Bloom is an Indian hotel chain and Prateek Agarwal, head of marketing for the Bloom Hotel Group, speaks to WARC India Editor Biprorshee Das about how it grew the brand with social media.
This article is part of a Spotlight series on social media marketing in India. Read more
- Bloom eschews mass media like TV or print for a strategy based on users’ chosen platforms and differentiated by age groups.
- Build consumer trust with a strong presence on social media as consumers want to know more about the brand and its values.
- An effective social media campaign can be measured by looking at campaign engagement, brand KPIs and revenue growth.
WARC: How have you seen social media marketing evolve in this country in the last 10 years?
Prateek Agarwal: I started my career with digital marketing. Over the last decade, I have seen three things change drastically. First is the content type. From text, images, the world has moved towards more video and personalised content. It is content that connects with consumer interests and habits.
The second thing is platforms. New platforms keep emerging. We have to understand which platforms that are doing well, those that are coming up and the ones that are the right fit for your brand.
For example, in 2011/12, it was the time of Facebook. Most brands were active on the platform. Today, if you see the brand pages, you’ll find engagement has gone down and things have changed a lot. Now, we see a lot of users on Instagram. Going forward, Snapchat and YouTube Shorts could be the trends to watch out for.
The third thing is user understanding. Ten years ago, we had very limited insights into our customers. Then, all a brand was thinking was communicating what it was all about. Now you have to differentiate yourself from other brands to drive engagement. That will only be possible when you have enough insights about your users, not just the current users but future trends too. Initially, marketing was about current trends but now we have to consider future trends as well. It is the only way we are going to survive.
For example, there is a lot of focus on Gen Z customers these days. They understand social media better than most other age groups. Brands have to understand what this group is looking for online, what are its interests and plan content accordingly.
At Bloom Hotels, your customers are across multiple age groups. You cater to the working population, businesspeople and the younger generation. How are you striking the balance as you speak to them, especially on social media?
We call ourselves a “future brand” that is building a product for future India. When you are building a product, you have to consider the future. Who will continue to remain your customer in the future? We target our marketing to Gen Z and millennials and that is where we focus. We create personalised content based on age groups, geography, interests and current trends on different channels.
For example, working professionals are more interested in amenities like high-speed wi-fi, iMac stations and co-working spaces. So we highlight these USPs to our target audience.
What has Bloom’s marketing mix been like? I believe it has largely been centred on digital marketing?
For example, there is a lot of difference in the marketing strategy on our Instagram and LinkedIn pages. On Insta, we are targeting Gen Z with our trendy content but on LinkedIn, we focus more on entrepreneurs and industry people and create content accordingly.
What is the role that social media has played in building the Bloom brand?
Let’s go back to “consumer habit”. Whenever you are looking for any property or you’re looking for a (hotel) chain, you research. You check for reviews, brand values, Google it, you follow the brand on Instagram and other platforms. The traveller is no longer looking for just a stay experience. When you’re travelling, the mindset is that of peace and happiness. Through social media, we are building engaging and appealing content for that, something that is not generic in nature.
People today want to know more about the brand, its values. When you have a strong presence on social media, you can build consumer trust. On Instagram, we develop content that can build interest.
Social media has helped you find favour and build consumer trust but what are the challenges when talking to a customer today who is a lot more aware?
This is where the brand value comes in. In the travel industry, there is a deficiency of trust that we have seen over a period of time. It has happened to me too. I booked a property having seen beautiful pictures online but once there, it didn’t match my expectations.
As a brand, we want to build trust. To do so, we have to be transparent, post real photographs and build authentic communication.
Also, to build trust, we invite influencers to our properties. These influencers create reels at the property and share the experience online, which helps other travellers to trust our brand.
Share a bit more about your influencer marketing strategy.
There are many influencers who reach out to us through our social media channels and I am very happy to share that we get a lot of collaboration requests from known influencers every day. These influencers are majorly from the travel, lifestyle, fashion and food industries.
We review influencer engagement, authenticity and the type of content they are posting online. Based on the right fit, we invite these influencers to our properties and share their experiences to their audience online. With the help of this strategy, influencers are able to create quality and engaging content, which is in line with the current Instagram trends.
We also invite micro influencers. There have been enough case studies around this – micro influencers can be more effective than macro influencers; the trust factor is more.
You joined Bloom during the lockdown. It must have been an interesting challenge during the travel slump. How did you use social media to keep the brand alive in people’s minds?
