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  • Best hotel social networking website is http://crokes.com which has chefs, managers and hotels from all over the world.Join the hotel community
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    Social Media Marketing Strategy: Lessons from the Hospitality Industry Social Media Marketing Strategy: Lessons from the Hospitality Industry Document Transcript

    • Social Media Marketing Strategy:Lessons from the Hospitality Industry By Ani Nacheva ID: NAC09289899 BSc Business Management University of Roehampton London Business School 2012 i
    • AcknowledgementsI would like to provide many thanks to all participants in the online survey fortheir time and collaboration. I would also like to thank Dr Guy Bohane for hissupervision and valuable advice and support. ii
    • AbstractSocial media technology phenomenon has become an integral part of the modern society,widely used by both general public and business enterprises. Social media are gainingpopularity as an efficient and cost-effective marketing strategic tool. However, social media’sbusiness integration is found to be at a very early stage, and the majority of the organisationsdo not fully understand the power and business potential of the social web. The aim of thisresearch is to explore the application of social web as a marketing medium, especially in thehospitality and tourism industry, and the relationship between social media and onlineconsumer behaviour. The research is explanatory, descriptive and quantitative in nature. Ituses comparative content analysis of three national and international hospitalityorganisations, and an online survey to examine the adoption and potential of social mediamarketing strategies, and the influence of social media on consumer behaviours and purchaseintentions. The study also develops a best practices framework for other organisations in thesector to learn from. The results of the research distinguished two main social mediastrategies adopted by hospitality organisations: marketing and/or customer service strategies.In addition, it became clear that the social web provides businesses with key opportunities toreach and engage with large number of customers, to create relationships, build brandpersonality and identity, and to improve customer loyalty and market reputation. Finally, thestudy revealed that there is a positive relationship between social media and consumerbehaviour, and that the social web can influence purchase intentions and decisions,particularly during travel search process. However, the level of the social media’s influencesignificantly depends on variety of factors including the reliability, usefulness, entertaining,and interactivity degree of the media. In conclusion, the research argues that enterprises, andparticularly hospitality organisations, should not ignore the increasing popularity of socialmedia, their potential as a marketing tool, and their effect on consumer behaviours andpurchase intentions. However, social media should not be employed as an independentmarketing strategy, but in combination with traditional marketing communications andpractices.Keywords: Social Media; Web 2.0; Social Media Marketing; Online Consumer Behaviour;Tourism & Hospitality iii
    • ContentsAcknowledgements ................................................................................................................................. iiAbstract .................................................................................................................................................. iiiContents ................................................................................................................................................. ivList of tables: ......................................................................................................................................... viList of figures: ....................................................................................................................................... vi1. Introduction ................................................................................................................................... 1 Research objectives & hypothesis .................................................................................................... 22. Literature review .......................................................................................................................... 3 2.1 Definitions of social media or social web............................................................................. 3 2.2 Social media business integration & importance ............................................................... 4 2.1.1 The relationship between social web and marketing ................................................. 4 2.1.2 Social web marketing business potential & importance ............................................ 5 2.1.3 Travel 2.0: social web marketing in the context of the hotel industry .................... 5 2.1.4 Social web marketing business integration & benefits: real world evidence........... 7 2.3. The relationship between consumer behaviour & Web 2.0. Factors affecting consumer perception of social media. ............................................................................................................... 