The project aims to bring focus on the advantages and the disadvantages of using social media for marketing specifically in tourism sector. Today, sales has become a topic relevant to behavioural science, many studies have revealed that most of buying decisions may be just based on psychological reasons rather than rational thinking, cost and benefits analysis etc. Burst of social media has increased competitiveness in tourism industry. Business opportunities are more than how the industry has responded though. The tourism sector is just waking up to the power of the social media. Along with a smart phone, savvy English, bling photos and well-dressed people, travel diaries have popped up on every platform of social media (Bryman and Bell, 2015). The powerful combination of social networking and social media has been the most dramatic development over recent years.
Social media has been crucial as a game changer in any business. Social media helps practice social networking. Posts by avid users gain visibility by all the ‘sharing’ done with network contacts who are mainly acquaintances and friends. A single post has potential to spread over millions and millions of contacts and even their contact and further on. People may like what they see and simply talk about it or further ‘share’. Social media also provides the necessary flexibility to communicate at personal as well as professional levels. As many people open their pages as business pages where along with the flexibility to answer informally and act informally professional advices or suggestions are freely shared, content as well as knowledge is shared (Bryman and Bell, 2015).
How tourism functioned earlier was either out of risk or strictly on word of mouth. Owing to the absence of internet, smart phones, basically the technology to inspire and influence decision making in an instant, everything was time bound. The industry too learned the same pace and moved slowly (Lacka and Chong, 2016, p. 83) However as is evident, technology has overtaken the lives of people and the tourism has still not picked up the same pace. This is not same with the shared sectors like aviation, hotel industry etc. People book tickets in an instant over internet and get travelling. But how will the tourism know that over the next 6 months the footfall of people could simply see a steep rise owing to excellent experience a honeymoon couple had and now their friends are all stirred to hit the place with their beaus or families (Zikmund et al. 2013). Tourism mostly is still stuck on ‘as is’ scenarios. Instead of preparing to amaze the people who decided to flock to a locality, they simply would be preparing for those who arrived and doing their momentary best.
The approach could be more prepared. Assume, tourism of a particular nation is hyperactive on marketing over social media platforms and collects huge data for analysis. Upon analysis, they found out that there is potential for $14 million as business (Ladkin and Buhalis, 2016, p. 328). There are already huge number of people who are interested in an upcoming sports event about to take place in the country. They probably need a push. The tourism ministry could start activities like internet polling, adverts on pages, rolling out TV advertisement, print advertisements, opening a competition to win free tickets etc. and simply pick more interest of people (Jackson, 2015). Man loves to ape and realizing that many people are talking about the same things indulge himself as well. He will talk about it in his friends’ circle and may be; motivate more people who were unaware of the event to look it up. Maximum hits, eyeball counts are all data in social media, they would then be targeted and the tourism would attempt to lure them to be part of the event. Apart from this, as many footfalls in the country would be direct and indirect resultant of marketing activities both on social media and off it but business in the country increases with advent of tourists (Sainaghi et al. 2017, p. 41). This is the power of social media or marketing on social platforms at present age which is still to be tapped by the industry (Trochim et al.2015). Most of the west have realised the potential and over the past decade have even reaped its benefits.
TripAdvisor as an organization today stands as the world’s largest social travel website. However, it did not intend to venture into the business it is in today in its start-up days. After being founded, it wanted to run a business very much on lines of AOL, to become an internet company. It faced tremendous issues with funding and even after a long time post opening its doors for business it had hardly made a deal (Madi, 2016, p. 627). As with many start-ups, it faced similar questions as to “we are doing fine without you, why should I buy from you?” Unfortunately the 9/11 event became a game changer for this organization (Sigala, 2017, p. 351). There were lot of people who were interested and even used its dummy travel website, the owners simply chose to make use of the opportunity. So, as fate would have it and mostly, owing to its own endeavours in adapting to changes, TripAdvisor became one of the early adopters of user generated content. Today TripAdvisor is one website people visit before making their travelling plans or even choosing a destination for holiday or an eat-out. Rapid involvement of TripAdvisor on social media and engaging marketing tools catapulted the business to its current position (Jordan et al. 2016).
Tourism faces challenges as on today on following grounds – intangibility of services, increasing information as well as interdependence among different organizations to provide unique services. Almost everything that needs to be known is available on the internet, people have stated experiences of even visiting a small shack and how the food was or how delightful the ambience was (Zahra, 2016, p. 4). Information is available and interested customers just need to look around and reach out to the experienced person who is more than willing to help out. Tourism doles out leisure, fun, relaxation, enjoyment, peace or adventure. To different people different meanings. For such an intangible service, great experiences more of which could be talked about to lure customers or sell better post the vacation as word of mouth is a challenge the industry faces without having an amazing platform like social media (Zhang et al. 2017, p. 231). People can watch each online videos and aspire to do the same things themselves on their visit.
