Why loyalty and social media are a match made in heaven

It goes without saying social media has resulted in huge cultural shifts in terms of how both consumers and businesses behave and interact with one another.

The past few years have seen brands use social media in new and creative ways to engage with their customers, the examples of Oreo’s famous Super Bowl: “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet, or KFC’s innovative LinkedIn profile for the fast food chains famous founder, Colonel Sanders, spring to mind.

Social media is, by definition, about community, so using it to engage a membership (a loyalty programme) makes perfect sense to me. And, with no signs the evolution of social media platforms will slow down any time soon, I started to think about what loyalty programmes are doing to integrate their social channels into their programmes, as well as what opportunities still lie ahead.

Here are the three travel companies we think are leading the way in the use of social within their loyalty programmes:

Expedia

Expedia, which powers travel bookings for thousands of partners in the form of airlines, hotels, and consumer brands, has embraced one of the greatest, and simplest, benefits that social media offers: two-way communication.

Social media offers an easy way for brands to truly integrate into the behaviours and habits of their customers

#ExpediaChat is a Twitter Q&A session that invites followers to share their thoughts on different topics with Expedia (and other followers of the hashtag).

The hashtag allows Expedia to have conversations directly with their followers, regarding everything from holiday plans, travel destinations, and cultural experiences, and as a result, the brand has built a highly engaged community.

One reason why this strategy is so successful is that these discussions are held at the same time every week, so followers know exactly when and how they can participate.

Expedia also gives out rewards to those engaging with the weekly chats, offering an even greater incentive for followers to ‘@’ the brand more regularly.

Nearly every brand has a social media following, but very few manage to convert this into a thriving community. With #ExpediaChat, Expedia demonstrates how to generate successful two-way dialogue, and other brands would do well to follow suit.

Starwood

Snapchat has continued to grow in popularity since its launch in 2011. Earlier this year, it was reported that 10 billion videos are being viewed on the platform per day, and by 2017 it’s estimated the organisation will be earning nearly $1bn in ad revenue.

Starwood, one of the world’s largest hotel companies, has recognised Snapchat’s potential and is experimenting with the platform to promote its loyalty programme, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG).

Starwood created a SPG geofilter (a location-based filter) that Snapchat users can apply to their ‘snaps’ when they stay at one of Starwood’s hotels across the globe.

Starwood strikes a good balance between allowing Snapchat users to engage with their loyalty programme when using the app and not being overly intrusive.

This demonstrates the simple way that brands can use social media to increase awareness of, and engagement with, their programmes. And with 45% of Snapchat users aged between 18 and 24, this is a great opportunity to secure loyalty from a new generation.

KLM

Last year, the well-recognised Netherlands airline KLM, became the first of its kind to use Facebook Messenger to interact with their customers.

In an unprecedented move, the airline decided to embrace a social media platform that its programme members were already regularly using, instead of forcing its customers to communicate through static emails or automated customer service centres.

KLM truly had/have their consumers at the heart of their approach, which is very refreshing to see.

With Facebook acquiring WhatsApp and the growth of social commerce continuing to rocket, we can now all begin to see the value of messenger services for businesses.

Given social media’s scale, it’s now very hard to ignore and recent research into the mass affluent consumer commissioned by Collinson Group backs this up, as we revealed that more respondents “couldn’t do without” social and communication apps – more than their need for maps, shopping and news apps.

Social media offers an easy way for brands to truly integrate into the behaviours and habits of their customers.

The key for loyalty is to embrace social in a way that complements the customers’ behaviours and actions, rather than making them go out of their way to engage, creating a more personalised and improved experience at every turn.

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