An Open Letter to Companies Regarding Social Media Free Point Promotions

by on July 22, 2011 · 37 comments

in Social Media

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There have been a rash of free point social media campaigns lately and many have come to an ugly or disgraceful end, so I feel it is my duty to write a letter to anyone who is considering a free points social media campaign.

Dear hotels, airlines and other companies who want to give out free points via Facebook, Twitter or any other social media outlet,

People love free stuff – especially points. If you offer free points, they will come … in masses. Please don’t be surprised! While you may want to only target a small population of loyal fans, doing so via Facebook or Twitter is inappropriate and delusional. If you want to target a small population, feel free to do so via a traditional mailing so you have complete control over who gets it. The entire point of social media is so people can share information. Please, please, please do not be surprised when people share your great promotion with their friends. And those people share with their friends and their friends share with bloggers. It’s the way things work these days.

Secondly, when your promotion inevitably gets out of control, don’t blame it on the people who responded. They acted how you wanted, so the only right thing to do is live up to your end of the bargain. It may be a hit on your bottom line, but your reputation is as risk. Bad things will spread about your brand just as quickly as word spread about your great promotion. People do not like their time to be wasted, so save yourself the hassle and frustration and pony up when you realize you made a boo-boo.

To sum it up, we want more free points and ways to interact with your brand via social media, however you need to become a little bit more strategic about execution. Don’t learn the hard way like the Hampton Inn Boston Raynham who was a pioneer in the art of bungled social media campaigns!

With that said, we still await the next opportunity to show you a little social media love for some free points!

In utter anticipation,

The Points Guy

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Anonymous

    agree totally…..I am convinced that the ‘traditional’ marketing folks haven’t totally understood ‘social networking’ and how to use it to their best advantage.

  • Mommy Points

    Double agree here. At the very least, seems easy to have a until we reach xxxx number of comments/friends/fans/tweets/etc….. I do feel a little bad when someone gets overwhelmed, but don’t any of these hotels and companies talk to each other about what has happened before with these types of promotions! Oh well, keep them coming!

  • Daraius

    I agree – the easiest way to protect themselves is to limit the award of points to only the first 500 or 1,000 etc.

  • David Hagins

    If they want to offer it to locals, why wouldn’t they either run a promo that says “the next 1000 people who check-in via facebook get X points”, or just use facebook deals to draw them in. Then only those that are legitimately at the location would get the bonus.

    But I agree, they should most certainly honor what they have stated. You would think that they would have a better grip on social media by now.

  • Peter

    Agree completely – set the limit upfront at least (time or number of responders etc) – there has been too many of them recently that have not been handled well.

  • Heather

    Yep, it is a blunder on their part, which then makes folks SO mad at them… but as for the Hampton one, I finally got those 10K Hilton points. Still waiting on my Starwood points, but not looking good.

  • Cory

    Did the Aloft Austin Domain represent the straw that broke the camel’s back? I understand the frustration but at the same time it feels like we’re being a bit demanding when it comes to free stuff. We all want free points, we all hope for free points. It would be nice if companies giving out free points would follow some kind of rational, well laid out system for distributing points. But they’re also free and the most recent 2 I remember took virtually no effort at all.

    I think it might be nice if all of these entities realize the truly massive power of social media. I am not at all upset if I don’t get free points like these, because I’m really not entitled to them. We should be excited about deals such as the Sheraton Madison one, but that one was targeted (I believe) to Wisconsin residents. I suspect the majority of those who signed up for that bonus weren’t Wisconsin residents, but that didn’t stop a swarm of people from signing up anyway. So, we as point hounds don’t follow the guidelines either, and some will argue incessantly for points they don’t deserve because they know a lot of places will just cave and give points just to shut some people up. So if we don’t follow the guidelines of the promotion, then why should we be upset when the organization handing out the free points changes the terms of the deal?