9 2.3.1. The influence of social media on online consumer behaviour. .................................. 9 2.3.2. The influence of Web 2.0 on travel behaviour .......................................................... 11 2.4. Summary.............................................................................................................................. 123. Methodology ................................................................................................................................ 14 3.1. Research Method ................................................................................................................ 14 3.2. Sample .................................................................................................................................. 16 3.3. Data Collection .................................................................................................................... 16 3.4. Pre-testing and Pilot Survey............................................................................................... 184. Findings........................................................................................................................................ 19 4.1. Phase one: comparative content analysis .......................................................................... 19 4.1.1. Organisation profile .................................................................................................... 19 4.1.2. Organisations’ social web presence ........................................................................... 19 iv
    • 4.1.3. Social media strategies applied by the examined organisations ............................. 20 4.2. Phase two: online survey .................................................................................................... 26 4.2.1. Respondent profile ...................................................................................................... 26 4.2.2. Use of social media ...................................................................................................... 28 4.2.3. Reasons to use social media ........................................................................................ 28 4.2.4. Types of travel information obtained from social media......................................... 29 4.2.5. Social websites visited during travel search.............................................................. 30 4.2.6. Effect of social media on travel decision-making ..................................................... 31 4.2.7. Perceived reliability of social media .......................................................................... 34 4.2.8. Attitudes towards social media .................................................................................. 355. Discussion..................................................................................................................................... 37 5.1. Social media strategies ........................................................................................................ 37 5.2. Business opportunities that social media offers................................................................ 39 5.3 The relationship between consumer behaviour & social media ..................................... 40 5.3.1 Awareness and usage of social media ........................................................................ 40 5.3.2 Factors affecting social media usage and perception ............................................... 40 5.3.3 Use of social media during travel planning process ................................................. 41 5.3.4 Social media’s effect on consumer travel behaviour ................................................ 426. Conclusion ................................................................................................................................... 437. Best practice strategic framework and industry implications ................................................ 45Bibliography ......................................................................................................................................... 46Appendix 1: Online Survey .................................................................................................................. 50Appendix 2: Comparative Content Analysis ....................................................................................... 56Appendix 3: Survey Results ..................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. v
