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A Quick Guide to WeChat

Posted by on Aug 15, 2017 in Social Media

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The more I explore WeChat, the more I see that you really can do everything within this one app. There is no more need to have apps on your phone for Facebook, Skype, Uber, Tinder, Amazon, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc., as these are all included in this one app! But here’s what you need to know about WeChat and how it works.

Where did WeChat come from?
WeChat was an instant messenger app originally launched in China in January 2011 under the name of Weixin. Quickly, the app evolved: adding videos in August 2011, voice and video calls in July 2012, syncing with Facebook and Twitter in September 2012 and, in the same month, reaching 200 million registered users. Gaming and mobile payments were added in August 2013 and taxi bookings in January 2014. In May 2014, WeChat stores launched, allowing any business to have a virtual store within the WeChat app. In June 2014, money transfers launched followed by WeChat phone payments in September 2014 (like Apple Pay). (Source: TechInAsia) Now, in Q1 of 2017, WeChat reported having 938 million active monthly users!

What is WeChat?
Basically, WeChat merged together apps you currently know to form one app that includes WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, Uber, Amazon, Instagram, Tinder, Twitter, YouTube and more. You can also do things like make your appointment at the doctors or see how busy it is at the shopping center you were going to head to after work! You really can do everything in one app, but what does this mean?

Consumer Data
WeChat currently holds a phenomenal amount of consumer data for everyone that uses the app. Just think about it – they know everything: where you are, where you’re going, what you had for lunch, what holidays you are planning, what new clothes you are looking to buy and who you are currently socializing with. Now, although the thought of this can be quite scary for an individual, from an advertising perspective, it’s a marketer’s dream. By having all this data, WeChat is able to allow companies to really target their specific clientele and anyone else who matches these profiles.

Why should you know about WeChat?
I recently came across an ad of sorts for WeChat which was put together by Jonah M. Kessel and Paul Mozur at The New York Times – I would recommend skipping in 2 minutes 15 seconds if you don’t have time to watch the full clip. It really does provide everything you need to know.

(Video Source: New York Times)

Generation Z. Who Are They, and Why Do They Have So Much Money?

Posted by on Aug 10, 2017 in Digital Industry News

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Mary Grace Cooney was one of two MDS 2017 summer interns. During her time with us, we challenged her to write a blog post about content that she learned while working with our team.

Look alive – Generation Z is here. Spanning ages 7-20, these technology masterminds are revolutionizing the way businesses need to advertise, which constantly keeps the travel industry on its toes. Gen Zers are generally seen as globally conscious individuals who have a major impact on what money is spent on, and how it is done. The mindset of the Gen Zer is everchanging, making it challenging for the travel industry to stay ahead of the game and create lifelong loyalty members from a young age. Let’s take a look at how the industry can keep up with the superpower known as Generation Z.

Who exactly is Generation Z and what is the group’s purchasing power? Let’s break it down. According to Uniquely Generation Z, a study by the IBM Institute for Business Value, a Gen Zer is, “someone who was born in the mid-1990s or beyond, and estimated to be between 2 billion and 2.52 billion strong. Self-reliant digital natives, they socialize, learn, and have fun living in a fluid digital world – one in which the boundaries between their online and offline lives are nearly indistinguishable.”¹ To put it simply, purchasing power is the ability to buy goods and services with money. Purchasing power can also be seen in the form of influencing purchases, which Gen Zers do a great deal of.

Generation Z(Image Source: IBM)

As shown above, Gen Zers spend a lot of time online, but they also spend a great deal of time hanging out with friends and family, actually stepping away from their screens for a bit. Socializing is at the forefront of their daily thoughts, so it is important for companies to design products that give Gen Zers something to talk about. According to the CMO of Home and Lifestyle, “They [Generation Z] are ‘always on’ and expect everything to be available ‘on-demand’ because they are used to having everything at their fingertips 24/7.”¹

What Generation Z Cares About(Image Source: IBM)

It is crucial for companies to conceptualize the chart above. Yes, Gen Zers have this purchasing power, but will they spend it on your goods and services? As shown, almost half of the surveyed individuals care about what their peers think, as well as trying to stay as eco-friendly as possible when purchasing. Take Amazon, for example, who does a fantastic job of appealing to Generation Z. Their business model is one of the best at capitalizing on efficiency. It is rare for Amazon to sell out of an item or delay shipping, even on their ever-popular Prime Day. In fact, they are so efficient, they now can get items to your doorstep within one or two hours. If that doesn’t scream the instant gratification that Gen Zers long for, then what does? Hotels can capitalize on this speed and use it to their advantage when assisting Gen Zers. Marriott is beginning to incorporate “speedy technology” that greatly appeals to Gen Zers, such as mobile check-in and digital room keys. This is a great start, and will only improve from here on out.