I joined (Bloom) at a time when the industry was in recovery mode. While the COVID phase was not over, hotels were operational. That time gave us the opportunity to understand the consumer better. It was a time to think and experiment with a lot of things.
We spoke to guests, we understood what they were looking for. During this phase, people were looking for hygienic and trendy co-working spaces. So we launched the “Work from Bloom” campaign that worked really well.
Also, we invited influencers to visit our properties and focus on the staycation experience. There has been a lot of demand for staycation since then.
How do you measure an effective social media campaign? What kind of tools are available to you in India and how effective are they?
Whenever I am running a digital marketing campaign, I evaluate the KPIs at three levels. If they are going fine, your brand is doing pretty well.
Level one is campaign engagement. When I am running a social media campaign, I can see impressions, clicks, CTR, user interaction with posts, comments etc. Once you understand the campaign growth, you move to the second level that is brand KPIs. At this level, I monitor brand searches, organic and direct traffic. These KPIs show the impact of campaigns over the short term as well as long term.
The final level is to measure business effectiveness. We track the revenue through our website (staybloom.com) and every other channel. The campaign is successful if you’re able to see the growth at all these three levels.
What are the platforms you think are most effective for a brand like yours?
We are focusing on three platforms – Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn. It is very difficult to create content for YouTube. It’s not like Instagram. The content has to be quality and for the long term.
For example, it is Independence Day. The Independence Day content might work well on Instagram but not necessarily on YouTube, which is a discovery platform. By the time your content is discovered on YouTube, Independence Day will probably be over.
We use LinkedIn to connect with the industry and not just with consumers. Our employees, investors and developers are also key stakeholders. To engage with them, we depend on LinkedIn activities.
Share a couple of examples of successful Bloom social media campaigns and how they helped the brand.
To celebrate the happy Bloomers, we launched a digital campaign #IamaBloomer by launching a video series with our Bloomers. #IamaBloomer is a campaign for every travel enthusiast and new-age traveller. The campaign is directed to all travel enthusiasts who hustle to be the best and deserve a hotel that is spotlessly clean with staff who are warm, polite and quick. The most recent Bloomers, cricketer Suresh Raina and actress Shweta Tripathi, shared their experience staying at Bloom.
We posted this digital campaign video on social media platforms and digital ads to let the world know that no matter where you go, you bloom at your best. Suresh Raina who experienced Bloom Brookefield Bengaluru, in the video, said, “I love Bloom Brookefield because of its presence in a prime location of the city and is always crisp and clean.” Shwetha Tripathi Sharma shared her experience at her favourite Bloom hotel in Mumbai.
We reached out to targeted audiences. Within a couple of weeks, this campaign had over 15 million impressions on Instagram for Shwetha Tripathi Sharma’s video and over 10 million impressions on YouTube for Suresh Raina’s video. We saw growth in all KPIs, including brand impressions, SEO traffic, direct traffic and the revenue from our brand website staybloom.com.
How was the campaign cost-effective? The celebrities must have come at a significant cost.
This campaign was very much cost-effective for three reasons. First, we produced the video in-house with our brand theme, images and voice-over of the celebrity because the cost of a video shoot and production is always high. Secondly, our concept reduced the efforts of the celebrities as they just had to record audio of 20 seconds and a few images from their existing portfolio. Thirdly, we focused on precise and regional targeting online rather than exposing our campaign to a broad set of users. This targeting helped to reduce the cost by 30% on YouTube.
With this approach, we can celebrate more Bloomers and launch new campaigns frequently.
How would you advise your peers in the category to effectively use social media marketing in India?
Every day, think about the consumers. Understand them better. Go beyond the broad categories like age group, demographics etc. What does your consumer like? What is he about? What are his interests? What kind of content is he looking for? Once you understand these things, you will then know how he likes your product and how you can build content for a loyal customer.
Any brand communication on social media is very critical. Always define the do’s and don’ts for a social media platform. Communication could make or break your hard work. In today’s world, you cannot come across as biased, you cannot create sensitive content. Careful thinking is much needed in content and its communication.
Thirdly, keep experimenting. Learn from your campaigns. You will always learn more from your failed campaigns than the successful ones.
Read more in this Spotlight series
Social media marketing in India: The winds of change
How short-video app Josh leverages differentiation and data
The transition for social media users: From social networking to social commerce
Social media in India: A time of great change
Organic social media and how to measure its effectiveness
Key shifts in social media marketing in India
Rheya Hiremath and Zameer Vikamsey
Social media marketing in India: Looking ahead
Spotlight data report
WARC and GWI