Chief among them is John Forrest Ales, Hilton Hotels & Resorts’ senior director of global brand public relations. He sat in the driver’s seat during the campaign and recently pulled over long enough to answer a few questions.
Chief among them: How?
Strategies and goals
It’s all about developing a targeted strategy, Ales told me. To do that, you first need a goal—something to shoot for.
Hilton’s goal: “Increasing global engagement of qualified fans in target demographics and geographic markets who are a priority for revenue-driving brand promotions and partnerships,” he explained.
Notice he didn’t say anything about converting bookings on Facebook. The focus was on engagement. The team wanted to get the Hilton brand in front of travelers to guide their decision-making at the earliest stages of the buying cycle.
“Social media allows us the opportunity to be with our guests throughout most of their travel and hospitality journey, from the first stages of planning a vacation to making a purchasing decision,” Ales said. “This is a cycle we see as extremely important because it provides us the opportunity to help shape a guest’s experience.”
Persistence wins the day
With a goal in place, next came implementation and testing.
“We developed a multifaceted strategy and implemented a large number of targeted campaigns on Facebook, testing our approach periodically and adapting to tactics that secured the highest return of ‘likes,’” he said.
There was a lot of tinkering during the process, which Hilton began in earnest in September 2009. Some posts and campaigns stuck. Others didn’t. But Ales and his team constantly monitored the stats to keep the ship from veering off course.
That often meant aligning with the Hilton group’s broader marketing campaigns, Ales said.
“Facebook activity related to specific projects such as our sponsorships of the Grammys and Tribeca Film Festival and launch of the Hilton Urgent Vacation Care Center went into market at specific points in the fan drive to help grow our base as organically as possible.”
It also meant keeping the end goal in mind, targeting the right groups of travelers to drive global engagement.
Hilton launched specific Facebook pages in Mexico and the United Kingdom to connect more directly with consumers in those priority markets. Ales and his team also found that location-specific content yielded greater return on investment than generic global campaigns.
“We localize select posts by geo-targeting certain regions or fans depending on the type of news that we are posting and share news in local languages. This was one of our greatest assets in reaching the 1-million-Facebook-fans milestone,” he said.
“Listen and engage often with a targeted approach,” Ales advised.
“We accomplish this in a variety of ways, from posting during hours when Facebook users in specific geographic areas will be most likely to engage to using local language. We feel it’s important to think strategically about feeder markets and travel patterns when planning content,” he said.
In other words, look before you dive.
“Simply establishing a profile or brand page will not do. We focus our time and resources on our target demographics to make the greatest impact for the brand, our properties and our guests.”