InterContinental Hotels Group's Jenni Kolshak on Customer Social Networks
TM: What are the private communities?
JK: The private communities we see serving a different purpose than the public community. The private communities give customers a seat at the table, so to speak. We run very targeted research activities in those communities and ask for their feedback; those members get points for their participation.
Then the public community sort of grew out of the private communities. We saw a need to have this extra level of engagement—customers were connecting with each other in the private community, sharing travel tips and enjoying the interaction they got with some of our executives and managers. So we're still going to continue that in the public community; there is a video blog where people can ask questions of our executives, and depending on the topic, we'll get the appropriate executive to answer them in a video format.
TM: Is there a prospecting strategy attached to this initiative?
JK: I would say that in terms of going after prospects, I don't know that we'll be actively marketing it; right now, we can only e-mail market to our Priority Club Rewards customers. So we're hoping for word-of-mouth. And some of the advantages to having a public community come in the form of search marketing; a lot of the fresh content should push us up in SEO [results], and we're hoping people will find us there. We've seen in the last month that if you go in and search for certain keywords, the community does pop up on the first page [of search results] most of the time.
Our focus remains on the Priority Club Rewards members. The content is open for everyone to see; you don't have to log in to see the content. It's only when you want to participate that you need to log in and be a Priority Club Rewards member.