Although some Gen Zers have limited monetary spending power, they usually have an enormous influence over purchases made by their families. In 2015, Gen Zers spent a mountainous $829.5 billion USD.2 A lot of this can be contributed to the age difference seen in households. Gen Zers grew up in the digital age, unlike their parents and grandparents. According to a press release put out by MarketWired, “Gen Z, tweens/teens carry significant influence on household purchases than previous generations. Ninety-three percent say their children have at least some influence on their family’s spending and household purchases.”3 The teens and tweens of this generation influence the buying of everything from food and beverage, to bigger-ticket items such as travel, and everything in between. According to VisionCritical, 86% of Gen Z’ers prefer to stay in hotels. Staying relevant in the eyes of a Gen Zer by appealing to their likes and interests is a great way to make sure you become their go-to hotel. These individuals have a vital influence on their families’ decision to travel, and have ever-changing preferences. It has been said that Gen Zers growing up in the digital age want a good story and are won over by video. It is crucial to “sell” Gen Zers the experience that your hotel can offer them, assuring them that you are worth their time. The chart below illustrates what Gen Zers spend their money on and how they influence the spending of money by their families.

Generation Z Influencers(Image Source: IBM)

According to IBM’s study, over 75% of Gen Zers spend at least half, if not more, of their monthly income on clothes, food and technology, among other things. Where does this money come from? Although a lot of it stems from allowances and gifts, a quarter of Gen Zers seek out jobs and ways to make money online. They are a forward-thinking generation and use this to their benefit. Being able to use and create innovative technologies propel these teens into entrepreneurial masterminds with endless possibilities at their fingertips. The hotel digital experience must be nothing short of consistent eye-opening interactions to ultimately hook Gen Zers and reel them in. Some examples of this can be seen in recent efforts done in Marriott’s Innovation Lab Hotel.

As Generation Z matures, so will their lifestyle and behavioral decisions. Marriage, entering the workforce and purchasing a home are only a few of the factors that are bound to increase the purchasing power that Generation Z holds. As far as businesses are concerned, Gen Z is a spending force to be reckoned that has no plans of stopping anytime soon. Generation Z loves to feel appreciated and special, and it’s up to hotels to make them feel that way. They have nothing but options to exercise, and the ability to make decisions that not only affect them, but those around them.




5 Actionable Facebook SEO Tips

Posted by on Aug 8, 2017 in All Matters SEO, Social Media

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Michael Rosenblatt was one of two MDS 2017 summer interns. During his time with us, we challenged him to write a blog post about content that he learned while working with our team.

5 Actionable Facebook SEO Tips(Image Source: Pexels)

When we think of Facebook and Google, we tend to categorize one as a social network and the other as a search engine. Where they certainly have subtle differences, both companies have the same objective in mind which is to keep consumer attention for as long as possible. Initially, Google’s mission was to pass its users along to different sites as quickly as possible. Over the years, that mission changed to finding ways to make money off the user while they’re searching. In 2011, Google+ was launched as a means to enter into the social realm. The internet giant couldn’t seem to figure it out as they went through many failures and false starts.

As Google was stumbling to emerge into social, Facebook kept growing larger and becoming more influential. By 2010, Facebook was approaching 500 million users with real names, birthdays, photos and a network of connections. From a hotel perspective, the growth rate and number of active users of Facebook is what makes it so enticing. Given all the data Facebook provides, creates for a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on potential guests for your hotel. When creating a Facebook Ad, your hotel can optimize the ad by targeting specific location, demographics, age, gender, interests, behavior and connections. Due to specific targeting, your hotel should have a precise idea of who they are intending to reach. One imperative element your hotel should consider is optimizing for SEO keywords. The idea is to choose keywords that are relevant and provide value to your hotel. An extremely useful tool to assist you with this is, Moz’s Keyword Explorer. This tool provides accurate monthly search volume data, an idea of how difficult it will be to rank for your keyword, estimated click-through rates and a score representing your potential to rank.

