Part of what makes an incentive program successful is the ability to generate enthusiasm for it so participants will be willing to do whatever it takes to earn a coveted spot on the list of winners. And one way to do that is to tap into the power of social media.
“We’re seeing a trend in the industry towards competitive reward using social media to engage participants,” explains Lynn Randall, senior strategist for the Strategy Solutions Group of the business communications firm InVision Communications. “An example would be using your existing winners (perhaps last year’s winners) to tweet six other potential winners, encouraging them to join them at this coming year’s trip. You could also encourage previous winners to post photos from the previous year’s trip on Instagram and on Facebook encouraging comments and ‘likes’ for their efforts in earning the current year’s trip.”
“We’re seeing a trend in the industry towards competitive reward using social media to engage participants.” — Lynn Randall
Randall and InVision’s Digital Practice Manager Nicole Bojic offer another suggestion. “A unique way to use social media to promote the incentive trip destination is to link to a program website where images of the destination are concealed behind a digital object (like an orb or ball). With each tweet using the trip hashtag, a digital hammer hits the ball, creating cracks until the time that the ball cracks open to reveal the destination image.”
Randall and Bojic also suggest ways to use social media to provide performance updates to keep prospective winners engaged and motivated. “Facebook and LinkedIn can be leveraged to both encourage and provide performance and productivity tips to lower-performing individuals.” The two experts also recommend encouraging managers and top performers to tweet out their progress and achievements toward earning the trip.
They also describe other ways that social media can be used to share helpful sales strategies. “Top performers can also be encouraged through social gamification to post onto Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram their best practices and success stories (what they do that keeps them at the top of the performance leaderboard). We’re also seeing a trend toward social exclusivity, where special content or information to help aid success can be unlocked based on social participation. If you’re socially involved and engaged, you are invited in to special top performer group exchanges on LinkedIn or other social media.”
Amber Finken, incentive trip coordinator for the insurance firm Western Marketing, describes how her company uses social media. “We primarily use Facebook as our social media outlet to promote our incentive trips,” she says. “First, using our company’s Facebook account, I will ‘like’ the official page of the resort or hotel property where we will be hosting our trip. After that, I will share specific postings the hotel makes on its page, or at least ones I feel would motivate or excite our attendees. Sometimes I even go so far as to personally tag a few of our regular attendees in the posts I share just to increase the odds of them paying attention to what I want them to see. And once we get a little bit closer to the actual dates of the trip and we’ve determined who has officially qualified, I will post a picture of our trip destination to their individual wall with a short congratulations message from our entire staff, while telling them we look forward to seeing them soon to celebrate their hard work.
“Sometimes I will also post a particularly appealing photo or video of our upcoming destination and will include some kind of teaser comment like: ‘Wish you were here? Call us today to find out how you COULD BE in the very near future!’ And in the past, if I happen to notice our company page has gotten a lot of new recent ‘likes’ from new agents, I’ll post a few pictures and videos from our past incentive trips with a comment that says, ‘If you think THIS trip looked fun, wait until you see where we’re going NEXT!’ and I’ll include an additional link or video to the hotel property or destination of our next upcoming trip.”
She also uses social media to communicate updates. “I also like to post a few friendly reminders at least once a month letting everyone know how much time is left during the qualification period and to make sure they’re staying on pace to qualify. To give some agents a little extra incentive, sometimes we’ll run a couple of short promotions where they will get double-trip credits toward qualifying if they write so much business within a specified amount of time. That way, if a person is motivated enough, they may end up qualifying for our trip on half the production it would normally take.”
To capture the interest of potential incentive trip winners, it makes sense to focus on the one place that already has their attention — their mobile phones. As a society, we’ve become so attached to our phones that a special term “nomophobia” has even been coined to describe the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. Using a mobile app to promote an incentive program can help ensure that participants take the contest’s parameters with them wherever they go.
When choosing a mobile app platform, there are a couple of directions planners can go. One option is to choose a commercially available event app, such as Lanyon. Michael Douglas, director of sales for Lanyon Mobile, describes the advantages of using a mobile app to promote an incentive program. “A platform available 24/7 like mobile can stimulate in a way the desktop can’t by delivering a constant reminder of the rewards and the participant’s path to winning them. Plus, once on the trip, a mobile guide can ensure easy logistics as well as maximizing networking and other business returns.”