    • List of tables:Table 1: Research methods used for the implementation of the project according to thedefined research objectives…………………………………………………………………..15Table 2: Categories’ list for the content analysis…………………………………………...17Table 3: Data collection process’s details…………………………………………………..18Table 4: Average daily and total number of posts/tweets/uploads in March 2012………..20Table 5: Number of Tweets in different interactive categories, March 2012……………...24Table 6: Number of FB posts in different interactive categories, March 2012……………24Table 7: Demographic profile of respondents………………………………………………27Table 8: Reasons to visit the social web during travel search……………………………...30Table 9: Social websites visited during trip-planning process……………………………..30Table 10: Stages of journey planning when using social media…………………………...33Table 11: Reliability level of specific travel social media…………………………………..34Table 12: Level of reliability of travel information sources………………………………..35Table 13: Attitudes toward social web and user-generated content………….………….…36List of figures:Figure 1: Booz&Co/Buddy Media “Campaigns to Capabilities Social Media & Marketing2011”, Benefits of Social Media Results……………………………………………………..8Figure 2: Gains expected from social media, Hotel Social Media Monitor (2011)….…..…9Figure 3: Percentage of active travellers who have confidence in destination and travelservice supplier information, YPartnership 2010………………………………..…………12Figure 4: Combined frequency of FB & Twitter posts, March 2012………………….…...21Figure 5: Percentages of organisations’ total tweets in each content group,March 2012………………….……………………………………………………………….22Figure 6: Percentages of organisations’ total FB posts in each content group,March 2012…………………………………………………………………………………..22Figure 7: Use of social media (in percentages (%))………………………………….……..28Figure 8: User-generated contents effect on travel planning decisions…………………..32Figure 9: Influence of consumer-generated content on final travel plans(in percentage %)…………………………………………………………………………….33 vi
    • 1. IntroductionAs a result of the increasing popularity and diffusion of social media among the worldInternet population (around 30% of the world population), more and more world executiveshave started integrating social media into their business strategies across a range of functionalareas, including sales & marketing, customer service, research & development, etc.(internetworldstats.com). Allowing two-way communication, interaction, and creation andexchange of user-generated content (UGC), the social web has completely changed the worldmarketing landscape by revealing some significant opportunities for word of mouth and viralmarketing (Tuten, 2008).The tourism and hospitality industry is not an exception and hence a growing number of hotelprofessionals and researchers have acknowledged the importance of Web 2.0 for the sectorand the potential benefits that it provides (Gretzel et al., 2000; Hjalager, 2010; Ruzic & Bilos,2010; Schegg et al., 2008). For instance, given the information-based, intangible nature of thehospitality products, according to Rogl (2007), social media is already having a substantialimpact on the industry, reducing the knowledge advantage of tourism intermediaries andprincipals (Papathanassis & Knolle, 2011, p216).Therefore, a clear understanding of how social media works, and how consumers use andperceive this type of media is essential for businesses’ successful future growth anddevelopment. That is why, the following study focused on social media’s business integrationas a marketing tool, particularly in the hospitality and tourism sector, and the relationshipbetween social web and online consumer behaviour, executing both primary and secondaryresearch methods.The report begins with a review of the social web phenomenon, and then explores in detailsthe social media’s business integration and importance. Afterwards, existing researchexamining social media’s effect on consumer behaviour, and especially on travel behaviour,was also critically discussed.The next section of the report represents the findings of two-phase research. The first stage ofthe study included a comparative content analysis of three hospitality organisations, whichaims to identify the social web strategies they have employed. The second stage involved anonline survey of about 80 hotel customers attempting to evaluate consumers’ use and Page | 1
    • perception of social media, and the social web’s influence on consumer behaviour andpurchase intentions during travel search process.The report concludes with an in-depth discussion and analysis of the obtained results, and theintroduction of best practices strategic framework.Research objectives & hypothesisFinally, the research objectives and hypothesis are as follow:Descriptive ObjectivesRO1: To explore how small and medium hotel businesses apply social web to market theirorganisations.RO2: To explore to what extent social media is being used by consumers and its influence ononline consumer behaviour, particularly focusing on travel behaviour.Explanatory ObjectivesRO3: To identify the business opportunities that social media provides.RO4: To identify the factors that determine consumers’ use and perception of social media.  H1: There is a positive correlation between age and use of social media.  H2: There is a positive relationship between gender and use of social media.  H3: Employment status will positively affect use of social media.Developmental ObjectivesRO5: To develop and propose a strategic framework of best practices, industry organisations tolearn from. Page | 2