  • Anonymous

    Cory- Aloft Domain was “the straw”. When I got an email from the PR director there with the line “Due to the overwhelming response from your promotion on your website of our SPG points for liking our page, we are going to pull this advertisement as it was to be aimed at our frequent guests and local people.” just set me off. I’m not upset, but I felt the need to let hotels know that you SHOULD NOT use Facebook or Twitter to target LOCAL people.

    I agree that you shouldn’t get too upset over free point promos- I don’t let it ruin my day, but seriously, when will companies realize the power of social media and start setting realistic expectations on these promotions?

  • BostonFlyer

    Not getting free points is not a big deal, it is the incompetence or the inability to use social media that is the big deal. If they want to targeted deal they should be upfront about it.

  • Adam K

    Yes! Absolutely Brian. Good call on the letter. If there are some SPG, AA, or any miles floating around people will want them.

  • Cory

    Do you know the internal workings of these point things? Do the individual properties have to get corporate approval for them? I agree with you on a lot of what you said, and the social media is hugely powerful, especially when you post it. We seem like a small, but very active niche group of people. These companies SHOULD be aware of just how determined point chasers can be, seeing as it’s their company doing the point issuance to begin with.

    TPG…do you have contacts and/or followers in the higher-up levels of these companies who would be able to issue a system-wide guidance on point promotions via social media? It feels like one of those situations where the left arm doesn’t know what the right is doing. My impression is that these local properties, such as Aloft Domain and Sheraton Madison, are acting simply as independent, privately run local businesses and these promotions are cooked up within the small little world in which they exist. You’d have to get Starwood’s attention because I’d be surprised if the problem that people had with Sheraton Madison’s promotion had ever become an issue for anyone other than people like us and an annoyance for employees of Sheraton Madison who had to deal with the fallout of ending the promotion.

  • Mike L

    Foursquare’s mobile site allows you to check-in from anywhere. I can do it now right from my computer. That’s my guess as to why that idea wouldn’t work.

    Either way, they need to execute better.

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  • Mike

    You Go Brian! I worked at a hotel a long time ago. Most likely someone in management at the hotel told a 20 year old part time employee… hey u are good at facebook and twitter… make something up to have people “like” us. That is probably about how much thought is going into some of these deals.

  • Anonymous

    Completely agree! If companies want to use Facebook/Twitter to target a local population then they should make a page/account for that local hotel and people would have to “like” that specific page to get their free points. However, I can definitely see how that can get unmanageable by the companies running the promotion.

    Also, it’s only 250 or so points per person, how much is that to a hotel? Yes, it may be 100,000+ total points. But it’s 250 points individually that most likely can’t be redeemed for anything unless more points are used. And how do people get points? By staying at the hotel. Companies have to look at the impact (with social media perspective) of the promotion on a macro scale but must look at their cost on a micro scale.

  • infomofo

    I love this post. I completely agree that the offensive thing to customers is the tone of the communication from these companies when you try to claim these points- they treat you like you’re some kind of grifter.

  • Paul

    How do you check in from a computer? I thought a checkin was tied to the GPS on the phone….

  • FPJ

    With the SWP Chicago deal, I was fairly vocal about not getting the proper link. Not only did they contact me to email them to resolve it, but also they gave me an extra 1000 SWP points for the inconvenience (so 2000 points total).
    While I was unhappy that they didn’t properly anticipate the crush of “likes” on FB, I was very impressed by how they stepped up and resolved it (at least for me). Moreover, while I admittedly was doing it just for the SWP points, now that I see how they went out of their way to make things right, they are definitely at the top of my hotel list the next time I am in Chicago!

  • smartcookie

    If it’s a local deal, they can simply state “available to Wisconsin residents only” in the official call for “Likes”. They shouldn’t expect people to read the final print buried somewhere in the T&Cs when they’re using Social Media.

  • Mike L

    You’re ‘supposed’ to use it on mobile phones that don’t have an app, but obviously you can see how easy it is to be misused.

  • gregory


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  • Aloft Austin at The Domain

    We Love our fans!! The buzz going around is that we pulled the promo early… Here’s the scoop.

