Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Priceline Beams-Up Its Twitter Following at a Frenetic Pace

Perhaps it was under the radar to some travel companies, but Priceline, well, TheNegotiator, was not only out there "pummeling hotel prices" on Twitter, but creating some travel news, as I reported in Travel Weekly, when it ratcheted up its followers by 400 percent in six days through an unusual hotel promotion.

Priceline went from 1,470 followers, before the promotion started on April 23, to some 7,400 followers on April 28, when it ended its $50 hotel-coupon offer.

TheNegotiator tweeted the following on April 23: “Negotiator Challenge! Help me get to 3,000 followers by May 1 and I will give a $50 Hotel Coupon to ALL of my followers! #travel #deals”

And, now, with the promotion completed, Priceline is manually sending DMs (direct messages) with the hotel-coupon details to qualifying followers at the pace of around 1,000 per day, which is apparently the limit that Twitter places on daily DMs.

Some three- and four-star hotels trying to move rooms on Priceline's opaque Name-Your-Own-Price channel will probably welcome the initiative.

The coupon gives followers $50 in bonus cash when they complete a successful bid for a 3-star or higher hotel room. The hotel stay must be for a minimum of three nights, the booking made by May 31 and travel completed by Dec. 31, 2009.

It's unclear at this juncture how many of these coupons will turn into incremental bookings, but I have to give Priceline credit for being willing to throw some money behind its Twitter coupon experiment as it tries to build long-term relationships with the Twitterati.

A lot of hotels and online agencies have found that they can use promotional codes and other tactics to drive traffic to their websites and to increase bookings.

Yes, Twitter isn't just a bunch of noise, but a viable business channel. Hellooooo.

Incidentally, TheNegotiator, with Priceline spokesman William Shatner as its marketing muse, has the perfect voice -- irreverent and engaging -- for social media.

Those companies and folks that view Twitter merely as an extension of their press releases will miss the proverbial boat, or Starship, that is.

Priceline is onto something.


Lorraine said...

Great promotion, but reading through the tweets on thenegotiator there's also some unhappy campers who didn't read the fine print - perhaps a twitter defect? Anyway, I'm sure they're busy fielding the complaints while thinking up the next great thing to keep their new followers happy and engaged.

Dennis Schaal said...

Ya, I think they've had a hard time sending the coupons. Twitter apparently limits the amount of Direct Messages someone can send out to around 1,000 per day. So, Priceline said it would take a few days to send. I know I got mine already. I think it ends up being a very cheap promotion for Priceline if you assume they get some incremental bookings. They limited the promotion to 3-star hotels and higher on Priceline's higher-margin Name-Your-Own Price channel. Pretty cool idea.

Anonymous said...

I got my bonus cash, and followed the rules: 3 nights, 3 stars or more, booked before 12/31/09. However, it keeps showing up $0 for my bonus cash and says it cannot be applied. I spent an hour on the phone with their customer service and they won't help me or listen saying that I don't have any bonus cash and that i'm not a registered user, all these bogus excuses. I said then how did i log in if i am not a registered user. This is ridiculous and i am very upset. I would like to know if anyone else had this problem or was able to use theirs.