    • 2. Literature reviewThe aim of this section is to build a theoretical framework for the research problem. Thesection describes and critically discusses relevant literature and research on social media,particularly focusing on the social media’s business integration as a tourism marketing tool,and its effect on consumer behaviour. 2.1 Definitions of social media or social webThe definition of the terminology ‘social media’ can be formulated from the two words thatcompose it. On the one hand, social refers to the interaction of individuals within a group orcommunity, and the exchange of communication. Media, on the other hand, refers to thoseinstruments and channels that are used for the realisation of this connection. Hence, socialmedia generally refers to the communication platforms that are result of the interactionbetween individuals by means of particular technological tool (Neti, 2011, p2).Instead of social media, Weber (2009) uses the term social web and he characterises it as ‘theonline place where people with a common interest can gather to share thoughts, comments,and opinions’ (Weber, 2009, p4). Therefore, social media or web can be simply defined asnetworking or ‘the use of the Internet’s capabilities to expand creativity and communication’(Vickery & Wunsch-Vincent, 2007, p17). It represents all those online applications, such asReputation aggregators in terms of search engines that aggregate sites with the best productor service, including Google, Yahoo!, Ask, as well as customer review portals such asTripAdviser; online personal or corporate journals known as Blogs and the microbloggingsite Twitter; Topic - specific e – communities; and Social networks such as Flickr, Facebookand Youtube (Weber, 2009, p4-5).Another definition of social web is related to the concept of User Generated Contents (UGC),which represent ‘a variety of new and emerging sources of online information that arecreated, initiated, circulated, and used by consumers with the intent of educating each otherabout products, brands, services and issues’ (Xiang & Gretzel, 2010, p10). In result, bearingin mind that more and more consumers have started adapting and embracing this ‘collectiveintelligence’ on the web, the execution and perception of many businesses’ traditionalmarketing practices, especially in the information-intense tourism sector, have become morechallenging than ever (Xiang & Gretzel, 2010, p10). Page | 3
    • 2.2 Social media business integration & importance 2.1.1 The relationship between social web and marketingOne of the most common understandings of the term marketing is that it means selling. Veryoften marketing is associated with practices such as advertising and promotions, but they areonly two of the many marketing functions (Thackeray et al., 2008, p338). According to oneof the most influential writers in the marketing field, Philip Kotler (1999), marketing shouldbe understood in the sense of satisfying customer needs (Kotler et al., 1999). Peter Drucker,pioneer in the management literature, also suggests that ‘the aim of the marketing is to makeselling superfluous. The aim is to know and understand the customer so well that the productor service fits…and sells itself’ (Drucker, 1971, pp 64-65).Over the last two decades, the relationship between companies and customers has changeddrastically. According to Assaad & Gomez (2011) customers have become more engagedwith the business, obtaining greater control over and through the marketing communicationof the organisation and its products, or services. They also argue that, since customers are thebase of every business, social web provides a great opportunity to develop a closer andvaluable relationship with customers. Thus, in order to remain competitive in the new marketenvironment, businesses should respond to this change properly (Assaad & Gomez, 2011,p18-19). Furthermore, Weber (2009) suggests that, nowadays, ‘rather than talking atcustomers, marketers should talk with them. And the social web is the most effective way inthe history of the world to do just that on a large scale’ (Weber, 2009, pp 4-24). Hence,although traditional media marketing instruments (TV, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, etc.)are still recognised as the most effective promotional tools, Internet based applications (Web2.0) have significantly increased their importance and potential in the modern commercialworld (Drury, 2007, p274).Therefore, social web can be considered as a strategic medium for the implementation offundamental marketing activities on the Internet as a complement to the traditional marketingtools. According to Wilson (2010), for example, social web marketing can be simply definedas a popular marketing promotional activity through which a company targets customers orprospects by using social web applications in order to increase sales, brand loyalty, or achieveother business objectives (Wilson, 2010, p5). Page | 4
    • 2.1.2 Social web marketing business potential & importanceSocial web marketing provides various opportunities for businesses’ growth and developmentthrough strengthening and expanding relationships with customers. Gotta & O’Kelly (2007)suggest that creating social community networks about products or services is an impliedbusiness strategy to build brand loyalty by facilitating viral marketing, and communicationthrough emergent customer reviews and recommendations. Hence, these communities canfurther stimulate an organisation’s research and development (R&D) process. Moreover,social web communities can attract new potential customers and contribute to a company’smarket and competitive intelligence (Gotta & O’Kelly, 2007, p17).Therefore, to be more specific, social media marketing provides a wide range of potentialbranding prospects. Besides building brand awareness and loyalty, social web presence canfacilitate examining consumer behaviour, drive traffic to corporate Web sites, createcustomer databases, spread specific messages virally, increase sales, brand credibility andtrust, etc. All these, on the other hand, will contribute to an organisation’s brand reputationand market image enhancement (Tuten, 2008, p25-26). 