Over the years, social media has grown as a popular tool for businesses to use as a marketing channel, especially in hospitality industries...
Over the years, social media has grown as a popular tool for businesses to use as a marketing channel, especially in hospitality industries. Not only are hotels recently using social media to engage with customers, but guests are planning their holidays based on social media with tons of reviews and suggestions.
The hospitality industry, specifically luxury hotels and resorts, is one of the industries that is taking advantages of utilizing social media and customers. A hotel’s attractive photos can lead to a reservation from the potential guests. The content relating to travel has the highest level of engagement because of its effect on viewers. Social media also inspire users to have a vacation and daydream.
DEFINITION & BACKGROUND
A.M. Kaplan, M. Haenlein (2010) states that “Social Media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content”. From a point of marketing view, Levinson and Gibson (2010) define social media as “a set of tools that are free or nearly free and allow marketers and the community to create content and meaningful conversation online”.
For example, social media is ““blogs, photo-sharing sites, video-sharing sites, social networks, audio podcasts, Internet radio […] mobile social sharing and communication tools” (Levinson & Gibson, 2010). Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas introduce a good illustration of how to classify social media tools, named “Conversation Prism”.
The global increase in social media usage since January 2018 is 9%. Saudi Arabia has the largest social media penetration in 2019 at 99%, which is well above the global average of 45%. Other countries with the largest social media penetration include Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria have the lowest levels of social media penetration.
According to the chart of the most popular social networks worldwide by active users (October 2018) prepared by Statista using data from the Global Web Index, Facebook, with more than 2 billion active users, holds the majority market share. Google’s YouTube is second with 1.9 billion users, while WhatsApp and Messenger are not far behind. The Instagram platform has fewer than half of the visits on Facebook. China’s top two social media, WeChat and QQ, all have more than 800 million users.
SOCIAL MEDIA & HOSPITALITY INSDUSTRY
Social media platforms possess various suggestions for the hospitality industry including guests, staff, and management. These sites provide a rating system that can be used to create, monitor, and appraise the reputation and concept of the business. Online consumer-generated content is noted as highly credible to the hospitality entity. Hospitality business participation in online social networking has been shown to be a cost-effective means for communication and engagement with potential customers. Participation in these websites gives companies direct way to active users without the need to add any additional hardware or software.
A social networking site that is simply convenient, straightforward, and appealing allows participants to become involved in different ways. It comes as no wonder that many hotels, restaurants and travel agents have entered the social network area. Hospitality companies are proactively socializing with their clients by creating with innovative customized solutions and much active and prompt customer service. On the other hand, online customer reviews act a big role in the decision of hotel and travel consumers make recently.
With an increase in the number of websites (like Ctrip, TripAdvisor and social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, etc.) that give potential customers an opportunity to look up reviews by other real customers, the way information is perceived today has developed considerably. Making a different social network that allows guests to create a profile and share opinions, feelings, stories, photos, etc. can be a source of competitive advantage or disadvantage, even some threats to hotel industry. If a customer selects to participate in an online network, shares a recommendation or recounts an experience or downloads content, others in the network are likely to be influenced by the opinion of the postings. Another networking and communication tool that has become popular is blogging. The hospitality industry now is challenged with consequences that blogs have not only positive influences but also adverse ones.
THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
- Influences on Consumer Behaviors
An individual is able to see what is happening all over the world by sitting pleasantly and with just a swipe on the screen or a click on the mouse. The tourism industry can take the golden opportunity that is social networking sites to attract a customer through photos and videos of breathtaking landscapes. For instance, New Kempinski integrated their service into WeChat in order to offer the high-tech experiences to the guests. The followers or visitors of the tourism websites are able to look at the review of their users when loyal consumers upload their photos of the hotels, restaurants and destinations on their own personal websites (such as Facebook and Instagram) which directly link to the tourism’s website. There are many consumers who see social media as the most trusted source of information due to information provided by people they know or at least have a passing acquaintance with and are especially going to trust the people that are amongst their relatives and friends.
- Connect with the Consumers
With easier access to social networking sites through mobile apps, it has brought numerous benefits for the hospitality business like building connections, shaping brand awareness and sustaining loyalty with customers. Communicating with the customers helps to make a positive impression of the business and also to build trust and encourage the relationship with new and loyal customers. Just having a conversation with consumers by using advertising words is not beneficial, instead, the conversation has to be trustable so that consumers will be persuaded with those words and so be interested in the product and services of a brand.
- Create Brand Awareness and Build Image
An increasing number of hotels have participated in social networking sites, which has helped to build the image and to promote their hotels as the popularity rises. Whenever hotel business gets involved in social networking sites, the information is out there and there is no way to go back on it so every action has to be taken responsibly. Every reply to reviewers is important to maintain the brand image. More business in the hospitality industries is using social networking sites for their own benefits. The responses to consumers are to be replied with morality in order to secure their image and brand regardless if the reviews are interpreted in a good or bad way.
A good plan to promote marketing is by utilizing social media to sell tourism goods. Other than that, using social media can also help to announce the latest promotions. For example, a last-minute promotion can be posted on social media when time is limited and there is no time to print out leaflets for distribution. Without printing those leaflets, costs are reduced as well. Since there are millions of users on Facebook, it would be a waste if there is no interaction between the consumers and the company. It would be prudent to promote special offers that are only available for Facebook users who are a Facebook fan of their Facebook fan page. Such an event can help to promote their brands and retain loyal consumers. It would also be a good way to promote their merchandise on social networking sites.
Photo and video sharing have become the standard in the 21st century. People are connected with their fellows and relatives through social media, specifically social networking sites. Many hotels are aware that social networking sites are important for them to gain popularity in order to impact on customers behavior, connect with the guests, create brand awareness and promotions… Hospitality and tourism industries that take part in social networking sites often have to stay active online in order to not miss out any posts. All these investments of time and money on social networking sites are considered inexpensive but allow for effective and efficient use as a marketing tool.
Furthermore, social networking sites are convenient as they allow ease of access to customer replies. Besides that, using better communication technologies brings more efficiencies, teamwork and flexibility to suppliers of a company. Internet does not take a very long time and seeking on the Internet is active and efficient, so people tend to rely on the Internet as the main source of information.
Kaplan, A. and Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business horizons, 53(1), pp.59-68.
Levinson, J. and Gibson, S. (2010). Guerrilla social media marketing. 1st ed. [Irvine, Calif.]: Entrepreneur Press.