didn’t see the positivity of it. Bill and I have done a lot of legwork for people just getting into new media.”
You get that about positivity? We’ll get back to that in a moment, but first their backstory.
Cody, 43, and Rauschnot, 28, are brothers from Davis, California, with different last names because Cody believed the business world demanded an easier-to-spell moniker, while Chris liked the distinctiveness of an unusual one. Otherwise, they’re remarkably in synch.
Rauschnot displayed an early technology gift. He built 45 PCs for his junior high school, and in high school the district hired him to advise them on integrating technology in classrooms.
Cody dropped out of the University of Southern California to pursue a dance career that included a part on Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” video but was cut short by a car accident. He returned to Davis to find clients who needed his teenage brother to repair computers and design websites. In 2002 and moved to Vegas to be real-estate agents.
It soon became apparent that selling Vegas houses was really about selling the Vegas lifestyle. Their blog started spotlighting travel and entertainment information to draw potential clients in.
Then came Twitter. They joined in 2007, convinced of its value by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. By 2009, with our real-estate market dead anyway, they were partnered in the MyVegasScene blog, the duo turning full-time to tweeting, Facebooking and blogging their “experiences.” Bill now has more than 40,000 followers; Chris has about 50,000. (He’s “24k” because he was once a champion gold-panner.)
Their approach is hardly journalistic. They seek out free “experiences” such as a recent luxury cruise and stays at the Ritz Carlton, which they contacted to “help them out” in some travels in exchange for tweeting. If something bad happens, they omit it. “We’re just trying to add that little extra happy or positivity to someone’s Twitter stream,” Bill said. “There’s too much negativity out there already.”
There’s that word again: positivity. My credibility is predicated on folks knowing that if I say I like something, I mean it. If anything, there’s too much positivity out there, especially among the Vegas celebrity and travel press. A bit more skepticism would serve a discriminating public better.
But the Twitter guys are redeemed to me because they’re transparent. They tell everybody when they’re freeloading and never wrap themselves in journalistic cloaks. Since they’ve built up such a large following, it’s impossible to ignore that they know how to use the medium effectively, and that’s birthed a whole new consulting practice for them.
Also, they’re indefatigable. They tweet from noon to 4 a.m. every day, aiming to hit the Vegas- and celeb-obsessed in every time zone. They almost always respond when people say nice things to or about them, too. On work ethic alone, it’s difficult to begrudge them their success.
“Last night I just passed 24,000 tweets,” Bill said. “I happened to notice and thought, ‘Wow, my fingers are tired.’”
Surprisingly, he didn’t tweet that. Maybe it was too negative a thought.