Social media is useful for their unique ability of attracting customers through detailed, pointed, and member generated content, engaging through social interactions, and retaining them through relation building with other online members (Okazaki et al. 2017, p. 111).
Tourism brings people together just like social media and some of the top benefits tourism sector could gain are:
Better chance at understanding the customer. Social media platforms collect data and ‘listen’ to the conversations. This way organizations can advertise the related content on pages
Checking for competition – All competitors are online, checking competitor activity online. Important Intel of what’s going on and what is ‘not’ going on helps formulate a strategy for the organization’s own marketing efforts (Varkaris and Neuhofer, 2017, p. 333).
Better interaction with customers – hard selling is a strict no-no but engaging people by good content that encourages interaction
Identifying the brand lovers – people who have appreciated and loved the services/product will share the content created by the organization. Especially in tourism, word of mouth is a key way to get more business (Caron and Light, 2016, p. 33).
Delivering good customer service – promptly answering questions and sorting issues if any increases visibility of great customer service the organization has to offer
Time intensive – as understood, social media is interactive. Social media managers spend almost entire day on various platforms and picking up keywords to start a conversation, divert it, focus on info or bring in more attention to the content. This is time engaging. Even two way interactions that to answer queries takes up time. Two-way interactions require commitment as well. Hence, focused workforce to manage all this needs to be deployed by organizations in the industry to monitor communications over social platforms and build long term relationships (Stewart and Wilson, 2016, p. 641).
May be intrusive – some people on social media network also feel advertisements as encroachment to their privacy. People feel that what they do online should be their business and they should not be targeted just for seeing related marketing content. Marketing on social media solely depends on data collected. People checking out flight rates over various websites for 2 destinations may make them a target, no matter which website they visit there may be sponsored advertisements of the seen content following them and therefore users feel unsafe to share details (Sano, 2016, p.193). Marketing attempts are met with bitterness in such cases with this type of audience
Feedback cannot be controlled – Sometimes people get nasty while giving comments, unhappy customers post images of their experiences. Social media needs constant monitoring and quick responses to neutralize the effects
Unmatched followers – the business may be local with fans who are very distant. Targeted paid advertising needs to be carried out by the marketing team to reach the ‘actual’ customers
All in all, social media allows people to speak about their great as well as ‘not so great’ experiences. Platforms such as Facebook provide instant ways to reach out to millions of people, twitter helps word spread quickly, platforms such as LinkedIn allow interested business professional to network (Li et al. 2017, p. 61). Such platforms allow power of becoming a critic to common people, by using platforms such as YouTube, people shoot and upload videos to show the world what in it for them. People share what they ate, how the dish looked like, what extra experiences they got by taking that extra mile, how was the hotel, their coffee, their lift, bathrooms etc. lot of other info. People can also connect to strangers on such media platforms and ask queries or take suggestions, everything happens just instantly.
The tourism industry needs to take note of how people’s trends are before taking a trip and post making their tri and accordingly make business strategies. As soon as a decision is taken to take a vacation, the decision usually leads to planning phase, referred to as ‘pre-trip’. The potential customer would start looking out for places to visit that would best suit his/her budget (Bilgihan et al. 2016, p. 288). The value chain starts with the decision and trip planning, pre-trip: the need to travel arises, “At this point the e-tourist looks for information on the market that best suit his needs. The interested party may ask around and take suggestions from near and dear ones as well to finalize. Once all options are properly evaluated, the decision is made and the matter closed. Finally, all steps would be taken now to reach the destination such as hotel booking, travel arrangements, stay arrangements etc. Upon reaching the destination the actual experience of the vacation starts for the tourist. This stage also involves all leisure activities that accompanied to complete the travel experience. In the last phase, namely the post-travel phase, the satisfaction with the travel experience is evaluated. The tourist would now reminisce the experience and utilizes every opportunity to relive the moments, as much as he could even over social media platforms (Kim et al. 2016, p. 99) He would talk about his experience and express his ideas, notions, advices or even opinions on a destination or tourist service that he received. All of this does not just leave tourist who uses the internet for travel, but converts him into a prescriber and critic for others who are about to tread the same path as well.
It is vivid that with growing technology and internet as a platform, social media is becoming stronger and catchy. Even virtual reality has a lot of powerful content which makes the customers feel they are at a different location is existent. The various advantages and disadvantages mentioned of doing business using social networking is for all too see but there have been success stories of organizations who have gained momentum in their business because they invested appropriately and made proper planning and strategized to use the platform to reach new heights, gain new business dimensions and create an example. People using social media platforms are always hooked on to new content. Knowing has become a need. The tourism industry could use the opportunity in an optimized manner so that they could grow.
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