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Marriott rewards social connoisseurs in exchange for shares

Marriott Rewards members can instantly collect points through liking, tweeting, posting and checking-in on social media when participating in the newly launched PlusPoints initiative, which reserves a monthly allowance of up to 2,000 points for members who advocate the hotelier.

PlusPoints pushes the brand to be active beyond the travel experience and continues the conversation outside of hotel booking. The newest of Marriott Rewards’ programs, PlusPoints endows users with instant gratification as they see their points accumulate immediately resulting from social sharing.

“Marriott is using a clever tactic to squeeze more from their social ad budget by using ad dollars to promote posts encouraging social sharing in return for rewards,” said Jay Hawkinson, senior vice president of emerging products for SIM Partners, Evanston, IL.

“It’s a savvy technique for extending their campaigns and achieving greater reach.”

“Since more users access social media channels through their mobile devices, this tactic should utilize a mobile-first approach to maximize the benefits of Marriott’s reward program. Melding how loyalty members interact with the rewards program with their social behavior should make for a seamless, effective campaign,” he said.

Point of conversion
Enrolled members will receive 25 points each time they share content about Marriott Rewards and hotels and 250 points when they Like a hotel’s Facebook page or follow a property on Twitter.

PlusPoints are instantly loaded into the member’s Marriott Rewards account and a confirmation will be sent by email.

The PlusPoints platform also offers low-point redemption options.

For instance members who trade in 5,000 points can purchase a $10 gift card for Best Buy, Gap, Lowes or Macy’s or view a variety of merchandise options.  Members can also spend 7,500 points for a $15 iTunes gift card.

Marriott Rewards has no blackout dates and members can earn and redeem points at more than 3,800 Marriott International hotels around the world.  Members can also redeem points for frequent flyer miles, cruises, car rentals and more.

Productive conversation
Optimal social engagement requires two way conversations, with brands increasingly initiating a dialogue through rewards.

A study by Kearney on brand performance on Facebook revealed only 5 percent of company-to-consumer posts engaged consumers in discussions; 71 percent were promotional — discount offers, prizes, etc. And, the promotional posts were the most-liked while informative postings were the least effective and drew the fewest comments.

The findings also identified that 89 percent of consumer comments on company Facebook sites went unanswered.

“Anti-social networking” is a result of unresponsive or unengaging content. Company pages with a healthy response rate involve creating emotional connections with consumers: invoking nostalgia, engaging in product discussions, and rallying around common causes.

Seek and reward
Most people visit social networking sites to share, whether by means of photos, recipes or ideas. One-way communication is a dead-end street and the antithesis of success on social channels.  Soliciting input on new and proposed products is a great way to build brand response.

Recently, Weight Watchers boosted dieter recruitment with its new Feel Good Cafe in London where customers were allowed to sample free meals in exchange for posting pictures of the food to social media (see story).

Iconic watch company Timex, also implemented a similar campaign when its launched, a platform that let fans unlock watches, exclusive discounts, training programs and gear from Timex and other endurance brands in exchange for registering and sharing content to one’s personal social channel, from which users can receive points to unlock prizes.

Hotel marketing teams are some of the most innovative in creating interest around their products, and Marriott continues to be the forerunner in mobile social engagement and anticipating future trends.

Part of the goal with PlusPoints is to reward consumers for a service they already perform, while broadening the appeal of the brand to a younger generation – one that is more prone to tweet and post about their destination experiences.

Anticipating the sway from membership base to be soon led from baby boomers to Gen X and Gen Y audiences, Marriott seeks to ensure future generations will value the brand as much as boomers do now.

Historical efforts to connect to a younger brood include last year’s launch of an industry-first mobile travel app called Xplor, which invited guests to create an avatar, head out on a virtual journey to five global gateway cities (New York, Paris, Beijing, Dubai and Sao Paulo) and accomplish varied sightseeing challenges along the way.

Moreover, a Marriott executive at the recent Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2014 said that the international hotel brand is making changes to its approach to customer experience by accounting for a predicted 76 percent increase in consumers ages 18 to 40 within six years.

Marriott expressed plans to reposition its loyalty with Gen X and Y during the “The Mobility Revolution Leading the Way for Brilliant Travel” presentation, as these consumers differ from traditional travelers characterized by their use of mobile devices which is three times greater than any other segment (see story).

“As people spend more time in social channels it’s becoming clear that brands need to do a better job of integrating social into their overall marketing efforts,” Mr. Hawkinson said.

“With target audiences, brands can precisely target their messaging to the appropriate segments without fear of discrimination. With the pressure on advertisers to measure performance and generate a positive return, it’s a smarter approach to utilize a variety of tools like custom audiences and partner targeting features for social advertising. Targeted messages ensure relevance, increasing engagement and ROI.”

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York