In Lanyon’s white paper “Mobile Meetings and Events: Best Practices for Launching a Mobile Event App,” it is recommended that planners consider the event’s life cycle when deciding how to incorporate a mobile app into their programs. For example, before the event, they recommend promoting the mobile app early and often to encourage downloads. Another option is to upload a series of two- to three-minute videos that are only available on the mobile event app. During the incentive trip, the app can be used to provide maps and personalized schedules and also to push real-time updates and announcements such as schedule changes. Social media posts can be displayed on an event wall, and attendees can be encouraged to upload photos they’ve taken on the trip to the app.
Another best practice Lanyon recommends is to use the mobile app to continue the conversation after the event by loading video clips and highlights of the event; announce plans for the next event; and solicit attendees’ feedback to help shape the next event.
Karen deKanter, GLP, director, business development, for the meetings and events company BCD M&I, also advises that her clients consider using a meeting app with the functionality to send individual notifications to provide personalized content. She also recommends selecting an app that offers multiple levels of sharing so planners can customize and support their event goals and policies.
Another option is to do what Western Marketing does: incorporate incentive trip information into an existing app that the company already uses. “The main purpose of our smartphone app is to provide insurance agents instant, easy access to the multiple different selling tools we provide to them, but it also features all of our contact information as well as some basic info on our incentive trips and how they can qualify,” Finken explains. “Within the app, agents can see all of our trip qualification details, including the qualification period as well as the specific production requirements. They are also able to flip through a few pictures of our featured destination.”
DeKanter says that another advantage of using social media and mobile apps for incentive programs is that they provide a way for attendees to provide instant feedback to the host so that any problems or issues can be addressed immediately. Knowledge is power; with real-time access to attendee feedback, “You can inform hotel operational teams to address any challenges. It moves service to a new level when you can let your attendees know ‘We heard you, we’re on it.’ ” She says this can help avoid the “mad herd” mentality that can occur and make an issue bigger than it really is.
“The biggest fear I see in customers about launching social media campaigns and mobile apps is they feel that it’s all of a sudden going to be a complain-a-thon,” deKanter adds, “and, in fact, the reverse has proven true.” She says that attendees are more likely to use a program’s social media to share discoveries, such as great restaurants, with other attendees once they’ve arrived at the destination, and it provides a line of sight into attendee satisfaction throughout the event.
Social media and mobile apps also offer opportunities to give attendees a more personalized incentive trip experience. Randall and Bojic provide a few suggestions on how to do this. “Using Instagram and Pinterest, you can post real-time photos from onsite activities where top achievers provide a peek into what’s happening at that moment on the incentive travel program.” In addition, “Spontaneous gatherings can be encouraged via a ‘tweet up’ that is hosted during non-activity times for on-the-spot recognition and additional reward (for example, a special cocktail reception for tweeters only).
“Recognition can also be encouraged using a photo gallery or museum concept for recognizing winners,” they continue. “Photos of winners are posted along a public hallway or frequently traversed area of the incentive destination or property. Each winner’s image includes a unique hashtag for posting on Instagram, Twitter or even Facebook. Passing by the photo prompts spontaneous acts of recognition through a quick tweet recognizing the winner’s accomplishment.”
DeKanter offered a few suggestions for keeping the cost of a mobile app under control. “If the company purchases an application and uses it over multiple events over the course of the year, the cost per usage goes down. And,” she adds, “the cost is not exorbitant.”
She says there also may be opportunities for sponsorships. For example, restaurants and venues may be interested in sponsorship as a way to reduce the cost of the app to the meeting owner and promote their choice of venues and activities directly to attendees.
Lanyon advises planners to be strategic about sponsorships. One opportunity the company says is worth considering is the sale of banner ads to help sponsors engage with attendees. Another opportunity involves placing the sponsor’s messaging on the loading screen, because it will be the first thing attendees see while the app is loading.
DeKanter believes that the practice of using social media to promote events is here to stay. “It’s almost an expectation anymore,” she explains. “The traveler demographic is getting younger and younger. It’s becoming more and more common because people are expecting that access.” I&FMM