We sat down this week with one of our clients who has tons of experience with global communities: Cassandra Jeyaram, PhD, Social Marketing Manager, Global Consumer Marketing at IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group).
Andrew: First, just so our readers have adequate background, can you tell us about your position at IHG and what Social Marketing Manager means?
Cassandra: The position was created to engage and build long term relationships with our customers. We’re committed to directly engaging with our customers to build those relationships and in some instances use social marketing technologies to give them a seat at the table when making business decisions.
I’m responsible for identifying ways we can leverage social marketing technologies to help us “put heads into beds.” All of our social marketing efforts focus on the tactics that get us results and have a clear ROI.
Andrew: As you know, this is global week on Verbatim, where we are highlighting some of the great work our clients have done in a number of multinational communities. So, before we turn to a results story, can you tell us about your global communities and why you feel they are right for IHG?
Cassandra: Absolutely! We have 44 million customers in our loyalty program, Priority Club Rewards, and many of those live and travel outside the United States. Some of the expanding markets, such as the Asia and the Middle East, are critical to our success. If you are truly committed to the social media sphere and giving your customers representation, then you have to reach out to where they are and where they travel. We’ve identified and followed our best customers and found ourselves with two non-US communities, one that’s truly global for our top tier members, and one for our UK base. Our third community focuses more on the Americas.
Andrew: You have hotels around the world and you’re hosting community members from 47 countries. Despite the inevitable cultural there are striking commonalities among members. Certainly some of those are about love of travel and the desire to make the PCR program the best it can be. But do you have a story about using members’ contributions in a way that’s really different and that binds them together. Can you share that story?
Cassandra: Sure, we noticed, in all our communities, that members loved sharing photos from their travels—and some of these photographs were truly remarkable. They loved sharing them, loved viewing each others’ images, and loved the way it gave them inspiration to travel to destinations pictured. At some point we realized there was a great opportunity to use these member-generated images in our direct mail pieces and in other promotional material.
By using our members’ photos in our global communications, we’re able to give them not only financial currency (with PCR points), but social currency – prestige and notoriety among their peers in the community but with other travelers as well. We saw this as a way to communicate something real that would resonant to members who look at these ads and promotional pieces. That was our hypothesis—that photos taken by real members of real places that interest them will resonate more emotionally than stock photos of properties.
Andrew: And you have some fairly strong results, right?
Cassandra: Yes! We have been using member-generated photos long enough now to have some analytics in place and we’ve realized a 24% incremental lift in revenue in response to the marketing pieces that use member generated photos. And the great thing is that we’re able to be global but execute locally as our members upload photos from around the world.
Andrew: Thanks for sharing that remarkable story. Any parting words for those heading out into the wilderness of social media marketing?
Cassandra: Be transparent and make a commitment. One of the biggest mistakes I see companies making is that they’ll set up a Facebook page or community and then ignore it. Social marketing tools are designed to build and foster relationships. They need nurturing and attention. Failure to connect and engage in a transparent way can lead to extremely disappointing results – not to mention wasted resources.