Bold Brands

Alejandro Garcia de Leon

Global Lead of Social Intelligence


Winner 2024

Alejandro Garcia de Leon

What is your job title? How do you use social listening in your work?

I’m the Global Lead of Social Intelligence at Hilton. I use social listening to influence senior leadership with insights about our customers, our competitors, and our industry to drive better decision-making. Some of the specific use cases where I use social listening include measuring brand health/protecting brand reputation, analyzing competition, uncovering market/industry trends, informing content strategy, shaping product development, and identifying influencers.

What’s your background? How did you get into social listening?

I have always been passionate about understanding consumers and that has been the key driver throughout my career. I began working in a “traditional research” role, mainly conducting/analyzing primary research -- concept testing, copy testing, product testing, segmentation, usage studies, NPS, customer satisfaction, focus groups…you name it, but have always been curious of finding new ways to enhance my understanding of what drives consumer behavior and was fascinated when I began exploring social data and started thinking about the many ways I could use it to drive insight. So, I was thrilled when an opportunity came up to work in social intelligence. My journey began at IBM working alongside some of the brightest minds in the industry and was followed by the amazing opportunity to join Hilton to build its social intelligence program.

What has been your biggest achievement?

I feel extremely proud of the work I’ve done at Hilton. If I look at where Hilton was four years ago before the practice existed, to where we are today four years after I launched the Social Intelligence program, I believe it’d be fair to say I’ve helped transform how the company thinks about social data to help inform decision making. In the last year for example, my team was involved in practically every major corporate initiative, with teams all across the organization reaching out for our insightand embracing this new source of business intelligence that in the past had been completely untapped.

What’s the boldest mistake you’ve made? What did you learn from it?

I would probably say that my decision to make a career change and move into brand management was a non-trivial mess-up. Although I had enjoyed working in market research/insights in my early career, after completing my MBA I decided to pursue the “much sexier” field of brand management (just as many of my fellow MBA students were doing). The job was very interesting but after a few months it was easy to realize I missed working in research. Good experience and great way to learn it is more important to work in what you are passionate about than to chase a “sexy” job.

What would be your dream project to work on?

Well, perhaps my dream project these days would be a project where I could access all the data I want haha. I believe we are doing amazing work at Hilton, but I can only imagine how much more we could be doing if we could easily access and analyze all data on let’s say TikTok, Facebook and LinkedIn. It seems there may be hope with some of those platforms, so maybe it’s not a complete pipe dream…

Do you think there’s a right way and a wrong way to use social data?

Other than the obviously wrong ways of using social data for unethical or malicious purposes, I wouldn’t say there are “right” or “wrong” uses. I do believe however, there are better and less effective approaches. One example I’ve seen a few times is with the use of social data to calculate “brand share of voice” or “brand sentiment” – there’s certainly value in measuring both, but they can be useless or even counterproductive if not interpreted correctly (e.g., “celebrating” share of voice gains that may have been driven by a spike in negative mentions, attributing improved sentiment solely to a new campaign when other factors may be at play, etc.)

Are there areas where you think you should be using social data for but aren’t currently?

We are not there yet, but I’m hoping we can soon expand listening into more languages. There’s a ton of insight to be tapped still!

What’s your favourite data source to use and why?

That’s a tough one. I truly appreciate Twitter/X since we can access the full firehose (even if I’m not a fan of the new management…) and I’m amazed and having lots of fun with everything that’s happening on TikTok, but perhaps my favorite platform these days is Reddit. The discussions taking place there are so rich, so authentic, so nuanced. Definitely a great resource to understand what’s going through our customers’ minds and the place where we have uncovered some of our most insightful nuggets.

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