Analytics boost social marketing efforts

Acting quickly on the correct data helps engage more customers.

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Best Western listens in on social media using Medallia's customer experience software. Medallia analyzes the text of what is being said about the brand in general and the hotel experience in particular. Best Western uses this intelligence, gleaned through dashboards and customized reports, to understand its successes and shortcomings, as well as those of its competitors.

"Monitoring social media is a great way for us to understand what is positively impacting a guest and what their greatest concerns are with our hotels," Morton says. "This information, in addition to solicited feedback, helps us set the direction for the brand."

Morton's group built the initial Medallia deployment "without relying on IT," he explains. "Later we wanted to involve them as we rolled this out to more and more properties." IT also played a role in bringing data in from other systems. For example, IT helped the business team include purchasing behavioral information, such as where customer bookings were originating -- directly through the hotel, travel agent, third-party sites and so forth. This information helps answer questions like whether properties with higher scores have more bookings.

   Michael Morton
Best Western built its initial social media presence "without relying on IT," says Michael Morton, vice president of member services, but later "we wanted to involve them as we rolled this out to more and more properties."

Best Western believes so strongly in the wisdom social marketing provides that it has bumped up the weight given to this feedback versus surveys, which also are conducted by Medallia, and other types of data collection. Morton believes the influence of social media will only get stronger. "We aren't ready to take dollars away from other marketing efforts, but we are investing in this area," he says.

Although Best Western now leaves the decision of whether to be a social media host up to individual owners, nearly all hotels are engaged in social media via Medallia. The software sends alerts to designated hotel staff if a comment, tweet or other post requires immediate attention.

If customers gripe on Facebook about a lack of towels poolside at a property, the on-site manager is alerted so he quickly can restock them. Hotel operators also can access statistics and insight regarding their performance against local competitors. "Initially, hotel operators didn't understand the magnitude or value of an immediate review and response," Morton says, adding social media metrics has given them perspective.

Centralization yields benefits

Defense and aerospace giant Raytheon, with presences primarily on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, is gauging customer interest in Google+, Pinterest and other emerging platforms.

Similar to Best Western, Raytheon made some strategy adjustments since it first entered the social media realm. Namely, the company centralized all social media properties.

"Everything had been owned and operated differently across the enterprise," says Pam Wickham, vice president of corporate affairs and communications. "Human resources owned the Facebook page and their focus was on recruiting college students and other would-be employees."

Meanwhile, the communications team was operating a Twitter feed as a broadcast channel for corporate news. The company's YouTube stream had no central ownership to start, only random uploading of corporate videos.

In the past 18 months, social media oversight has been gathered under Wickham's group, allowing the alignment of social media content and user interaction with the company's carefully crafted brand and reputation strategy.

   Mike Ribeiro
"We have always considered IT our strongest partner -- even well before social media became such an important part of our strategy," says Pam Wickham, vice president of corporate affairs and communications at Raytheon.

Wickham says the inflection point for true transformation lies in understanding the difference between merely having a presence on social media and engaging in social marketing. "Social marketing is the strategic use of social media channels to deliver and amplify specific brand messaging to a targeted audience," she says. "It's much more deliberate. One is targeting, the other is simply broadcasting your message."

Raytheon uses a combination of homegrown social media analytics tools and those commonly available on social media platforms to keep tabs on messaging and sentiment.

As Raytheon's social media presence grows, so does its risk of exposure to a negative PR event. Therefore, Wickham includes social media managers in all corporate crisis strategy planning and drills. "We've always had a robust emergency response plan within the company but now we've baked in a viral element," she says.

A recent corporate responsibility event put Raytheon's social response to the test. The company had partnered with a major football team to provide free game tickets to a group of veterans. One of the invited veterans posted on the company's Facebook page that he only received one of the two tickets promised, along with a negative comment.

Raytheon's team immediately contacted him directly and found that the distributor, rather than asking for more tickets, only handed out one ticket to each person. Raytheon was able to rectify the situation in time for the game -- something Wickham says wouldn't have happened if the Facebook page weren't so closely monitored.

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