According to Smart Insights, 52% of travellers say that social media influenced a change in their travel plans. In light of such data, we conducted an interview with one of the largest global hotel groups today: Accor Hotels, to find out where social media fits in with their strategy.
After participating in Accor Hotel’s #EmojiSearch campaign ourselves - which saw a 82% increase in the number of AccorHotels’ Twitter followers during the one week run of the campaign - we spoke with Emilie Vazquez, VP of E-commerce Marketing for Accorhotels.com, about how they executed the campaign, and what they have planned for the rest of 2016. Read on to see how the hospitality industry is serving the dishiest of social campaigns.
What’s the makeup of your social media team?
I’d like to give you an idea of how we’re structured as that will give you an understanding of how we work, and how we interact on social media. The Accorhotels.com portal is available in 32 different versions worldwide, and is available in 18 different languages. The central team, which is my team, works hand-in-hand with all the local teams who are in charge of the Accorhotels.com portal for their markets. So they are in charge of defining the local offers, the merchandising of the website and all the campaign management. During the year, globally for Accorhotels.com there’s a mix of central worldwide campaigns, offers and local initiatives that are adapted for the local markets. And when we consider this as a whole, it’s actually the same kind of process and vision and way of moving ahead for social media. It’s also very similar to how we conduct our social media planning.
For social media, we have a central team of two people who work hand in hand with the local social media contacts in our different point of sales and all of these teams (central plus local) work on combining different campaigns throughout the year. Whether they’re central, big campaigns on social media that can be adapted to different local markets, like the case of #emojisearch for example, as well as very local campaigns.
How many Twitter accounts do you have?
For Accorhotels.com, we have 5 different Twitter accounts, worldwide in english, APAC, French, Brazilian, and Spanish. I’m in charge of Accorhotels.com (B2C approach). The corporate account is here to relay the institutional news, it’s handled by the corporate communication department.
What’s the main objective of being on Twitter?
We focus on two pillars that complement Twitter’s core positioning of providing live and instant live information. The first one is really sharing of information, and communicating key moments about our brand, information on our offers, networks, loyalty programmes or valuable information we can have for our clients. The second focus is a more customer care approach where we will interact with our customers and prospects for very specific needs and queries for them. For that, we have a social care team that is available for the different languages covered.
What’s the social media strategy for Accor Hotels?
Up till now, it’s been fluid, and on a day-to-day basis. However, now we’re trying to structure it a little bit more, considering the growing importance of social media for a brand where customers are its world. We’re currently forming and working on the strategy for 2016.
To give a bit of a background, last year our group Accor rebranded to Accor Hotels. The rebranding was important to emphasise who we truly are and what we do.
It’s important for us to provide services at not only the booking period or during the stay of the customer, but also on all the different phases before and after. For instance, the inspirational phase, the dream phase, the select phase and the preparation prior to the stay and the share and return phase that comes after the stay. And of course, within all of this is the customer at the centerpiece of the strategy. Our B2C portal, Accorhotels.com is completely linked to this vision, and social media is a crucial part of it.
We want Accorhotels.com to be considered a key player when searching for travel services online so we see social media as a real opportunity to be able to achieve this. The closeness, loyalty and engagement that can be generated via social media networks constitute as a real boost for everything that we do on acquisition and awareness. So we definitely want to capitalise on this driver.
How important is Twitter in making Accorhotels.com a key player in the industry?
When you consider us as a global worldwide group with presence in 92 countries, Twitter is key in the social media landscape. Of course, we are also in countries like China where Weibo and WeChat is more prominent.
We’re working on different campaigns that are specific for Twitter itself, but we’re also trying to form strategies on a global approach where all social networks come together. The #EmojiSearch campaign is a good example of that, because it's something that we wanted to deploy very simply, something that was enjoyable and had a high potential for virality on all the different key social networks.
How does social media integrate with your wider marketing campaign? How important is social?
It’s becoming more and more important. Accorhotels.com will have some important promotional highlights in the year. We have powerful promotional offers that we will curate through the year. And of course, social media is important to promote the campaigns.
Your #EmojiSearch campaign caught our eye! What was the thinking behind it? How did it all start?
One of our first and foremost strategies is to be innovative and creative and the #EmojiSearch campaign is a prime example of that. We took into consideration the rise of emojis in all personal usages and thought maybe this could be an interesting thing to work with.
It was also important for us to strengthen the position of Accorhotels.com, especially after the rebranding. And we also wanted to use something that would connect us directly to our audience. What better than emojis? To welcome prospects from the first click is really important, so we wanted this emoji campaign to be a community experience for fans, followers, as well as customers and prospects who don’t necessarily know us.
We thought of something that could be friendly, informal and positive, which also had an element of surprise and originality, and I think that worked with this campaign. And we wanted for the most part to play on emotions, supporting likes and desires versus more functional approaches. So we decided to ask everyone on our social networks to send us a range of emojis for us to decode where their next holiday should be.
So how did you analyse the #EmojiSearch Tweets that were sent to you?
We had something what we called the “social room” for this campaign, and we had 16 people who were decrypting all the combinations of emojis that were coming through from clients, prospects, fans, followers and whoever else joined in. They decrypted the combination of emojis and proposed a selection of destinations, hotels, promotions and offers. Within the core objective of this campaign, we had three objectives:
First, was to create awareness and likability of the brand - Accorhotels.com. 2) to get users involved by bringing to life our promise of engaging them from the first click on social media, and 3) to boost the commercial ecosystem on our platform by generating traffic on accorhotels.com in terms of business.
How long did you run the campaign for?
The “social room” was present for one week. We had paid sponsor posts before the actual deployment of the campaign, to create a bit of buzz around it but the execution happened for a week. It was in 7 markets: France, UK, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Thailand, Spain.
What kind of results did you see from #EmojiSearch campaign on Twitter?
We had great results on Twitter. More than 1,800 Tweets with the hashtag #EmojiSearch and Accor Hotels replied 900 times. We also created a video that encapsulated the workings of the whole campaign, and that was seen more than 131,000 times on Twitter.
Twitter returned the best results in terms of the number of influencers reached and the number of posts that came from users across social networks. We also achieved a great increase in followers for each of our Twitter accounts, with our main account - Accorhotels - getting an 82% increase in followers after the campaign.
That’s great! How often do you use paid promotions?
We’ve started doing more and more social advertising, including Twitter advertising aiming at 2 different types of objectives: to promote our major offers and promotions of course, but also to promote our AccorHotels App which is key for our development as well. The targeting capabilities on social media makes it a powerful tool for our marketing campaigns.
Do you have a campaign plan for the rest of the year?
#EmojiSearch was one of many to come in the year. We’re currently working on all the campaigns that are going to be out this year. We want to focus on all the big highlights, at the central level as well as the local level. I’d like to emphasise on innovation this year. We want to take hold of every opportunity and come up with innovative concepts.
What is the challenge that the hospitality and travel industry is facing currently on Twitter and the social network?
The travel industry is very important in the social circuit and that’s a great opportunity for us. Travel and social are very much linked because of how much travellers love sharing. One of the main challenges as a travel brand is the ability to differentiate ourselves from all the other brands that are out there. And that’s one of the biggest challenges we’re going to try and overcome.
Want to hear more insights and opinions from digital marketing and social media professionals at some of the world’s top brands and organisations? Check out the other social media interviews in our Spotlight Series, including Benefit Cosmetics, PUMA, NASA, FIFA, Pizza Express, and many more.