Social media engagement has become increasingly valuable to hotel brands and travel companies—look no further than our own SMITTY Award winners—but today, Marriott is becoming the first company to place a real dollar value on customers’ tweets, check-ins, and likes. With PlusPoints, a new feature of the brand’s much loved rewards program, visitors who download the Marriott Rewards app and synch their social media accounts will now see their points balances increase with every digital interaction—up to 2,000 points each month. Says Rich Toohey, VP of Marriott Rewards, “It’s a way to provide immediate gratification for our members, who happy to be very active on social media channels.” Immediate is right: most interactions (geo-tagged Instagram pics; Facebook comments; check-ins and tweets) will yield an automatic deposited of 25 points to your Marriott Rewards account, while one-time activities, such as liking a property page on Facebook, will boost your balance by 250 points.
When asked if this has anything to do with viral marketing, Toohey countered—the conversation that’s happening on social is robust as it is, he says, and the goal is to reward consumers for a service they’re already performing. But part of the goal is certainly to broaden the appeal of an established brand to a younger generation—one that’s more likely to tweet about the Ace Hotels and 21Cs of the world. Says Toohey, “We needed to think about how to innovate our loyalty program over time. Our membership base is soon to switch from being led by baby boomers, and we want the Gen X and Gen Y audience to love us in the future as much as boomers love us now.” Toohey, you’ve certainly got our attention.
As for the payoff? It’s not huge. The 2,000 monthly max might translate to roughly $5, depending on how you use your points. But any way of racking up points is welcome these days, especially given the downwards trend of loyalty point valuation across the industry. Some details about qualifying tweets and regulations are still to be determined—expect more details here, and on-site at Marriott properties, as the program rolls out.
Nikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.