Another Innovation for Marriott: Social Media Gaming

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Marriott is pretty well known for its hotels, but the lodging giant is now dabbling in social media gaming. If you're even a slight user of Facebook, you've probably seen, whether you want to or not, more than one post or mention of Farmville and Mafia Wars. Now you can play My Marriott Hotel, which allows gamers to manage a virtual hotel restaurant in similar fashion to those other popular Facebook games.

Gamers will be able to create their own restaurant and then manage it from buying equipment and ingredients to hiring and training employees to serving guests. Points will be earned for happy customers (and lost for poor service) and profitability will be the ultimate measure of success.

Susan Strayer, senior director of global employer brand and marketing for Marriott, says more games will be offered down the road. Once gamers succeed at running a restaurant, they'll be able to advance into other areas of hotel operations all the way up to running the entire property.

Although a press release from Marriott yesterday said the hotel company would use the game as a tool to help attract employees, Strayer said the goal was strictly to add brand awareness. The game isn't designed to generate any revenue (it's free to play), and Marriott doesn't have plans to try and convert gamers into associates.

But ultimately the added brand awareness will help attract younger generations to the company's hotels, as customers and employees. Online games have surpassed email to become the second most popular activity on the web, accounting for 10 percent of time spent online, according to a recent report.

“Consumers are more inclined to buy from brands on social media,” Strayer said. “This allows people to engage with us because they want to. We have to be where they are: online.”

The new game only adds to Marriott's obvious focus on social media—from Bill Marriott's regularly updated blog to the company's recent enhancements to its online career center.

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