According to GetResponse blogger Kerry Butters, social media is an important resource for companies who hope to build their online reputations. By working with reputation management firms, companies who already have a solid social media strategy enjoy many benefits, from increased online presence and larger audiences to greater customer engagement.
Recently, nationally recognized businesses such as the Marriott Hotel chain have provided social media users among its customers with “points” for services or products in exchange for “likes” on their social media pages. These incentive programs can significantly drive up the number of visitors and followers to a site; but the real question is, will they work for all companies?
The major goal is to increase social media traffic while simultaneously instigating a “forced” conversion. If customers have points, they will be drawn to use them, and no amount of gatherable points is enough if a customer wants to dodge having to spend at least some cash.
The caveat is many customers will leave their points unused and not become a conversion, which means the high number of followers on social media may be misleading, and even completely nonproductive. Marriott, and other conglomerate companies like it, has enough stability in revenues and traffic to try a program like this without much worry about losses.
Still, many smaller companies are wondering just how they could pull it off if they tried it themselves.
Marriott’s points program
In general, Marriott offers points for initial likes and followers, and for tweets or posts sent when an individual stays at a Marriott hotel. The points are redeemable toward future stays and can compound and accumulate over time.
So what’s the purpose of issuing all these points? Marriott hopes to gain both new lead traffic and loyalty with their points program, as well as stir up the general exposure and buzz about the brand by trying something different in a digitally commonplace way.
Marriott’s point system primarily targets traveling businessmen and businesswomen, though the company also focuses on frequent vacationers. Retirees are usually among those who benefit from hotel rewards programs, but they may be targeted less often in campaign communications because they are not hugely represented on social media … though they’re not completely absent from it.
Families with children may also be less targeted. The main push is for individuals in their 20s and 30s who are social media moguls and liberated travelers.
So far, Marriott has reaped considerable rewards from its innovative points system. New lead traffic has been generated because the Marriott brand has traversed social media feeds in a formerly unprecedented way.
In the past, individuals who stayed at a Marriott property may not have been much inclined to tweet and post about it continuously, but Marriott has incentivized word-of-mouth marketing online. That is always a win for a company.
News stories and blogs are picking up on the idea, which spreads the Marriott name further, across platforms beyond Twitter and Facebook. Current customers are motivated to stay at Marriott again, instead of switching to a competitor, because they receiving incentives for doing something that’s both easy and convenient.
Primarily, hotel rewards are doled out through co-branded credit and rewards program cards issued by banks and cards such as Chase or Discover. Other hotel rewards programs function more like frequent flyers: the more often an individual or family stays in a chain, the more points they rack up.
Paid memberships to elite hotels and resorts offer points and freebies at a higher cost. Walt Disney and Ritz Carlton hotels are both taking full advantage of programs such as this.
Many companies are on board with incentivizing social media posts, but are more likely to do so on a specific, relationship-oriented basis to avoid the gaffe of rewarding a guest after he or she has circulated a chiding post full of public ridicule.
Small businesses can emulate these points systems. They may be better equipped to track the volume of posts and tweets that are posted in response.
Companies within the hospitality or hotel industry, even inns and B&Bs, can implement this type of program by offering free stays to individuals who amass a certain amount of points. They can otherwise recognize deserving guests with rewards for points such as meals, upgrades, or vouchers with other operations such as tour guides, restaurants, and more.
Twitter and Facebook are great places to start, but Instagram is another platform that offers guests the opportunity to boast about the benefits of your company.
For companies that are not in the hospitality business, there are still great ways to follow in the footsteps of Marriott and other big brands. Kohl’s, Target, Ann Taylor Loft, and other clothing and lifestyle brands offer rewards to bloggers and Instagram superstars who talk about their brands and tag them.
Restaurants offer similar deals for promotional tweets and posts. Ultimately, programs like these are a win-win because customers are incentivized and feel appreciated, while companies reap free exposure and successful word-of-mouth advertising.