InterContinental Hotels Group's Jenni Kolshak on Customer Social Networks
Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube ... these and other social media networks have proven helpful to marketers that want to keep an ear open to the customer feedback grapevine. But why limit your research and interaction to an account on a third-party social network when you can create something more special for customers? That's the conclusion InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)—representing brands such as Holiday Inn, Staybridge, Crowne Plaza and the eponymous InterContinental—came to when brainstorming ways to better serve customers.
The success of a viral marketing campaign to members of its private customer communities convinced IHG that a public community had the potential to "drive significant incremental revenue," says Jenni Kolshak, social marketing specialist for IHG and the Priority Club Connect community manager. Developed to serve and grow the 44 million-member Priority Club Rewards loyalty program, the Priority Club Connect community went live mid-April.
IHG's public community is supported by Jive Software's Jive SBS community software solution, which optimizes content input for better search engine rankings and offers metrics on users, content and engagement, to name a few features.
"The smart marketer today is saying [marketing] has to be, instead of huge lightning strikes everywhere, a rolling thunder thing where we're listening to people, engaging with them, asking for their opinions before we go and giving them insights on what we're working on behind the scenes before-after-during, so when it's time to actually promote something, we have that relationship going and can insert this sales information in and not get hammered on it," explains Sam Lawrence, Jive's former CMO.
Kolshak leads us through the details of how IHG is building such a connection with its better customers, one post at a time.
Target Marketing: How do you promote the community to Priority Club Rewards members?
Jenni Kolshak: We sent out a stand-alone e-mail inviting select members to join, and we did that right around the launch time in April. We've included placement in some of our e-mail communications. It also will be included in a direct mail communication, the Priority Club newsletter that drops this month ... we're not going to be putting a lot of placements [in our direct mail] because we obviously want to hit people who are on the Web. So again, mostly e-mail placements, banners on our homepage and hopefully some word-of-mouth marketing, too. We have some private online communities, and those members obviously all know about the public community as well.