Why SEO for Facebook is Now Important as Ever?

Little-to-none of Facebook’s activity is indexed by Google or other mainstream search engines. Therefore, it is essential to start optimizing your hotel for Facebook’s internal search.

5 Actionable Facebook SEO Tips:

  1. Facebook social signals can have a lot of potential for SEO value – use it as a channel to build traffic and links back to your hotel website.
  2. Name your profiles correctly and fill out the entire profile completely – use the full name of your hotel across all social media channels. All areas of the profile should be completed: photos, bio, videos, links, topics, tags – whatever the channel offers, take full advantage of it.
  3. Take advantage of the customized meta titles and images when you share links in your posts. Facebook will automatically pull in images and titles from your website to display in a carousel like post – however, you can choose which images you wish to upload and edit the text.
  4. Link to legitimate accounts – remember relevance is important and if the social media profile of a group or user looks unnatural or keyword-stuffed, your reputation is at risk.
  5. Ensure UNAP (URL, Name, Address, and Phone Number) are accurate and consistent. Never use variations of your hotel’s UNAP.

As Facebook continues to grow past its current 1.9 billion users they are going to keep innovating ways to capture the user’s attention. One of those ways is by continuously improve the user’s search experience. Google is aware of this threat, as of July 19th Google announced to redesign their mobile search app with a personalized feed. The offering is called “Google Feed” which you may note is very much like Facebook’s “News Feed.” Facebook and Google are battling for attention online so it is imperative they each continue to innovate and evolve. With that said, it is important to stay up on the latest trends for both platforms in order to optimize them for your guests. With this post, I wanted to specifically highlight successful SEO tips for Facebook. Facebook’s News Feed algorithm has a history of being updated on a continuous basis. Therefore, staying up-to-date on these changes is critical to the success of your hotels presence on the platform.

Fresh Views on Travel and Hospitality: An Interview with our 2017 Summer Interns

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in Announcements

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Michael Rosenblatt and Mary Grace Cooney are the 2017 Digital Services summer interns based in our Bethesda HQ office. We asked for their perspective on travel, Marriott and what their favorite destination has been thus far.

MDS 2017 Interns


Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Michael: My name is Michael Rosenblatt and I am a rising senior at George Mason University (GMU). I have received an Associate’s degree in Digital Marketing along with two certificates in Marketing and Social Media. I am currently on track to graduate GMU with a bachelor’s degree in Leadership and Organizational Development. My interest in marketing dates back to when I was a freshman in high school. My older sister encouraged me to join FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and DECA. Although, at the time digital marketing wasn’t as prevalent, but it was obvious to see the new marketing direction from businesses and consumers. Since then, it’s been an exciting ride to see how things have evolved. It’s even more exciting to think digital is still in its pre-stages relative to how long it’s going to be embedded in our culture.

Mary Grace: My name is Mary Grace Cooney and I was born and raised in Oakton, Virginia, which is where I currently live. I am a student at the University of Mary Washington, majoring in Marketing, where I will be graduating from this coming spring.


Q: What has been your favorite travel destination so far? And if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Michael: My favorite travel destination would have to be back in 2012 with my stay in Hawaii. I stayed at the Waikiki Beach Marriott so that in itself was an incredible experience. The most memorable take away from that trip was when I went sky diving over the northern part of the island. Jumping out of a tiny plane overlooking a combination of the Pacific Ocean and Oahu was something surreal! I highly recommend everyone experience sky diving, but especially if you are on a gorgeous island, such as Hawaii.

Mary Grace: My favorite destination I have been to was London for sure! I stayed for a week at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, and I highly recommend it to everyone. The travel destination currently at the top of my bucket list right now is Greece. An opportunity to go there cannot come soon enough.


Q:  What’s your favorite travel website/app?

Michael: I must say prior to this internship I was unaware of the website Skift, a hospitality focused website. Being that digital marketing is a focus of mine, and hospitality is a new-found interest, Skift seems to be the one-stop-shop for anything relative to those topics. I would say as a student I find the “How-To” articles under the EDU section extremely informative.

