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Social Media Marketing In Hospitality Industry

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Discuss about the Role of Social Media Marketing In Hospitality Industry.




The current review of literature is premised on role of social media marketing in tourism industry. Considering the context of destination marketing, role of social media is being more profound in the contemporary world. With exponential growth of social media, both in the global and Australian market, the demand for understanding the role of social media in the operation of hospitality industry has been increased. Lifeline of the hospitality industry is people - who are perceived as consumers/customers by hospitality firms such as hotels and restaurants. Therefore, these organisations use a plethora of online marketing tools and techniques as a new marketing channel in order to connect with their customers.

Conceptual Framework

Figure 1: Conceptual Framework

(Source: Created by learner)

Critically analysing the Emergence of social media marketing

In the last decade, the rise of social media has been a major socio-cultural revolution, coupled with significant economic outcomes. People have joined in different social media platforms and this has contributed to ballooning of those online communities. In opinion of Leung et al. (2015, p.149), such changes have enabled people to express their opinion on matters more effectively and instantly and this has changed landscape of marketing in the hospitality industry. In addition, Demographic factors such as age and gender, coupled with socioeconomic status have enhanced concept of customer relationship in the hospitality industry (Leung et al. 2013, p.5).

Figure 2: Number of Facebook users in Australia from 2015 to 2022 (in millions)

(Source:, 2017)

As of Jan 2017, there are 16 million active Face book users in Australia. Given the total national population of the country in 2017 was 24.3 million; approximately 65.8% of the Australian population is on Facebook. Apart from Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram have also rapidly increased their user base in Australia, 1 in every 5 Australian now use Instagram and 1 in every 6 Australian is an active user of Snapchat (, 2017). Considering these statistics, the penetration of major social media in the Australian population can easily be surmised.

Identifying the role of Social Media and Online Marketing

Social media is considered an online application for online marketing and therefore hospitality brands seek to effectively utilise these platforms for building online communities consisting, loyal customers/consumers. As commented by Bowie et al. (2016, p.142), hospitality brands use social media platforms for two major purposes, a) building a new business model that incorporates a product-marketing channel and b) establishing a strong relationship with customers without encountering major obstacles in terms of time and place.


Defining online community

In context of hospitality industry, an online community can be defined as a group of people sharing their experiences through social media, expressing their opinions and providing necessary criticisms on services offered (Kim et al. 2015, p.170).

Characteristics of online community

From sociological perspective, Sigala et al. (2012, p.182) has characterised an online community through twelve elements. While the first six elements here highlight the need for individuals and the expectations of the communities, remaining six elements are associated with the success of community.

Figure 3: Sociological Elements of an Online Community

(Source: Sigala et al. 2012, p.183)

Bowie et al. (2016, p.212) has characterised online community from operational as well as theoretical perspectives. From a theoretical perspective, core elements of an online community are the place, symbols and virtual. On another hand, operational characteristics here include a) people b) purpose and c) the policies.

Figure 4: Reasons people visit online communities

(Source: Bowie et al. 2016, p.210)

Kim et al. (2015, p.170) have also characterised social media community through need of people to a) obtain information b) engage into transaction (economic and social) c) build new relationships and d) voice out opinions (positive and negative).

Critically discussing the theories of social media marketing

Participation of people in social media is contingent on shared purpose, characteristics and inherent purposes of the concerned communities. Therefore, participation of individuals on social media can be clearly underpinned through theoretical explanations.


Economic theory

Owing to the economic power and capability of affecting power relationships existing between marketers and customers, social media has gained significant popularity since its inception. From an economic perspective, marketers from hospitality industry perceive the entire population of a country as an aggregation of potential customers who can avail their offered services/products and thus benefit the respective organisations (Ng and Lien, 2015, p.668). In this context, resource-based model is an effective tool to understand the economic impact of social media on business. As mentioned by Sotiriadis and Van Zyl (2013, p.115), participants of social media generate consumer value when they are satisfied from the services offered and their gained benefits outweigh the expended resources. However, Kandampully et al. (2015, p.380) has criticised this economic perspective by pointing out that social media communities also have the power to relocate the balance of power from marketers to end customers thus sometimes consumer perception can determine the fate of a particular hospitality brand.

