Can Social Media be useful in creating Guest Loyalty for Hotels?

Can Social Media be useful in creating Guest Loyalty for Hotels?
By Marc Sontag, Director of Residential Tourism, IMOCOM Hotels and Resorts

This week our Sales Manager returned from the ILTM in Cannes and she mentioned she was taken by a keynote speaker explaining Ritz Carlton’s Loyalty Program. Her comment inspired me to this post and posing you the question “Can Social Media be useful in creating Guest Loyalty?”.

I agree, that most hotel loyalty programs seem to merely focus on rewarding guests with points for reservations. However, with such programs customers become fans of the program instead of the brand – easily counteracted by the competition offering more points and so risking to loose customers.

The Ritz Carlton executive explained that his guests are rather looking for a meaningful experience and than an insignificant discount. In their Loyalty Program they established value add partnerships, such as a complimentary access to the casino of Monte Carlo and the privileged use of a luxury car or private jet charter. Through this program they created the unique opportunity to create brand advocates and deepen relationships; bridging its products or services and its customers by focusing on its guests’ lifestyle needs.

Marketers must put in the effort to find out what is important to their (potential) guests, then bring the answers back and plug them into the company, the brand, its marketing communications, website and social media strategies. This process of lifestyle branding boils down to central question “How can I develop and convey a message reflecting the guests’ reality rather than the brand’s.”

Similarly, Mark Johnson, CEO of Loyalty 360, recently shared some of his insights into how companies can maximise their customer engagement initiatives and some coincide with the aforementioned observations.

- Marketers will increasingly understand that loyalty is not a program—it is a journey and a strategic business goal,
- Loyalty will focus more on emotions rather than on rational, incentive-based initiatives,
- The goal of customer loyalty initiatives will be to engage customers. Marketers will realise that although spend and number of reservations are important, customer engagement is pivotal for loyalty initiatives; with engagement comes loyalty, advocacy, trust, passion—the soft side of the customer relationship that directly impacts the bottom line.

Social media provides a new connectivity to customers and we can delight our customers in real time and the benefit is that other guests see us resolve the issues in the process e.g. through our Management Responses on Tripadvisor. Sophisticated hotel marketers ought to build friend communities into high-performance loyalty tools; rather than launching marketing messages at an increasingly indifferent audience. They must identify their guests who are both influencer in their social circles and advocates of their brand, by looking first at their own loyalty program and turn to the best guests with offers and strategies that get them talking and in even more a point of reference for the network.

In conclusion: A hotel marketers’ goal is not just aiming for a reservation; it is about making a true and meaningful connection, earning the guests’ trust and respect and so creating brand loyalty. A full circle lifestyle approach and in understanding the many different dimensions, values and priorities of the guests and using that understanding as a platform to build a long term lasting brand connection with them will be instrumental. Reward, recognition and relevance are key in enticing (potential) guests to pay attention. By having an active presence in and monitoring effectively the social media channels it is my opinion, that customer service, satisfaction and loyalty levels – and so revenues and profits – will increase.

Now, we would like to invite you to checkout the "Infavour" our Hotel Loyalty Program and discover what we, at IMOCOM Hotels and Resorts have prepared for our Guests - special benefits and privileges designed to reflect your individual travel preferences and offer an enhanced level of service.

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