IHG offers loyalty points on location-based social networks

ATLANTA IHG is the first major hotel company to offer bonus loyalty points to customers who “check in” at IHG hotels on one of several location-based social media networks like Gowalla, Foursquare and Yelp.

Members of IHG Priority Club who also register as users of Topguest—an upstart company that tracks check-ins on behalf of other companies—will receive 50 bonus Priority Club points each time they check-in at an IHG property on their mobile devices. Users need not be guests or even make a purchase in order to be eligible for the points, although check-ins are limited to just one per day. IHG’s promotion is open-ended at this point.

“Partnering with Topguest allows us to reward our members with Priority Club points each time they virtually check-in at an IHG hotel, whether it’s for a good night’s sleep, or for a coffee in the hotel’s restaurant,” says Lincoln Barrett, IHG’s vice president of guest marketing and alliances. “We think it has the potential to further enhance loyalty with current and future guests.”

Besides IHG, a trio of New York City boutique properties are also teaming with Topguest: SoHo Grand Hotel, Tribeca Grand Hotel and The Standard.

With location-based social media, users “check-in” at various locations as a way to notify other users—whom they may or may not know, depending on the particular service—that they are there. Some of networks, like Yelp, serve as user-generated-review sites, while others, like Foursquare, build in a competitive aspect. Other social media networks in the Topguest system include Twitter, Loopt and Google Latitude.

The extent of the business benefits to hotels is somewhat uncertain at this point. Some hotels have found limited success in offering F&B discounts to users who check in on one of the networks, with each check-in acting as a de facto endorsement of the hotel to everyone in the user’s network.