Everyone likes getting free stuff, right? With consumers spending up to an average of five hours a day on smartphones, it's no wonder some companies are aiming to grab their attention by reaching out through direct messages to their phones – sometimes advertising to them, but sometimes offering something free.
More businesses are using geofencing, a tool that can build geographic zones or specific areas through GPS and cell service. Geofencing allows them to see where their customers are and send them targeted ads. For example, if you use the driving app Waze, you might get an ad about a specific store, restaurant or gas station as you pass them on our route.
While companies have been using location information gathered via their apps for years, some are using geofencing to help see what their consumers are posting on social media and reaching out to them directly.
Marriott is harnessing this power using a team of employees to view social media posts from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posted by anyone staying at one of their properties, as long as they're posting from a public account. The employees work out of hubs they call M Live, the high-tech command centers show staffers the posts coming in on real-time, allowing them to engage with their guests instantaneously. They have these hubs all over the globe, including one in Plantation that's focused on people in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Inside the M Live headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, the walls are lined with giant monitors lit up with social media posts and global maps marked with the locations where the posts are coming from. They have a map with yellow dots marking each of the company's 6900 properties. Some are pulsating dots.
"The pulsating ones are properties that are trending or seeing large amounts of social media content," said Matthew Glick, the VP of Content Marketing.
"We see about 25,000 social media shares coming from all 6,900 of our hotels around the world every 24 hours," he added.
They're looking to engage with the perfect customer at the perfect time. They monitor people posting about birthday celebrations. They even try to see if they can turn the day around for someone who is complaining about having a tough time getting to their resort.
"We're able to see that content, we're able to interact with it," Glick said. "We will send them something as a 'Hey, we know you had a tough time getting here but you're here now and we really want you to enjoy yourself."
One example is Nadia Masri who posted a picture of herself enjoying the beach while in Aruba at a Marriott property. Her Instagram post quickly got the M Live team's attention. The communicated with the hotel staff who offered her a free sunset cruise a short time later.
"I mean, I'm not an influencer by any means, but it was definitely cool to get a DM and be offered this experience," she told us via FaceTime.
Another user who goes by her Instagram user name '1Mandabear' posted her visit to the JW Marriott Marquis and included some foodie hashtags. Her post got her free tickets to an event at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
They both later posted about their free gift or experience. Marriott said the follow-up post was not at their request, but they were glad for a way to organically spread their marketing message.
Marriott says if you want to be on the receiving end of some of these rewards, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of standing out, starting with becoming a member of their Bonvoy rewards program.
"The member has to be staying at the hotel. The post needs to be relevant. And it needs to be something where it makes sense for us to authentically engage with those," said Glick.
Geofencing has already helped major companies get the attention of their consumers and give them something in return for their loyalty. Last year Burger King used the technology to their advantage creating 600-foot "fences" placed around every McDonald's. Once within the fence, customers were able to order a Burger King Whopper for one cent using the Burger King app. The promotion led to over 1 million downloads of the Burger King app.