Tourism group hears how to reach ‘Millennials’

Sue Guinn Legg • Jun 28, 2012 at 7:24 AM

The Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association elected a new board of directors and a new panel of board officers at its annual meeting Wednesday at the Jonesborough Visitors Center.

Carolyn Pierson Cook with Absolute Communications was elected NETTA board chairwoman for 2012-13. Steve Lewis with DoubleTree by Hilton will serve as board’s chairman-elect and Buddy Sheerer of Lamar Tri-Cities will serve as treasurer.

In a review of the association’s accomplishments during the 2011-12 fiscal year that ends July 31, the association’s 2011-12 Board Chairman Israel O’Quinn cited key initiatives including the annual NETTA legislative breakfast in February, the association’s recent Pinnacle Awards and its work with The Tombras Group of Knoxville on a marketing plan with greater focus on brand ownership, social media exposure and increasing revenues.

O’Quinn also cited the association’s work with the state Department of Tourism in promotion of Northeast Tennessee’s Sunnyside Trail, a motorist guide to more than 400 attractions and places of interest off the beaten path between Gatlinburg and Bristol.

In a keynote address to NETTA members, David Jacobs, The Tombras Group’s senior vice president and director of strategy and innovation, shared his company’s research and best advice on how to reach a new generation of technology-oriented visitors known alternately as “Generation Y” or “The Millennials.”

In the generational shift to “instant, nonverbal communication” via mobile phone texting and “immediate sharing of the moment” through social media, Jacobs said Facebook is the current king and Twitter use has doubled in the past year. “Each social network comes with its own ecosystem, so think about the content each network group likes,” he said.

“You’re entering their world when you show up on Facebook.” And “like a mom or dad at a teen party,” the most effective method of connecting is to “hang back and choose your conversations wisely.”

In the “collision of culture and commerce,” Jacobs said, young social media users “understand that commerce pays for culture but they don’t like marketing. They like apps’ (digital applications ), engagement and interaction that comes with rewards. “You have to give them something, discounts, coupons, special alerts or new information.”

“They don’t mind coming in to interact in focus groups. Talk to them. Spend time with them. Pay attention to their world. Listen to their music and watch their shows.”

In her first address to NETTA members as board chairwoman, Cook gave a nod to Tombras’ survey results saying that in the year ahead “we want to be social, to share secrets and to have some fun.”

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