A couple of columns ago, I waxed eloquently about all of this new media stuff and shared my perspective as a casino new media “newbie”. Never wanting to feel like a dinosaur, my confession did, nonetheless, spur me to action.

No, I don’t have a BlackBerry yet (I do feel one coming in my near future, though). But I can now say I have more than 1,400 connections on LinkedIn. (And, hey, feel free to connect with me!)

I had been on LinkedIn for awhile, but mostly just said yes when I got the occasional request to connect with someone from my professional network. I guess I had assumed that LinkedIn was mainly for job searching and career advancement.

But after playing around with LinkedIn for several months I now believe it may be one of the most powerful social media networking tools available to gaming executives (and not just for job hunting). By no means have I mastered LinkedIn’s benefits yet, but I believe my experience may be instructive for you, especially if you are new to LinkedIn. And it hasn’t yet cost me a dime (although I have invested many hours of my time).

I began my LinkedIn journey by trying to understand enough essential elements of it and trying to figure out a strategy for using it. And it appeared that for my company there was value in increasing my number of connections, which had started at only a few dozen (from having responded over the last couple of years to invitations to connect with people I knew or wanted to know).

So I went through my Rolodex, my “A” business card pile, Raving’s extensive data base and (especially) LinkedIn members and “People You May Know” and aggressively started inviting gaming executives to connect with me.

But not everyone. My company tends to interact with marketing, HR, slots, tables and a few other gaming operations departments. So I focused on managers and above in those areas. (Sorry, security and surveillance managers. Sorry, front-line employees. Sorry, certain gaming support company executives. I’d be glad to connect with you, but starting out I wanted to connect with those folks with whom my company interacts the most.)

I waited with glee as my list of “All Connections” began to grow. I’ll admit that I did not know personally every gaming executive I invited to connect with me. But as a wide-ranging consultant I did know their company, some of their fellow executives or the essence of what they do. (Forgive me if you were one of my 2,200 “invitations to connect with Dennis Conrad” and you didn’t know who the hell I was.)

As my contact list began to grow I started trying to figure out what to do with it. Certainly I wanted any strategy to have the potential to help our business grow or extend our brand. As Raving already had a sizeable subscriber base for its free online information newsletters and reports I figured it made sense to immediately invite all of my new LinkedIn connections “To Expand Your Casino Knowledge Base” and receive our free subscriptions. The benefit-filled, Romero-style e-mail invitations contained a link to actual newsletters and reports on our Web site.

And the results from my ongoing experiment? Well, I can tell you that my 1,400 connections (as I write this) represent a 50-55 percent connection rate of those I invited to link with me. Twenty percent of my connections have subscribed to Raving publications. Dozens of gaming decision-makers have connected with me. A few investors have wanted to chat.

On a more personal note, my campaign has put me back in touch with friends and associates I haven’t heard from in years. And the real flattering part has been the praise from countless folks (OK, it’s been a handful of folks) who have told me how much they enjoyed my Casino Journal column or my book.

So what’s next for me with LinkedIn? Well, I’ve settled into a weekly regimen of inviting a manageable number of contacts to connect with me. (The “People You May Know” feature is great for this, as are the contacts of my contacts not already connected to me.) I’ve been noodling on starting my own LinkedIn Group and leading a monthly or quarterly discussion on thorny issues in our industry, as well as joining current groups. I continue to invite new connections to subscribe to our newsletters. And, yes, I’m even planning to start paying LinkedIn a fee if they can customize their wonderful site and services to help me achieve company objectives.

If you are not “hip” to LinkedIn, I encourage you to check it out to see how it might help your company or your career. I know I have been thrilled with the results, and I have only just started.

And then there’s Facebook - but, man, that’s a whole other story.

Bio: Dennis Conrad is the president and chief strategist of Raving Consulting Company, a full-service marketing company specializing in assisting gaming organizations. He can be reached at (775) 329-7864. Visit Raving’s Web site at www.ravingconsulting.com.