2.1.3 Travel 2.0: social web marketing in the context of the hotel industryThe number of world travellers using social media is considerably increasing. In the U.S., forexample, according to the US Mandala Research’s latest report (2010) around 53% of the 152million adult leisure travellers (about 79 million people) already actively use social mediaplatforms and tools (cited by ITB Berlin, 2010, p19). Similarly, another research in the field,the 2010 Portrait of American Traveller by YPartnership, demonstrates that 46% of the USactive travellers are registered in at least one social media website (YPartnership & HarrsonGroup, 2010). Moreover, Laura Mandala, managing director of US-based Mandala Research,reveals that ‘about 41% of US online leisure travellers have become ‘travel social fans’(TSFs), signing up as followers of travel suppliers on the social web’ (cited by ITB Berlin,2010, p19). Thus, this online social active population is found to be an appealing customersegment generating $102.9bn for the domestic US tourism sector compared to $69.5bn,originated from non-social media users (cited by ITB Berlin, 2010, p19).Furthermore, Coutras et al. (2011) suggest that social media phenomenon has profoundlytransformed the technological and communication perspectives of the hospitality industry(Coutras et al., 2011). Sigala (2010) argues that since information is the principal driver ofthe tourism industry, the wide popularity and application of social web technologies provedto have a significant impact on both tourism supply and demand (Sigala, 2010, p607). As an Page | 5
    • illustration, according to Coutras et al., due to the emergence of the Web 2.0 applications thatenable freely broadcasting of content, user-generated content (UGC) and social networking,the information is no longer presented by the tourism organisation, and the customer is incontrol of information creation and transmission. Moreover, static information, such asphotos or text, are no longer ample for the client to make a decision and because there is aplenty of information regarding different hotels on the Web, the guest is aiming to save timeand to obtain credible information by observing feedback from previous visitors (Coutras, etal., 2011, p332-334). Hence, given the intangible nature of hotel products and services, UGCsand e-word of mouth (eWOM) are recognised to be a major influence on online travelconsumer behaviour (Cox et al. 2007; O’Connor, 2008; Schegg et al., 2008). In this direction,notwithstanding Frommer’s (2007) scepticism about UGC’s impact on travel decision-making, recent studies conducted in the UK, Austria and Germany clearly demonstrate thatconsumers perceive social interactive review-sites as more credible than professional guidesand travel agencies (Akehurst, 2009, p55).Sigala (2010) further emphasises the fact that tripadvisor.com (a customer review portal) isrecognised as a major travel channel. Moreover, social networks such as facebook.com areamong the most frequently used media tools for promoting and developing the services of avariety of destinations and tourism suppliers, as well as, for allowing travellers to interactand, thus, obtain support and trip advice from each other. Content social networks, includingyoutube.com and flickr.com, on the other hand, have become major media channel forpropaganda and trialling of tourism marketing campaigns, as well as receiving regularcustomers’ feedback (Sigala, 2010, p607).Finally, following the analysis above and the main advantages of the social web technologiesdiscussed in the beginning of the section, it is evident that social media business integrationcan deliver some crucial benefits for hotel’s marketing and promotion, including increasedbrand loyalty, information and credibility, relationship building, cost effectiveness andmonitoring. Page | 6
    • 2.1.4 Social web marketing business integration & benefits: real world evidenceDuring the last couple of years, Web 2.0 has significantly increased its popularity amongbusinesses. More and more enterprises have started integrating social media into theirmarketing strategies. As an illustration, according to the latest Web 2.0 survey conducted byMcKensey&Co, in 2010, the usage of social media among businesses and professionals fromdifferent industries and sectors is considerably growing. The survey shows that the number ofcompanies using social networking and corporate blogs, for example, has increased by 40%and 38%, respectively. Among the most commonly used social networks by businesses areFacebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. Moreover, the research also demonstrates that about two-thirds of the companies that have integrated Web 2.0 into their business strategy will increasetheir future investments in these technologies, as compared to just half in 2009 (Buchin &Chui, 2010, p3). Consequently, nowadays, about 84% of the total fortunate global 100companies are using at least one