Differentiation – Marriott vs. Hilton

As you may have gathered from some of my prior posts, having a social media presence in today’s market place is paramount for any and all hotels. This is evident in the various infographics I shared previously, like this one, and this one.  Needless to say, a hotel without a social media presence would be like a teenager wanting to become popular, go to a party, and stand in the corner all night and not socialize with anyone, or like a business not having its address found on a GPS (i.e. you might be able to ask for directions, or in the case of a hotel ask for recommendations, and end up finding it yourself, but it would take much longer, and you may give up before you do).  In this current post I will be focusing on two hotel industry heavyweights Marriott and Hilton, specifically how these two compare when it comes to their social media tactics / engagements, with the goal of trying to identify one that is managing to differentiate itself from its competition.

About the Subjects of our discussion:

From the start Marriott and Hilton have a lot of similarities with respect to their operations and what they have to offer their customers.  This is evident in a comparison performed by Business Bee in July of 2013, which provides some information such as the number of hotels (M:3,700 vs. H:4,000) room count ( M:660,394 vs. H:659,293), both have multiple brands (M:19 vs. H:10) each of which targets specific market segments, both have reward programs (Marriott Rewards & Hilton Honors), and according to ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) have similar scores (M:82 vs. H:80). As of the date of this post, Business Bee’s survey at the end of its post, which included 779 total votes, has Marriott leading over Hilton (54.81% vs. 45.19%) on which brand the voters would prefer. Another comparison of the two brands, which was done by Knoji.com, also shows a lot of similarities between the two. That said how do the two compare in the social stratosphere?

A few ground rules:

As we mentioned above, both brands have various sub-brands, each of which has its own social media strategy and platforms, such as various Facebook pages for the JW Marriott, and the Courtyard from Marriott or the Doubletree and the Hampton from Hilton. While we could spend a lot of time analyzing each of these sub-brands, for the purpose of this post, I have focused on the parent brands, i.e. Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Marriott Hotel & Resorts. Furthermore, both brands make use of various social media platforms, such as Hilton’s use of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Foursquare, as well as Chinese social media platforms like Tudou and Sina Weibo, or such as Marriott’s use of Blogger, Tumbler, etc. However, for the purpose of this comparison, I have limited the scope of discussion and what is deriving the level of the two brand’s engagement level to 3 main platforms – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Finally, please note that the numbers presented below are as of today’s date (9/11/14).

Social Media Strategy Overview:

So, before we delve into the comparison of the level of social media engagement of the two brands, I think it would be important to understand their overall social media strategy. For Hilton, as Andrew Flack, Hilton’s VP of global brand marketing, stated “Our brand promise is to ensure every guest feels cared for, valued and respected, and our social media channels are an extension of this promise…. Our strategy for managing guest feedback includes four main goals: listen, respond, resolve and implement. We have teams in place who closely monitor our brand social channels 24 hours a day to ensure that issues are acknowledged and addressed” (Wharton, 2012).

In addition to that, the following video from Vimeo does a great job in explaining just that:

Additional info about Hilton’s strategy can also be found here.

As for Marriott, while a bit late to the social media game, only starting with Facebook and Twitter in 2012, their focus has been on the younger generations, generation X and Y. As Michael Dail, VP of global brand marketing for Marriott, stated “We have a straightforward social media strategy: To become a forum for dialogue and be more relevant to Gen-X and Gen-Y.” This is evident in one of Marriott’s recent campaigns “Travel Brilliantly”, which was geared towards the younger crowed.  That said, Marriott does more than just try and converse with the younger target market, and has a more robust strategy, as Dail indicated “We actively monitor the page seven days a week and incorporate three detailed, meticulous sweeps on every comment on a daily basis… We aim to acknowledge the majority of posts and resolve any negative issues within (a) six- to 12-hour timeframe depending on the nature and severity” (Wharton, 2012). Another good example of the use of social media in promoting the brand can be found here.

Main platforms of engagement:

Facebook: Marriott seems to take the lead with the number of likes (1,489,977) vs. Hilton (1,2369,871). That said, Hilton seems to have the lead on the number of visits to its Facebook Page (6,407,871) vs. Marriott (3,278,851). Given the larger spread in the number of visits vs. the spread in the number of likes, I consider Hilton having a slight edge over Marriott via this platform.

Twitter: Marriott has 140K followers, 17.5K tweets, and 623 photos/videos posted. Hilton has 158K followers, 32.7K tweets and 965 photos / videos posted. Here to, we can see a clear winner – Hilton.

YouTube: Marriott has a total of 544,709 views, vs. Hilton which has 570,390 total views, giving Hilton the overall edge via this platform as well.

Klout Score: As we have seen above, Hilton seems to surpass Marriott in engaging with their customers at all 3 major platforms. So, it is no surprise that Hilton has a higher Klout score (75) Vs. Marriott (73) That said, I was not expecting the score to be that close, so I had to do a bit more digging.

Bonus Points: While I am not sure the following would impact the brand’s Klout score, it looks like Marriott does not only use social media to promote its brands externally to its customers but also internally to its employees. This can be seen in the following video:

Given this additional use, I awarded Marriott some extra “bonus points” regarding their use of social media as a whole.

And the Winner is….?

When we review the brand’s socialization with its customers, it is clear that Hilton has the edge on Marriott, based on the number of likes, followers, number of tweets, views of videos and overall Klout score. That said, Marriott’s innovative use of social media, not just externally towards its customers but also internally with its employees in my opinion levels the playing field. So, put another way, when it comes to the use of social media I feel that it is too close of a call, and should be considered a tie!

Perhaps before you make up your mind, I would recommend you also read through the recommended additional reading section below.

What do you think?

Recommended Additional Reading:

http://simplymeasured.com/blog/2014/02/28/5-social-media-lessons-learned-from-hotel-brands/

http://digiday.com/brands/how-hilton-reached-1-mil-facebook-fans-fast/

http://contently.com/strategist/2012/06/13/marriotts-five-star-twitter-strategy/

http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-strategy/take-off-the-social-media-blindfold/

http://www.brafton.com/news/social-media-stays-for-longer-than-one-night-in-hotel-industry

http://skift.com/2013/10/21/the-best-hotel-social-media-campaigns-of-2013/

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/big-brand-theory-hilton-hotels-and-resorts

https://www.hashtags.org/how-to/marketing-how-to/social-media-branding-according-to-hilton/

http://recruitloop.com/blog/marriott-hotels-facebook-social-recruiting/

References:

Wharton, S. (2012, December 28). Top hotel brands share social media tactics. Retrieved September 11, 2014, from http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Article/9603/Top-hotel-brands-share-social-media-tactics

 

 

 

 

 

 

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