Flashy photos and positive reviews can only get a hotel so far. To keep customers coming back after the busy summertime travel months are through, hotels, resorts and B&Bs are increasingly turning to points-based marketing programs that reward guests for loyalty and social media usage. One of the most popular programs for businesses within the travel industry right now is Topguest, a social loyalty platform that hotels can use to reward guests for checking-in on their mobile devices.
How It Works
Topguest isn't a social media platform and it isn't exactly a loyalty program, either. Instead, it's a hybrid combination that businesses in the travel industry—including hotels, B&Bs and airlines—can use to tie location-based social media activity to their loyalty programs, which in turn makes their existing programs more effective.
From the traveler's perspective, Topguest is seamless. Although guests do need to create an account with Topguest and upload their loyalty program information, they are compensated for this initial activity with bonus points that can be used toward free room stays and flights through participating programs. Guests are also asked to connect their social media accounts to the Topguest network. Topguest currently supports Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter and Instagram.
Once travelers are signed up and connected, they can check-in on participating social networks through their mobile phones and earn points for visiting more 17,900 locations worldwide. Topguest pulls check-in information from the social media networks it supports, and funnels the associated points into whichever loyalty programs users have linked to their Topguest accounts. To ensure that guests don't take advantage of these mobile check-in deals, Topguest runs periodic tests that look for check-ins that are unreasonably frequent or impossible to make given distance and time limitations. These check-ins are automatically flagged for review, and users who are found to be gaming the system are banned from further use.
Topguest in Action
To use Topguest, businesses need to sync the platform to their existing loyalty programs, as well as any customer relationship management (CRM) systems they utilize, and select the social media networks that they want to reward guests for using. Topguest handles all aspects of API integration, and lets businesses decide which types of rewards they want to offer for checking-in at their establishments.
At Choice Hotels, members of the Choice Privileges loyalty program are automatically allotted 50 extra points each time they check-in on a social network at any one of the hotel group's 1,500 participating properties. Partnering with Topguest gave Choice Hotels a way to capitalize on location-based technology and increase awareness on popular social networking sites, without having to manage the infrastructure that goes along with such a large-scale marketing program. Choice Hotels has continued to see check-in volume grow month over month since partnering with Topguest in late 2010.
Why It Works
Businesses that partner with Topguest can increase their presence on popular networking sites without increasing the workload for marketing staffers at their organizations. Topguest handles all aspects of program management and integration, which is attractive for marketing managers who don't have the time to spend on such large-scale campaigns.
Another factor in Topguest's success is its ability to integrate into existing loyalty programs. Rather than telling hotels to ditch the membership programs they've spent thousands of dollars to build, Topguest gives its business clients a way to expand their programs to enhance the overall effectiveness.
Maximizing the Benefits
Businesses can promote their partnerships with Topguest and increase the number of customers participating in their loyalty programs by running special campaigns that encourage social sharing. For example, Virgin America celebrated Topguest's integration with Instagram in 2011 by running an online competition in which travelers were encouraged to post photos taken at Virgin America venues, like airport terminals and planes. Travelers were asked to vote on their favorite photos, and weekly winners were awarded 1,000 bonus points through Virgin America's Elevate program. Companies that promote their expanded programs with limited-time promotions can expect to have much higher levels of participation within the Topguest platform.
Do you use Topguest or other rewards programs to promote your business?
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. She is based in Portland, Ore.
Image courtesy Topguest