of the most popular social media platforms for marketing(Burson-Marsteller, 2011, p4).In addition, McKinsey&Co’s Web 2.0 Annual Survey (2010) found that almost nine out often companies that have adopted the social web are receiving at least one measurablebusiness benefit as a result of Web 2.0 application. These benefits varied from increased salesto faster access to knowledge (Buchin & Chui, 2010, p3).More importantly, McKinsey&Co’s survey found that there is a positive correlation betweenthe usage of social web and two key performance business indicators: market share gains andoperating profits. The survey demonstrates that companies, which are broad users of Web 2.0technologies, have reported improved market shares. It also suggests that widely networkedand Web-integrated organisations are more efficient and better at operating outside resourcesto increase productivity and to develop more valuable products and services, and, therefore,higher profits. In general, 27% of the companies that participated in McKinsey&Co’s surveydemonstrated both higher profit margins and increased market share, as compared to theirindustry rivals (Buchin & Chui, 2010, p8).The results of Booz&Co and Buddy Media’s (2011) latest survey are also very similar tothose obtained by McKinsey&Co. They found that brand building, interactivity, buzzbuilding and consumer insights are the most frequently achieved benefits from social media’sintegration by the organisations. Moreover, companies acknowledged that social mediadelivers substantial marketing value that is essential for the successful business development.Notwithstanding sales generation is at the bottom of the social media’s benefits rating list, Page | 7
    • about half of the respondents have indicated it as a key benefit of social media’s engagement(Vollmer & Premo, 2011) (See Figure 1).Figure 1: Booz&Co/Buddy Media “Campaigns to Capabilities Social Media & Marketing2011”, Benefits of Social Media ResultsSource: Vollmer &Premo, 2011, Campaigns to Capabilities: Social Media & Marketing 2011, Booz&Co&Buddy Media, available at: http://www.booz.com/media/file/BoozCo-Campaigns-to-Capabilities-Social-Media-and-Marketing-2011.pdfIn terms of travel industry, in particular, likewise the general business social media surveys,the Hotel Social Media Monitor (2011) have demonstrated that there is an increasingadoption of social media in the sector with over 80% of the hotels using social webapplications as part of their business strategy. Among the most cited expected results ofapplying social media strategy by hospitality executives are also found to be: increased brandawareness, sales, bookings generations and feedback generation, and customer engagement(Design & Rate Gain, 2011, p13) (See Figure 2). Finally, the latest TripAdvisor 2012Industry Index, the world largest travel website, demonstrates that about 50% of the globalaccommodation suppliers are planning to increase their social media marketing budget in2012 (TripAdvisor, ir.tripadvisor.com). Page | 8
    • Figure 2: Gains expected from social media, Hotel Social Media Monitor (2011) Source: Design & Rate Gain, (2011). The Hotel Social Media Monitor, Revenue by Design & Rate GainHowever, although many industry studies provide substantial evidence about social media’sincreased popularity and adoption in the hospitality sector, numbers of studies argue thatmost small and medium sized tourism organisations do not fully understand the social weband its business potential (Kothari & Fesenmaier, 2007; Sigala et al., 2001 cited by Lee &Wicks, 2010, p40). They do not have the knowledge how they can integrate the social mediainto their strategies, and use it to their advantage. Hence, this lack of knowledge very oftenresults in using social media practices improperly and in a poor manner, which, on the otherhand, may be considerably harmful to the whole business (Hays, Page & Buhalis, 2012, p4). 2.3. The relationship between consumer behaviour & Web 2.0. Factors affecting consumer perception of social media.How consumers interact with social media and online consumer behaviour becamefundamental to marketers and professionals. Consumer perception and response determinethe effectiveness and results of any successful marketing strategy and campaign. That is whya review and understanding of e-consumer behaviour is essential for this research. 2.3.1. The influence of social media on online consumer behaviour.The influence of social media and user-generated content platforms and sites on e-consumersbehaviour and purchase intention is found to be very controversial area of research.According to a survey conducted by Booz&Co (2007) approximately 50% of web 2.0 onlineusers worldwide are considering purchasing recommendations provided from friends oracquaintances on the web during their buying decision-making process, and about 40% are Page | 9
