Hoteliers Need to Know What Online Readers Want and Don't Want

By Lorraine Abelow Founder & President, Abelow PR | July 03, 2016

A recent study revealed that ads bombarding the online community are offensive and editorial provides a more relaxing environment to absorb news. Gen X to Baby Boomers, according to the research, strongly objects to being hit constantly by brands online and in social media, to which they are constantly connected. The take away from this comprehensive investigation was that "Advertising on such sites is causing them to either cut back their use of such platforms, or even stop using them altogether," according to the report. Shocking and dismaying news indeed for those of us in marketing. The results of this study are fascinating and revealing.

When considering an integrated marketing program, this bodes well for editorial coverage in the coveted media these audiences go to directly. Interestingly, three-quarters of Millennials and Generation Z surveyed said they took offense at constant targeting by brands on social media, since it is where they enjoy interacting with friends and colleagues. It may come as a surprise to you that Generation Z kids, those after the Millennials, actually have a say in where to stay, according to their parents. That has been borne out in earlier surveys.

Research Reveals Where People Focus

In fact, the research suggests that younger generations place more trust in information they seek out themselves, again pointing the way to the inherent value of media coverage in the top tier press, something a top NYC-based boutique PR agency such as Abelow PR focuses on. Relationships with editors develop over time, and those ties result in such coverage as cover stories in Conde Nast Traveler and Hotels Magazine. Everyone wants to be in the travel or business section of the New York Times, and a top flight PR firm should achieve that for a client with news. Or they should be creative enough to come up with angles that will get this kind of exposure.

Millennials and Generation Z trust the most are sites that provide product reviews, such as Yelp and other important ones like Trip Advisor. These are also the sources most-trusted by older age groups (66%). However, from a marketing perspective, it is interesting to note that these demographic categories also go directly to the company websites, as they find them trustworthy. This argues for a well-executed and up-to-date presence with good content and captivating images.

The study also revealed a surprise: chat rooms and forums (65% and 44%) are closely followed. One site frequently mentioned was Reddit, and another was Quora.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.