Leveraging Customer Loyalty Through Social Media For Luxury Hotels

There’s an aspect to marketing that doesn’t get talked about often enough and I thought I could get you all thinking about customer loyalty. While hotels operating outside the luxury sphere know that location and price are driving factors for a booking decision, within the luxury hotel industry there are a large portion of travelers with a favorite hotel brand.

Loyalty programs can play a big role in your annual hotel revenue, so how can we go about increasing your repeat customer business with social media? With careful planning and dedication to the task at hand, you can certainly make this daunting task easier and more profitable.

“On average travelers fly or stay in hotels 2-3 times a year, like to book travel online and are more often than not swayed by reward programs on offer when choosing where to buy travel.”

— Source Collinson Latitude

We have been working with a hotel client of ours over the past six months in this area and have learned a lot about the importance of social media for loyalty. While I cannot name our client, I can share with you a bit of our in-house blueprint – our secret sauce if you will.

It is best said first that opening up your social media channels to relationship marketing requires a bit of patience. There is a good amount of research involved, mulling over your own internal data and of course there’s the additional workload of actually engaging customers.

With the right tools, people and just a bit of time you can quite easily fit in a few hours of customer engagement per week. If you have a rather large staff, then perhaps think about dedicating either one person or a small team to get the job done more easily and quicker.

Our Relationship Marketing Blueprint

relationship marketing for hotels blueprint While I won’t spill all of our tips and tricks, I will show you what it takes to prepare and execute a relationship marketing system that brings in a positive ROI. Social media has allowed us to instantly connect with someone on a more personal, albeit less intimate digital level. It has also allowed us to form relationships with customers that will lead to sales without trying to sell them anything.

While customers are most likely to vent frustration towards a brand over social media, we’re going to help you give them something else to talk about. While it may be considered a bit creepy that we’re socially “stalking” your most loyal customers, keep in mind that your etiquette will keep you on the other side of the line.

1. Gathering Data

This is where it all starts so let’s hope your hotel has significant data that has been collecting customer social media account info in from anywhere it can. If you haven’t started collecting customer social media data then it’s high time you started.

You should be gathering social data through your booking platform, but there are many other ways to go about getting this information:

  • Through your hotel’s apps upon signup
  • When a customer emails support or a question
  • Allow customers to participate in a hashtag that your brand uses
  • Offer rewards for sending our a Tweet or snapping an Instagram photo of them staying on the property
  • Integrate social login capabilities on your website

This will be the most crucial aspect of this marketing strategy since you’ll need to know with whom you’re dealing and what they like. It will make engagement easier for you and make your hotel look good in the process.

2. Building Targeted Lists

When you’ve got your assembled list/spreadsheet/database of known customers’ social accounts it’s now time to start segregating them into targeted lists. You’ll need to interact with each type of customer differently – another reason why this strategy is time consuming and needs meticulous oversight.

For our lists, we recommend that our clients organize them in groups like vacationers, business travelers, spa goers and so forth. As I said earlier, we’ll be interacting with each “loyal” group differently so having their mindset known will help you out a lot with your engagement.

The hotel client we recently worked with for six months was not a part of a larger hotel chain, but an independent boutique hotel in a busy metropolitan city. With their internal data and our sculpted social customer lists we were able to identify and interact with them for the following occasions and reasons.

  • It was a customer’s birthday
  • Around the time the customers family was known to visit that year
  • Ask business travel customers about their upcoming conference
  • Just send a simple but thoughtful message to brighten their day
  • Interact with the client socially while they traveled around the host city
  • Connecting with them before, during and after their stay

One other important thing to remember is you’ll also need to figure out what social networks are going to be the most fruitful fro each target group. You won’t find a lot of the older generation on Instagram showcasing their day at the beach like the millennials but you may have more luck on LinkedIn catching them for that 20 minutes they spend there per month.

Since you’re in the luxury travel space, you should also know within your most loyal customers who are the most affluent. Keeping the big rollers engaged as well as making them feel cared for when they’re not staying with you can be a great way to make sure they don’t book anywhere else next time they’re in town. Be careful to walk the fine line between helping and nagging. Their time is very valuable so make sure that you’re not wasting it with your outreach.

3. Social Engagement

Once all the data is organized you’re ready to start engaging the customers in real time. This requires a system in place so that you stay organized, engage efficiently and are ready to scale. We’ll take a look at a few tools we use, strategies I’ve developed and even an example of technology in action.

I find that in-house apps for hotels are a brilliant way to go about relationship marketing and allow you to easily connect socially with your hotel’s customers. Customers willingly connect up with their favorite social platforms and from there you can engage during and after their stay.

Take a look at The Conrad New York’s app that lets customers and the hotel stay connected at all times. Just to mention Conrad New York isn’t the client I was speaking of earlier, they just happen to have some damn fine tech and marketing prowess in place.

While this technology is great for the client during their stay, there are still opportunities to build loyalty before and after they’re gone. The social media strategies we help implement or train our client’s marketing teams with are quite simple.

While I’ve blabbed on for a good amount here already in this post I’ll make it simple and just list some bullet point ideas to get you going.

  • Get your concierge(s) to have their own Twitter/Instagram account to engage with clients by letting them know when something amazing comes to town. These team members know your top clients well and keeping them engaged outside of a trip is perfect for them.
  • Let your favorite local customers know about restaurant specials, romantic getaways and other local ideas that will play on the location.
  • Want to keep customers on your radar without selling them anything? Make sure you’re retweeting and regramming their content on your accounts to show them some love. This works extremely well and is my favorite strategy since it’s a win/win.
  • Know a customers other family members social accounts and get the whole family in on some social media fun. Ask them questions or have some fun to get them involved.
  • Engage the customers that left TripAdvisor reviews and thank them for taking the time to do so. From here keep the dialogue going.
  • Utilize birthday dates so you know when to give that customer a lovely message or small gift on the day of
  • Commenting on Instagram accounts of your “loyals” and tagging them in your regrams will bring in a follow rate that out performs any other method.
  • Create promotions that target a certain sub niche in your loyal customer lists and directly let them know about it. The difference here is you’re going to write a bespoke message just for that user and you can see how well this plays out for you.

This is just the start of ideas that should get your team flowing nicely along and start really making customers feel extra special. Keep at this bi-weekly if you can and I promise you that your hotel will see very positive results once things start to snowball around the 6 month period. Keep coming up with ideas of your own with your team. Ask them how they’d like to be engaged by a brand they follow and put it to work!

Test, Track, Rinse and Repeat!

Even though you started out with a large amount of data to sift through and refine, you’ll end up with almost as much after 6 months of relationship marketing. Just like with any marketing practice, you’ll need to really track every effort in order to refine and tailor the process down the road.

As always, I invite my readers to leave comments below. I want to hear your experiences and even tell me if I’m flat out wrong about something. I thank you for reading and I hope this content has inspired you to either start or strengthen your relationship marketing efforts. If you’re in need of some assistance you are more than welcome to pick my brain, all you need to do is email us.

Ryan Clark
[email protected]

Ryan Clark is celebrating 10 years consulting for luxury brands across the globe helping them reach UHNW individuals online and off. He specializes in luxury digital marketing, SEO, PR and luxury viral marketing. Connect with me to talk about your luxury marketing strategy and how our services can help you achieve more this year. I offer a luxury gaps audit to determine where you're falling flat and where I see you can improve in your marketing efforts.   To connect with him online you can follow on Twitter @LuxuryBranded, connect on LinkedIn Ryan R Clark and read his column on Luxe Getaways Magazine where he covers the world of luxury.