    • even willing to accept and use recommendations on products or services from unknown users(Eikelmann et al., 2007, p7). A US-based research implemented by DEI Worldwide (2008)demonstrated that seven out of ten (70%) consumers used social web sites and platforms suchas message boards, social networking sites, and blogs to obtain information, and about 50%of them reported their purchase decision was influenced by the gathered information (DEIWorldwide, 2008, p4). Hence, the impact these sites have on the consumer’s actual purchasedecision is unambiguous. Furthermore, there is sufficient market data, which prove that‘brands that exploit the two way communication opportunities presented by Web 2.0 willsucceed above those who continue to rely solely on traditional forms of one-way marketingcommunications’ (Cox et al., 2008, p5).In addition to market insights, there are several traditional theories and models that alsoattempt to explain online consumer behaviour and attitudes, which have been successfullyintegrated in the context of the new mass media during the last decade: the Theory ofReasoned Action (TRA), the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), the Uses andGratifications Theory (UGT), the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and the ElaborationLikelihood Model (ELM) (Kim et al. 2010; Taylor & Strutton 2008; Lee et al. 2006;Morosana & Jeongh 2008). They have demonstrated that online consumer behavioural andpurchase intention are predominantly determined by variety of social and personalmotivational dimensions and psychological variables, including entertainment,informativeness, irritation, trust, perceived risk, as well as usefulness and ease of use of theWeb application (Kim et al. 2010; Taylor & Strutton 2008; Lee et al. 2006; Morosan & Jeong2008; Huang, 2008). Moreover, Cox et al. (2008) suggest that the level of trust in theconsumer content, provided on social websites, is one of the key determinants of socialmedia’s effectiveness and influence on consumer behaviour. Wasserman (2006) clearlyindicates that according to a survey executed by Jupiter Research, only 21% of consumersinvestigated actually trusted information distributed about products or services on socialnetworking sites. People considered as more credible the information provided by othersources such as corporate web sites (Wasserman, 2006, p10). Page | 10
    • 2.3.2. The influence of Web 2.0 on travel behaviourThe impact of social media on traveller’s purchase intention and consumer behaviour isclearly identified in a number of market and academic studies. For instance, according to aresearch conducted by Compete Inc. (2007), one in three travel consumers who access socialmedia information online agreed that the information influenced their final purchase decision.ComScore (2007), on the other hand, noticed that 84 % of travel review users reported thatconsumer-generated content on social media substantially affected their purchasing decisions.Gretzel and Yoo (2008) and Xiang and Gretzel’s (2010) investigations also emphasised theincreasing importance of social media on the travel consumer’s decision-making process andpurchase intention (cited by Fuchs, Ricci, Cantoni, 2012, p2). Thus, considering socialmedia’s significance, Cox et al. (2009) even suggest that its effect on travel purchases andbehaviour is similar in extent to the influence that traditional forms of travel sites andplatforms may have (Cox et al., 2009).Notwithstanding some studies argue that social web and consumer review sites arerecognised as a more credible and reliable source of travel information than the traditionalones, trust remains one of the most important and debatable factors influencing thecustomer’s ultimate selection and buying decision (Gretzel, 2006; Eyefortravel, 2007). Themain issue regarding the social media’s usage and effectiveness during travel planningprocess is related to the extent to which the social web content is actually objective and hencetrustworthy. For instance, according to Mandala 2010 Research’s findings only 20% of theUS social media users rely on social websites for leisure and travel advice, and traditionaltravel information channels, including friends and family, brochures and different media, areconsidered much more trustworthy than social media and social networks, in particular (citedby ITB Berlin, 2010, p19). (See Figure 7) Burgess et al. (2009) suggest that travellers’ mainconcerns about the social media’s content credibility are due to the potential for ‘fake’information to be posted by professional organisations pretending to be independentreviewers and users (Burgess et al., 2009, p224). Moreover, as noted by Senecal and Nantel(2004), the majority of consumers are found to be suspicious about any type of informationon the web that is perceived to be misrepresented in order to fulfil the interests ofinformation-generator (Senecal & Nantel, 2004, p168). Finally, besides level of trust andcredibility, there are some other key factors that determine social media consumer perceptionand influence purchase consumer behaviour, including: functional, psychological andhedonic, and social motivational dimensions, such as entertainment and informativeness, as Page | 11
