Driving Social Media Engagement- Lessons from Loyalty Programs

In the back house of many hotels, discussion of social media interaction often turns to questions of ROI and staffing. While ROI should drive decisions in marketing, there is also a strong case to be made for using social media to drive community. As hoteliers, how do we focus on the common characteristics and interests of our social media community? Any discussion of success in the social media space should also focus on ways to connect with customers to enhance the value that we as hotels give them. How can we enhance their stay and visit? How can we educate them about the area, ensure they get the most out of their stay and trigger them to spend more and become repeat customers?

Why Community Size Matters

One thing that can cause concern among social media managers is a feeling that followers are not really engaging with them at significant levels. It is important to consider the size of your fan base when you judge your success in engaging with them. The average interaction rate for any post made by hotels on Facebook is about 0.22%, according to L2. This means that on average you would receive one Like or comment for every 500 followers. The truth is that in a crowded social media world, customers are careful with their online time and energy. This may concern many budget-wise managers, but the value to social media is not the ability to push content to potential customers but to keep those customers engaged so your business remains top of mind!

Building Communities

One of the best examples of community building in our industry is the messaging behind good hotel loyalty programs. These programs do a great job of making members feel special, that they are valued over other guests at your hotel and they are a top priority for your business. Take a look at some successful loyalty program messaging.

The main message focuses on adventure, luxury, and exclusivity.  Secondary messages include information about the extensive membership benefits. The concept of exclusivity gives loyal customers the feeling of being part of an elite club or community. What can we learn from this message prioritization to make our social communities more successful?  Is there value in striving to emulate this “club” mentality with all your social media followers or fans, regardless of whether or not they joined your loyalty program?

In fact, this feeling of community does drive spending at much higher levels. According to McKinsey & Company, loyalty programs can contribute about 20% of profit to businesses. Many hotels’ loyalty program clientele are the most profitable segment for hotels, outspending non-loyalty customers, OTA customers, and guests from all other channels.

Loyalty Program -Social Media Connection

Whether you are a large chain hotel with a well-established loyalty program, or a small independent hotel with no program in place, social media engagement can help drive more loyalty by making your followers feel special and valued. As we have learned from successful loyalty program marketing, guests respond best with messages that make them feel special and like they have an exclusive relationship with your hotel. Kimpton, for example, promotes a special word each month on social channels that guests say upon check-in for special benefits.

Giving benefits to followers is just one part of the picture; according to L2, interaction levels are highest when you post or tweet about hotel features or hold contests. Consider asking followers to vote on new room décor decisions or renovation plans. By engaging with customers to help make business decisions you make them feel like a stakeholder in your success. They will not soon forget you and will even potentially book another stay to see the results of their input.  Even something as simple as having followers choose between two new menu items for in-room dining will get them involved at higher levels.  Here is an example of a great post on Hyatt’s page that engages guests with descriptions of new properties to be feature in 2013.

 

 

Another great way to engage customers is to highlight your company’s philanthropic pursuits.  Take a look at the Hyatt Thrive campaign, which allows followers to vote on deserving charities. By giving their customers a say in where they spend charity dollars, Hyatt is driving great engagement.

Companies like Hyatt realize that these efforts pay off. According to Bain & Company, customers who engage with companies over social media are more loyal and spend up to 40% more with those companies than other customers.  So the benefits to driving more engagement are quite apparent.  Take a look at your favorite loyalty program to see how they are driving more engagement and then translate those ideas to your business.

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