Social Media Activates a Cycle of Customer Engagement, Loyalty and Spending

By Chris Teso Chief Executive Officer & Founder, Chirpify | February 19, 2017

Leading hoteliers like Marriott, IHG and La Quinta are already strategically pairing social media with their loyalty program for greater interaction and to foster loyalty even when the customer isn't on site. Often referred to as engagement loyalty, this strategy provides both greater opportunities for engaging with existing and new customers while providing measurable outcomes that the business cares about. Let's first look at how these brands are marrying these two functions and then at how it is helping move the needle on important business measures like loyalty, spend, new customer acquisition and customer intelligence.

Connecting Social Media to the Loyalty Program

Most often, the first step in this journey is to link existing loyalty program members to their social media profiles. There are several ways to achieve this, but the most common is for a brand to send an email to its loyalty program base, asking them to link their social ID with their member profile in exchange for a reward, commonly program points. Once customers have done so, hotel marketers learn a couple important things. First, which social media channels their loyal customers prefer, which can help inform the social media strategy moving forward. Second, this gives marketers a multi-channel view of their best customers, being able to recognize and reward them regardless of where they are.

Having social IDs alongside self-identifying information, like an email address, in the CRM or loyalty database means that cross-channel promotions and activating offline marketing in social media suddenly becomes much more powerful. For example, once you know your loyal customers are in the social context, you can begin actively rewarding them for their social media evangelism and other desired activities.

Stay Connected Between Stays

A common challenge for hoteliers is to remain top-of-mind between stays. While that is more frequent for some than others, encouraging participation with the brand between stays is an effective way to retain and grow customer loyalty. There are many mechanisms to encourage participation, which we will get to in a moment, but they all look to achieve three common goals:

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.