All industries across the world have followed a relatively similar path in the context of the adoption of new technologies. The global tourism industry has become increasingly digitized as businesses adapt and deploy innovative ways to achieve new competencies and efficiencies. According to Hua et al. (2017), tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet whose progression can be attributed to continuous development and deepening diversification. Social media has become a critical promotional tool for the tourism business, which has also played a critical part in the industry’s growth. This essay seeks to discuss why social media is important as a promotional strategy. The context will be the tourism industry where various examples of corporations will be outlined in terms of how they deploy social networking sites.
Social Media Marketing
The first step in the discussion of the usefulness of social media is to present an understanding of the concepts of social media and social media marketing. The term social media first appeared in the early 1990s to imply the web-based tools used in communication and online interactions (Treem et al., 2016). According to Siddiqui and Singh (2016), social media can be described as a platform where people can discuss current issues and express their opinions. Many large corporations, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, have built platforms that dominate the world as each of them records billions of users and subscribers across the planet.
The term social media marketing entails the use of social networking sites and platforms by businesses to inform and engage their clients. Additionally, it may also be used to imply the conduct of various marketing functions on the networking sites. Research on the potential of digital media in marketing has majorly concentrated on what strategies companies use. Firms hope to listen, communicate, entertain, and educate their potential clients using the various platforms (Todua, 2017). For example, travel companies in Georgia have been using social media to improve customer satisfaction as illustrated in the primary study by Todua (2019).
Most notably, social media marketing is facilitated by the eagerness of millennials to embrace and use digital tools for all forms of interactions, including the exchange of feedback on products and services (Moro and Rita, 2018). Therefore, it means that social media is capable of influencing consumer behavior, which is something that corporations seek to exploit.
Importance of Social Media as a Promotional Strategy
The importance of social media as a promotional strategy in tourism can be explored from several perspectives, including the uses and the benefits of organizations. In the context of digital marketing, the tourism industry faces a situation where social media is indispensable regardless of the type or size of the tourism business. A strong social media presence allows the firms to know their customers. According to Kaur (2017), social media is not just about promotion as marketers also seek to keep clients engaged. As a promotional strategy, social media offers a platform where the services offered can be displayed and the consumer perspectives and feedback obtained.
The major sites used by most tourism businesses are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Each of these sites offers a different package for marketers depending on the content generated and the mode of interaction. For example, YouTube allows marketers to share videos of destinations and services while Instagram can be used to share photos.
Promotion can be described as a communication intended to inform clientele about a product or service. In tourism, this function focuses on informing consumers about the destinations and what to expect. Besides the content created and shared by corporations, users can also generate ideas to build on their expectations. Therefore, social media becomes important in building consumer expectations regarding both the destinations and the services or experiences offered (Kaosiri et al., 2017; Narrangajavana et al., 2017).
Effective promotional strategies have the effect of building positive consumer attitudes and behavioral intentions towards the destinations (Rahimizhian, Ozturen, and Ilkan, 2020). The technology acceptance model has been researched in the context of how new technologies, including social media, shape consumers’ intention to purchase products and services. In tourism, firms that adopt such tools as 360-degree experience using social media have achieved positive outcomes.
Several examples illustrate how important social media can be when deployed as a promotional tool in tourism. The first example is Sina Weibo provided by Kim et al. (2017) and how information on social media sites helps build the image of destination sites. The study revealed that tourism businesses in China use social media sites, including Weibo, for promoting sites. Content cues in Sina Weibo have been identified and their importance in building cognitive images of destinations sites established.
Travel information contained in social media platforms is used by consumers in making critical decisions. In a second example, Malaysia’s tourism industry has massively deployed Facebook, which makes the platform the country’s most important promotional tool (Hua et al., 2017). The case of Malaysia also involved information regarding destinations and tourist experiences. These two examples reveal that a country’s tourism industry adopts social media, sometimes with the support of the government, to attract visitors to the particular country.
Businesses in the tourism industry come in many forms, including those that advertise destinations, offer accommodation, and provide transport services. Therefore, airlines and hotels can be considered part of the tourism enterprise. Airbnb can be described as one of the most prominent companies in the modern tourism business, which has been accompanied by an acritical social media presence. Additionally, Airbnb can be regarded as the most popular travel company.
The argument is that the company has established a new business model of a sharing economy comprising 21 million loyal followers on such platforms as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, Airbnb has over 21 million loyal followers (Beaulac, 2019). Its popularity is built by the active customer support that works fast, which is often construed as putting its clients first. Even though the company has a separate social media account dedicated to customer service, Airbnb also works by managing comments on other profiles. Replies to comments and inquiries through Facebook and Twitter can be considered one of the most effective ways of utilizing social media as a promotional tool.
Another importance of social media is that it offers customers significant novel benefits never before enjoyed. To the business, social media is a promotional tool used to make sure that consumers understand the new benefits (Kamble et al., 2020).
For example, reviews from previous guests and direct connection and communication with hosts are critical in informing buyer decisions. The example of Airbnb can also be used to illustrate new benefits and new services made possible by social media. The success of Airbnb has been achieved with the help of social media where the quick spread of the idea, coupled with increasing positive reviews, has drawn the attention of a massive consumer base. Cheaper accommodation that allows homeowners to accommodate tourists and travelers is only half the journey, which is completed by the use of social media as an engagement platform. Tourists can engage with both the company and the hosts to make the necessary arrangements. Therefore, Airbnb is the embodiment of the use of social media as a promotional strategy.
Brand engagement is also made possible by social networking sites. The peer-to-peer online platforms mean that collaborative consumption can take place and that businesses can harness the power of these sites to build their brands. Brand engagement at Airbnb comprises such actions as a contribution, consumption, and creation of content related to the company’s brand (Schivinski et al., 2020). The importance of brand engagement through social media includes improved customer loyalty (Harrigan et al., 2017; Huerta-Alvarez, Cambra-Fierro, and Fuentes-Blasco, 2020). Brands with an active social media presence have managed to attract a massive consumer following.
Social media is the perfect promotional strategy deployed by businesses in the tourism industry. In the many examples provided, the case of Airbnb stands out not only because of the unique nature of the company’s operations but also due to its social media strategy. Social media is important for businesses due to its ability to connect with clientele, learn about them, and tailor promotional communications.
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