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

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.

How have you embraced social media to deliver the best customer experience?

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

  1. Michael R says:


    Great article. Great to see hoteliers start to think beyond just “tweeting” and “updating” facebook. Let’s start to put some strategy behind social media in 2011 and generate some revenue and loyalty.

    Great stuff!


    • marcsontag says:

      Hi Michael, thanks. Would even say that hoteliers need to re-assess their marketing strategy first. When getting that one right, a selective use of relevant Social Media channels will automatically be an intrensical part of the marketing mix.

  2. karl says:

    Most hotels seem to be aware of tripadviser. However, I wonder if they pay attention to a site like Yelp or even Foursquare checkins? I find a lot of businesses have learned to trip over themselves to take on a negative review or negative tweet but are they learning to nurture their online advocates? I’ve posted some really stellar reviews for hotels on tripadviser and Yelp but have never gotten so much as a thank you. Not that I want a thank you or, cough, a free night. I’ve even named names of people at hotels who were really stand out and just went the extra mile. At a minimum part of me wants to think their superior has noticed and recognized the employee in a small way. “Bill, you got named in a 5 star tripadviser review. Keep up the good work!” It would be great if hotels monitoring these kinds of things actually let me know my recognition of good service has resulted in some official employee recognition.

    • marcsontag says:

      Hi Karl – great comments. I think you are right in general. Having said this I can speak on our own behalf and suppose that Foursquare is still rather lowkey in Europe. Having said this, we have uploaded our hotels and implemented some promotions, while re-enforcing that message internally with dedicated guest communications.

      Our hotels have the following procedure in place with respect to (online) reviews
      1) Upon check out each guest is sent a post stay letter, suggesting the guests to review their recent experience online
      2) Upon having received a guest review – independent of the channel – ALL get a personalised thank you response of the General Manager
      3) (Almost) all Tripadvsior reviews are answered through a dedicated Management Response. (We do not tend to have that many bad reviews, as we are holding #1 in our respective local markets and although we are very thankful, we need to be rather creative in order to not become monotoneous in responding to these positive reviews 😉
      3) Internally, all reviews -GOOD or BAD – are shared with our staff either to complement them or re-assess internal procedures.

      Kind regards from the Algarve

  3. Tadeo Muriuki says:

    Great article about thinking outside the box regarding guest regarding hotels loyalty program and thinking outside the box. I especially agree with Karl on the importance of hoteliers sending a thank you to a positive review. It makes the guest feel more valued and this guest would probably feel more inclined to returning to this hotel. It is simply a matter of human nature. We all want to feel appreciated.

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