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.