    The original post was from our “Friends” page. We switched to a Business page and wanted all of our friends to become fans, we are offering 250 SPG Points for any of our CURRENT friends who “like” our new business page. This promotion will continue to go until July 31st! If you are our friend on our “Aloft Austin Page” please e-mail [email protected] and let us know you are a friend we will credit you your 250 points in 5-7 days. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused; because we Love our SPG members we will be honoring those who were not our friends and e-mailed us prior to 10am. Keep in mind you have until the end of the month to stay with us and “check-in” on foursquare to get a bonus 250 points!


  • Phil

    Any dumb-ass hotel that does this and then fails to deliver will be getting a free bad Tripadvisor review from me. They can learn the power of social media the hard way.

    What kind of retards think that posting something via a universal network like Facebook will only be picked up by “locals and guests”.

    I don’t care much for the points, but some people are so stupid they just deserve the pain

  • Mindy

    No wonder you screwed up this promotion. You can’t even write coherent English sentences!

  • mindy

    “someone in management at the hotel told a 20 year old part time employee… hey u are good at facebook and twitter”

    You hit it out of the park. The overexcited punctuation style is a dead giveaway, along with the lame writing style. Probably a summer intern.

  • Miami_studd

    Soon enough all of these FF blogers will be gone too, as the leisure and fiance industry get more clever and the actual promos get too small or too tricky to be of any value to anyone except the most hard core Sprit/Ryan Air flyer… Americans have gotten too use to these things but their value is looking less and less apparent to scared marketing staff…

  • Mitch

    I don’t know about the promos disappearing. Airlines sell miles to CC companies to help balance their books. CC companies need to get rid of the miles, so if they find themselves with miles that are being transferred back to the airline at a slower rate than anticipated, they’ll offer sign-up bonuses as a way to get rid of miles (at a loss from what they purchased them) to get more people using their cards. What we will probably see are fewer huge sign-up bonuses and/or higher spend thresholds, but they’ve got to dump the miles somewhere.

    As to the blogs disappearing, ones focusing on just letting people know about great promos will probably thin out if there are fewer promos where people need to get in fast. However, Brian has been particularly good about talking about how to USE your miles. There are plenty of people who really don’t think about redeeming miles until they have a ton built up without signing up for a single promo. Given all of the difficulties in redeeming miles, I think blogs like this one provide a great service for helping people understand how to maximize when spending miles, not just how to earn a ton of them.

  • Dan

    The whole thing about targeting locals is quite funny, really. I mean, the *only* time that I ever consider staying at a local hotel is for a mattress run. OTOH, I could recommend local hotels to my parents, but they aren’t as brand-sensitive as I am.

  • Dan

    Oh, and Brian makes a larger point. Do I really expect to get something for nothing? No, but making the offer and renigging leaves me with a poor impression of your company/brand/product.

  • Dewhit6959

    Many of the companies that are using social media for coverage of their services are still trying to come to grips with the actual market gain or profits realized thru the exposure. At this point, the real winners are the marketing persons/firms who use these “hits’ and “likes” as hard numbers to show their clients . The unknown number in this type of advertising is “retained market” or better loyalty. There are many different opinions as to actual gains in these type campaigns. How many of us belong to loyalty programs with no intention of using their product/services until their program utilizes some freebies or better pricing points/perceived value.
    Everybody likes the kid who gives away candy bars….for a while.

  • Dewhit6959

    The main point is that marketing is to get you “in the door”. You still have to be sold on the product by the company.

  • Dewhit6959

    Somebody really goofed if they actually thought Austin was a market that could use a controlled release of this type to a specific sector. If I wanted something to spread like wildfire in media circles, Austin would be one of my top targets.

  • Neal


  • Neal

    Your last sentence seems out of place, I think you are referring to the nationwide SPG promotion with Foursquare. Are you saying that promotion is in ADDITION to the 250 points for liking your business page?

    Just want to help you be clear here…. my suggestion would have been to say something like [paragraph break from your Facebook comments]: “Also, keep in mind you have until the end of the month to stay with us and “check-in” on foursquare to get a bonus 250 points as part of the SPG Socialcheckins promotion!

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