Programs used to be generous giving out points or other rewards on Facebook. The idea is it was worth it to them, they’d get access to your Facebook feed and could advertise to you forever.
But it’s almost always a mistake to invest in someone else’s plaform, they change the algorithm and your ads no longer appear as frequently. The investment you made in building ‘friends’ is no longer worth as much. If commercial pages want to advertise, and have the reach they used to, they need to pay Facebook.
United used to give out points for follows on Twitter, other programs incentivized twitter follows as well. United also used to offer deep discount short-term twitter deals (“Twares”) but those ran afoul of agreements not to undercut pricing they loaded into computer reservation systems.
The travel industry has been investing for awhile in social, in part based on fads, and still hasn’t figured it out.
Here’s the conclusion I offered for the piece:
Gary Leff, co-founder of Milepoint.com, a frequent-flier community, says hotels are still at the experimental stages with this new concept, as evidenced by Marriott already decreasing the number of points awarded for Twitter and Facebook follows.
“The challenge each brand faces is how to authentically connect with members, and indeed with large numbers of members, leveraging technology,” he says. “That’s not something they’ve really figured out how to do yet – but each is trying different things.”
Although we think of airlines and hotels as both being a part of “travel” (same industry) they’re fundamentally different. Airlines (in the US at least) are in the transportation business, getting you from point A to point B. Hotels are in the hospitality business and each chain has their own program to try to build engagement and thus – they hope – loyalty.
Starwood, among the major hotel programs, has been the most about customization for their frequent guests. Elites choose the benefits important to them (points or breakfast, when they want an upgrade the most, what time they check in and out).
Marriott’s attempt to engage guests socially is about connecting with them outside the room experience, and trying to turn guests into brand ambassadors as well.
But it’s hardly new. TopGuest, owned by Switchfly, was a program that let members earn points or miles for social check-ins. Hilton’s Doubletree brand, Wyndham, IHG, and Best Western all participated award points for social checkins. That didn’t turn out to work well enough and one by one each partner withdrew from the program.
Incidentally, though it’s been only two months since Marriott’s new social beta was launched, they’ve already devalued the program!
- They stopped giving points for liking properties on Facebook
- They reduced the reward for following a property on twitter from 250 points down to 25
- They now cap earning at 4 transactions per day
At the same time though they’ve increased the number of participating properties.
As programs figure all of this stuff out (and mostly fail) you can earn a few points along the way. These efforts won’t be sending members off on major free trips. They aren’t a huge payoff for the time invested. But Marriott is clearly making an investment here, which will benefit member account balances in the process.