Social Theory

Two social theories namely social exchange theory and social identity theory are also applicable in this study for exploring the motivations of social media users and the impact of social media activities on the operation of hospitality industry.

Figure 5: Social theories

(Source: created by leaner)

In the opinion of Sigala et al. (2012, p.177), social exchange theory emphasises on the mutually beneficial interactions taken place among people outcomes of which are beneficial for both involved parties. Guided by the expectation of receiving social rewards, individual continues to contribute to communities and they also expect reciprocal responses from other members of the community. These behaviours are utilised by social media communities created by hospitality brands by rewarding their members with different forms of gifts and rewards. However, Ng and Lien (2015, p.657) has pointed out that there is always a saturation point in terms of rewards and when that is reached, social media marketing cannot yield business growth anymore.

Social identity theory helps to explain how individuals utilize their membership identities for obtaining respect and approval in the community. As per Lange-Faria and Elliot (2012, p.195), this theory encompasses cognitive, evaluative and affective elements. This element helps the marketers to create loyalty among their customers; lastly, the evaluative element assesses the value of an individual's membership in certain social community. Kim et al. (2015, p.167) has stated that when individuals perceive themselves as members of a specific community, they express loyalty to that specific community or brand and take active part in the activities initiated by the community. Zeng and Gerritsen (2014, p.28) has criticised effect of this theory by saying that at certain point of time it becomes virtually impossible for a marketer to acknowledge the identities of each and every member of the community and from such point of time deliberate negative opinions start to manifest.


Critically evaluating methods of social media marketing

Marketing through social media has immense influence on customers of hospitality industry and tactful marketing campaigns utilise this potent tool of digital world for their own benefit. As Bowie et al. (23016, p.177) have pointed out, today everyone has an opinion in almost every topic, and this is the particular spot where marketers of digital world have come to vendor their products or services, owing the growth of consumer culture both in Australia and all over the world. Barons and moguls of hospitality industry have ventured into social media for effectively increasing expanding their empire of business, through expensing comparatively lesser resources. Major methods of social media marketing, employed by such individuals include-

Figure 6: Types of Social media marketing

(Source: Created by leaner)

Word-of Mouth (WOM) marketing - This type of marketing does not actually involve the direct participation of marketer, rather it is just the act of consumers broadcasting information about certain products or services to other customers. Sotiriadis and Van Zyl (2013, p.104) has mentioned that when people find a valid reason for talking about certain good and services, then involuntarily spread the information in the society. In this way, it becomes much easier for the marketer to let the goodwill take control of the marketing.

Engagement marketing - the quest of every organisation runs in a cyclic process of acquiring new customers, growing lifetime value and converting them to advocates (Kandampully et al. 2015, p.380). However, in today’s digital world, it has become increasingly hard to perform these tasks without encountering any hurdles. With the advent and commercial outbreak of social media, customer reality has undergone a rapid change, thus engineering a new market reality. In the new marketing reality, organisational power has shifted from sales to marketing and purchasing power now resides with buyers instead of seller. Leung et al. (2015, p.152)  has defined engagement marketing as a special setup of marketing where people are engaged continuously as individuals, based on their needs, irrespective of their place and geographical position.

Integrated campaigns - this type of marketing is an effective strategy where a specific brand can focus on the local communities and continuity to be benefited from the global corporate parent. Šeri? et al. (2014, p.150) has stated that such marketing offers a holistic approach in communication marketing and therefore ensures that consumers will engage with the marketer the way he wants to. As result, market gains better control through practicing integrated campaign. Despite the benefits received from integrated marketing, there are some downsides of it also. Leung et al. (2015, p.151) has argued that integrated social media marketing has the capability to contradict the brand messaging.

