Cornell Marketing Roundtable Focuses on Implications of Social Media

May 27, 2010

Contact:  Jennifer Macera, 607.255.3101, 

Cornell Marketing Roundtable Focuses on Implications of Social Media

Old-fashioned listening to the customer remains important, regardless of technology
Ithaca, NY, May 27, 2010 – The hospitality industry continues to grapple with the effects of social media—both in terms of how customers use these media and how hospitality organizations can interact with their customers. Participants in the spring 2010 Marketing Roundtable, sponsored by Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research (CHR), addressed both ends of that question. Regardless of the media channel, they agreed that hospitality operators should carefully listen to their customers and adapt their offerings and messages accordingly. Chaired by Cornell's Lisa Klein Pearo, the roundtable combined discussions by CHR partners, invited participants, and researchers.

Looking at the social media strategies used by Tennessee's Department of Tourism, Hannah Paramore, of French Quarter Holdings, concluded that regardless of the social media venue, speaking in the brand's voice is a critical component of engaging both visitors and local residents. Participants observed that the specific voice might be slightly different for various sites, but the brand personality must resonate. 

Bill Carroll, senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, presented data from PhoCusWright's most recent research on the use of social media. The results indicated that over 80 percent of online travelers use social media, with the most prominent use being the posting of reviews on online travel agent sites and peer-to-peer review sites, like Trip Advisor and IgoUgo. A second major result was that there was a correlation between positive comments (sentiment) and the hotel quality level.

Two seniors at the School of Hotel Administration, Laura McCarthy and Debra Stock, are studying how travelers use social media and mobile tools (e.g., smart phones) to gather information about and choose a hotel or restaurant. As a preliminary finding, they explained that hospitality guests place more weight on consumer reviews than they do on ratings from the established organizations, such as AAA and Forbes, even though the latter use clearly stated criteria. Interestingly, McCarthy and Stock found that people are just as likely to post a favorable review as an unfavorable review.

An important aspect of consumers' use of social media is that technology use has spread throughout most consumer demographics. Cornell professor Rohit Verma explained that four or five years ago, technology users tended to be young, male, educated, and financially well off. "Those differences have disappeared in recent surveys," he said. "Men and women are equally likely to use technology, income differences have diminished, and the education and age differentials are also shrinking." Changes in technology readiness are presented in a Cornell Hospitality Report: "Customer Preferences for Restaurant Technology Innovations," by Michael Dixon, Sheryl E. Kimes, and Rohit Verma.

Social media provide the hospitality industry with an excellent opportunity to respond to potential customers' cultural preferences, explained senior lecturer Jan Katz. If firms establish multimedia brand standards and allow local executives more latitude in designing nationally adapted websites, companies can increase the appeal of their communications and make the material easier to use. Research suggests that the increase in appeal and ease-of-use of nationally adapted websites generate more positive consumer attitudes and thereby, higher sales.

Hotels and restaurants have many issues in common as they relate to social media, observed Pearo, but given that consumer decision processes are so different for these services, they often must be must be addressed separately in terms of research and application of social media strategies. In particular, research is needed to assess the fit between a specific social media tool, a brand's positioning, and customers' needs.

About Center for Hospitality Research Roundtables:
CHR roundtables are a meeting place for invited senior-level hospitality industry executives and Cornell faculty members. Each roundtable lasts one day and is divided into four or five sessions. Sessions begin with a short research presentation (by a Cornell faculty member, faculty from another institution, or an industry leader) that lasts five to ten minutes. Immediately following, one or two industry discussants either support or contest the researcher's hypothesis or conclusion. The conversation is then opened up to the entire roundtable for discussion. For more information on roundtables, please visit:

About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the CHR's 81 corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. The center also publishes the award-winning hospitality journal, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit

Center Senior Partners: Hilton Worldwide, McDonald's USA, Philips Hospitality, STR, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, and TIG Global

Center Partners: Davis & Gilbert LLP, Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, Denihan Hospitality Group, eCornell & Executive Education, Expedia, Inc., Forbes Travel Guide, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Fox Rothschild LLP, French Quarter Holdings, Inc., FX Real Estate and Entertainment, Inc., HVS, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Jumeirah Group, LRP Publications, Maritz, Marriott International, Inc., Marsh's Hospitality Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Proskauer, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, SAS, Schneider Electric, Southern Wine and Spirits of America, Inc., Thayer Lodging Group, Thompson Hotels, Travelport, and WATG

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