 Mary Grace: My family has always been firm believers in booking through (to get all those rewards points 😉), but if I had to pick another site, I would pick TripAdvisor because they give great suggestions on what to do during your stay.


Q: What’s your best travel tip?

 Michael: My most recommended travel tip is to definitely invest in the Eagle Creek products! Particularly, the Pack-It Systems. As a business traveler, it can often be difficult to ensure your clothes stay in proper shape. The Pack-It folder is the easiest, most convenient solution to keeping your dress clothes folded, pressed and organized. I guarantee if you try any of the Pack-It solutions you will amazed at how much more prepared you are for any trip.

Mary Grace: My best travel tip would be to always keep a copy of your passport on you. As soon as you get to your hotel, figure out how to use the safe and stick your real passport in there. This way, if you are out and about and you get things taken from you, your original will be safe and sound back in your room.


Q: What do you like most about Marriott?

Michael: Since I started travel hockey at age 7, our organization always put us in Marriott hotels. I would say that certainly has exposed me to such a high level of hospitality from a young age. Whether that be for the best or worst, I was spoiled to that expectation. The random occasions of staying at somewhere other than a Marriott made me really appreciate all the personal details Marriott provides. With that said, what I love most about Marriott is their attention to detail on so many levels.

Mary Grace: My favorite thing so far about Marriott is definitely how welcoming and nice everyone has been. Everyone is super willing to help me out at all times, and provide assistance on whatever questions I may have. The people who work in MDS are the most down to earth people I have ever worked with, and I learn from them so much every day!

Another Day, Another Google Algorithm Update

Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in All Matters SEO

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Google Homepage(Image Source: SiteCenter)

We hear it time and time again: Google has updated its algorithm. The news breaks and we suddenly find ourselves scrambling for answers on these algorithm changes, which may have already taken place. Or, better yet, there is actual confirmation of an update from Google. In the past, Google regularly announced algorithm updates and how the changes could affect search results. Today, however, many of us wonder if Google’s current lack of transparency is of concern for website SEO, which leaves us questioning what we really need to know about Google’s algorithm updates.

The Basics

Google ranking systems sort through billions of webpages to give users valuable and relevant results. These ranking systems are made up of algorithms that analyze what users are looking for and what information to return in the search engine results page. Google continues to update its algorithm 500-600 times a year in efforts to improve the user experience. Over the past several years, most updates have been minor, but there have been a few major updates that could have affected your website’s natural search rankings.

Main Updates

Panda The Panda algorithm was designed to target websites with low-quality content. It required sites to up their game in terms of usability, user experience, creating meaningful content and refraining from creating duplicate content. In October 2016, Google stated that the Panda algorithm would analyze all of the pages of a website and may decide to demote the site’s search engine rankings as a whole based on its overall quality on an ongoing basis.

Penguin The Penguin algorithm began rolling out in April 2012 and focused on penalizing websites with artificial incoming links. In October 2016, Google announced that the newest Penguin 4.0 algorithm devalues or ignores spam links and would reverse any penalties from the first phase of the Penguin update.

Hummingbird Hummingbird aimed to give end users the right answers to their questions, correct facts, statistics and articles that were dense with high-quality content that related to their queries. It was in part an attempt by Google to provide better responses to voice queries, specifically within the mobile space.

Pigeon The Pigeon update focused on local SEO, which drastically changed the way Google interprets, modifies and handles location results. The local search algorithm tied deeper into web-search capabilities, including hundreds of ranking signals with such features as the Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more. It also improved Google’s distance and location ranking parameters.

Fred – With the March 2017 Fred update, any site content seen as invaluable, low quality, outdated or too ad-heavy is guaranteed to start seeing massive drops in rankings. Also, backlinks to the main site with old content has started seeing a clampdown by the update.