Analysing the impact of social media marketing in hospitality industry


Figure 7: Benefits of social media marketing in hospitality industry

 (Source: Created by leaner)

With increasing usage of different social media marketing techniques and tools, Australian hospitality industry has experienced significant benefits from these activities. Firstly, guest booking experience has revolutionised owing to the use of social media. On a global perspective, roughly 148.3 million travel bookings are made annually through the internet, implying a staggering 557% of all travel bookings (Maxwell, 2017). Secondly, implementation of search engine optimisation (SEO) has enabled hotels and restaurants to source their customers from the locality and thus strengthen their foothold in the local market also. Thirdly, activity on the social media has enhanced the practice of destination marketing as people are more engaged in recommending and suggesting places to each other in online communities (Hays et al. 2013, p.215).

Figure 8: Distribution of social media platform usage by businesses in Australia as of April 2016, by business size

(Source:, 2017


Despite benefits realised from the internet and social media marketing, marketers of hospitality insert should not redirect their customers to Facebook. In the opinion of Maxwell (2017), such act will prompt them to browse through their own notifications and thus jeopardize the entire motive of social media marketing. Another major drawback in this context is the negative word-of-mouth propagation. As Pfeffer et al. (2014, p.120) has pointed out, social media users are often found to creating online firestorms in response to any sensitive activity of incident.


Gap in Literature

One major gap identified in previous research is the exclusion of social factors in describing the impact of social media on the operation of social media. Despite the immense significance of social lamberts such as identity, interaction and group behaviour, previous research has overlooked this area for the sake of emphasizing only on the economic outcomes of social media activity. Therefore, the researcher has endeavoured to bridge this gap in the current study and thus produce a holistic approach on the research issue.


This chapter has presented a critical understanding of the literature associated with the role of social media marketing in hospitality industry. For this purpose, research has introduced the scope of social media marketing by defining the term ‘online community' and explaining the characteristics of such communities in brief. After that, economic and social theories of social media marketing, along with their impact in hospitality industry have been penned down. Major methods of social media marketing have been outlined after that, following by benefits and negative impacts of social media marketing


Reference list

Cowling, D. (2017). ‘Social Media Statistics Australia – January 2017’., 1 February, [online], Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug 2017]

Hays, S., Page, S.J. and Buhalis, D., (2013). Social media as a destination marketing tool: its use by national tourism organisations. Current issues in Tourism, 16(3), pp.211-239.

Inversini, A. and Masiero, L., (2014). Selling rooms online: the use of social media and online travel agents. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 26(2), pp.272-292.

Kim, W.G., Lim, H. and Brymer, R.A., (2015). The effectiveness of managing social media on hotel performance. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 44, pp.165-171.

Lange-Faria, W. and Elliot, S., (2012). Understanding the role of social media in destination marketing. Tourismos, 7(1). Pp.193-211.

Leung, D., Law, R., Van Hoof, H. and Buhalis, D., (2013). Social media in tourism and hospitality: A literature review. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 30(1-2), pp.3-22.

Maxwell, T. (2017). ‘Simplifying Digital Marketing For Hotels’. Forbes, 1 June, [online], Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug 2017]

Ng, E. and Lien, C.Y., 2015. Impact of social media in service innovations: An empirical study on the Australian hotel industry. In Hospitality, Travel, and Tourism: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications (pp. 656-671). Hershey: IGI Global.

Pfeffer, J., Zorbach, T. and Carley, K.M., (2014). Understanding online firestorms: Negative word-of-mouth dynamics in social media networks. Journal of Marketing Communications, 20(1-2), pp.117-128.

Sigala, M., Christou, E. and Gretzel, U. eds., (2012). Social media in travel, tourism and hospitality: Theory, practice and cases. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., (2017), Distribution of social media platform usage by businesses in Australia as of April 2016, by business size, Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug 2017], (2017), Number of Facebook users in Australia from 2015 to 2022 (in millions), Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug 2017]

Zeng, B. and Gerritsen, R., (2014). What do we know about social media in tourism? A review. Tourism Management Perspectives, 10, pp.27-36.


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