What to Consider

While it’s important to educate yourself on larger-scale updates, you do not need to obsess over the granular details of every algorithm change. Below are things to consider next time you get word of another update:

  1. Post-Update World – This phrase refers to an SEO world that has no official identifying/naming of algorithm changes, no confirmation that an update has been rolled out and no information on when exactly that rollout occurred. Updates are becoming more infrequent, so if you do see ranking changes, don’t panic; with so many unannounced updates, we shouldn’t take ranking changes as permanent.
  2. Wait to React Although you may want to make changes to your website, the smarter thing to do it wait a few days or even weeks to see if your site truly was impacted. If you aren’t taking part in “black-hat” SEO, your site probably was not impacted negatively.
  3. Know Your Data Industry leaders also explain the importance of knowing your data before concluding that search ranking decreases are coming from a Google algorithm update. Did your competitors see changes? Were you impacted in just Google? Did all your website pages see a traffic drop? If you answer “no” to many of these questions, chances are, you weren’t hit with a Google penalty.
  4. User-focused Commitment – Although we don’t know all the factors Google uses to rank, we know its mission is to help each search user find the correct information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. You will benefit by focusing on your users and their needs, instead of short-term results that can crush your site’s long-term viability.

Algorithm updates can seem overwhelming, but, at the end of the day, if you are doing SEO right—creating good, user-focused content and earning links from credible and niche-specific sites—you should be okay. Stay updated by credible sources, but don’t worry about knowing what every minor update did or didn’t do.

The Digital Content Summit 2017 Recap

Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in Conference Recaps

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London Digital Content Summit(Image Source: Beth Murrell)

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Digital Content Summit in London. It showcased a range of experts who shared their knowledge of such varied topics as multichannel delivery, content and influencer engagement, measuring impact and different realities.

There was a whole day of speakers, so I wanted to share with you a few of my choice standouts and key takeaways. The day kicked off with a keynote from Patrick Collister, head of design from Google. The main message that resonated from his speech was that augmented reality and virtual reality are the future. This also seemed to be a theme throughout the conference, with so many speakers sharing the same belief.

We’re already starting to see these changes come in with the introduction of Snapchat Spectacles and the recent success of Pokémon Go. People love this mixed and augmented reality, but we’re only really seeing these in apps and games currently. How long will it be before they become part of everyday life?

Pokemon Go(Image Source: Pexels)

Another interesting panel was around managing content-ownership models. These experts championed the use of influencers in campaigns to allow full integration into a brand’s ethos.

So what do they think is holding brands back? They spoke of the fact that many brands are looking at content as a menu rather than the story behind the medium. They also don’t trust the opinion of the influencers, and try to control them too much.

Victoria White from Hearst Magazines UK reiterated that “content is key to any creative campaign” and that Hearst saw seven times more engagement when using influencers. There did seem to be an ongoing theme from companies starting to utilise influencers more; you can read my previous blog post that talks about The Rise of Influencer Marketing.

Going back to basics a bit, we also heard from Daniel Rowles from Target Internet, who implored everyone in the room to really paint a picture with their data and work out end objectives. So many companies run brand campaigns without having steadfast goals, and they don’t analyse the data afterwards to determine the success of campaigns.

We also saw a case study from David Meany of Contiki. He firmly believes that brands should live and die by their content, and that “everyone is a creator and there is a bigger risk sitting on the sidelines.” He showed us Contiki’s evolution over the years, and how they took leaps to create innovative and interesting content by partnering with popular influencers. One of the featured videos was created in partnership with cliff-diving experts, and has now around 5 million views.

My final key takeaway came from the last speaker of the day, Matt Simmonds of The Telegraph, who said, “The only rule is that the old rules don’t apply”. He finished off the day just as it had started: with his firm belief that the future is in 360 videos and virtual reality. He shared this formula for virtual reality, as he believes it encompasses all of the following:

Virtual Reality = 360 + Virtual Reality + Mixed Reality + Augmented Reality

These days, we’re no longer passive observers; we’re active participants. Therefore, the brands we embrace and encourage should feature this type of user-generated content.

So what does this mean for the hotel industry?

In the hotel world, I definitely can see a move into a world where augmented reality is overlaid into the travel experience – with a computer sitting on your nose. Imagine being able to wake up, pop on some glasses and have a mixed-reality overlay where you can select room service or see what time the spa opens. Or fully immersive 360 videos, where you can walk through the hotel, open doors to rooms and see what you’re buying before you click checkout.

If this conference is anything to go by, it won’t be long before these are our reality.

Virtual Reality(Image Source: Pexels)