    • well as environment conditions, and availability of technology (Gretzel, 2007; Lin andHuang, 2006; Parra-López et al., 2011).Figure 3: Percentage of active travellers who have confidence in destination and travelservice supplier information, YPartnership 2010Source: Ypartnership 2010 Portrait of American Traveller, available at:http://www.nationalparksonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Y-Partnership-Portrait-of-American-Travelers-Highlights.pdf 2.4. SummaryThe purpose of this chapter was to review and summarise the relevant literature in the sphereof social media and social web marketing in particular, in order to provide a comprehensivetheoretical framework and conceptual background into the research topic. In result, it becameclear that social media has completely changed the marketing landscape, revealing somesignificant opportunities for both practitioners and consumers. Although it is a relatively newsubject to study there is a substantial body of academic research examining social media’sbusiness adoption and practical application that prove its effectiveness and versatility in thereal world.In conclusion, the social web’s main advantage, namely enabling two-way communicationand consumer interaction, plays arguably a crucial role in the modern marketing practice,especially in the hospitality industry where access and availability of information arerecognised as the lifeblood of the sector. Thus, a clear understanding of the social media’sfunction and capacity is found to be essential to online marketing, and particularly to tourismhospitality marketing. However, little research has been conducted to explore how hospitality Page | 12
    • organisations are integrating social media to their advantage, namely to effectively markettheir services and products and communicate with potential customers. Therefore, there is alarge gap in the existing literature in terms of research exploring the adoption of social mediaby tourism and hospitality organisations, and the business nature of social media platformsitself. Finally, an understanding of why and how customers are using and responding to socialmedia is also vital to organisations’ successful online marketing. Page | 13
    • 3. MethodologyThe following section presents a detailed explanation of the methodology used in thisresearch. 3.1. Research MethodThe main study objectives are to examine the integration of social web as a new marketingtool, to explore the business opportunities that it provides, and to study to what extent socialmedia are being used by consumers and their influence on e-consumer behaviour, focusing onsmall hotel business. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of the problem, exploratory anddescriptive research will be accomplished, including analysis of primary and secondary dataand using both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection. The qualitativeapproach involved critical analysis of existing academic literature and theory, exploringsocial media marketing.In contrast, the quantitative approach involved survey strategy and comparative contentanalysis. Because of the large amount of data required for the execution of the research, asurvey was found to be one of the most appropriate methods of investigation. The mainadvantages of the survey strategy are that it is comparatively easy to explain and understandand that it provides more control over the research process in comparison to other researchstrategies (Saunders et al., 2009, p144). In addition, a comparative analysis method was usedbecause it allows the identification of similarities and differences through deep explanation ofexperiences and practices (Hays, Page & Buhalis, 2012, p4). Content analysis, on the otherhand, is one of the most commonly used techniques in communication research (Hambrick etal., 2010) since ‘the pursuit of content analysis is fundamentally empirical in orientation,exploratory, concerned with real phenomena, and predictive in intent’ (Krippendorf, 1980cited by Hays, Page & Buhalis, 2012, p4). This approach was also successfully applied in alarge number of tourism-related communication studies (Cox et al., 2008; Munar, 2011;Hays, Page & Buhalis, 2012; Choi, Lehto & Morrison, 2007). That is why comparativecontent analysis and survey were chosen as principal research methods for this project. Page | 14
    • Table 1: Research methods used for the implementation of the project according to thedefined research objectives. Research Objective Qualitative Approach Quantitative ApproachRO1 To explore how small and medium Secondary research of Survey Questionnaire hotel businesses apply social web to academic literature market their organisations.RO2 To explore to what extent social media - Survey Questionnaire is being used by consumers and its influence on online consumer behaviour, particularly focusing on travel behaviour.RO3 To identify the business opportunities Secondary research of Comparative content that social media provides. academic literature analysisRO4 To identify the factors that determine Secondary research of Survey Questionnaire consumers’ use and perception of social academic literature media.RO5: To develop and propose a strategic Secondary research of Survey Questionnaire framework of best practices, industry academic literature Comparative content organisations to learn from. analysis Page | 15
    • 3.2. SampleThe survey sample includes Abcone hotel’s existing customers. An existing sampling frameof the hotel’s guest history records (including guests’ personal data) was used and thereforeprobability sampling approach was applied. The main advantage of the probability samplingis the impartial selection and its objectivism (Sarandal et al, 2003, p9).According to Stutely (2003) and many statisticians the minimum required sample size toobtain a sampling distribution for the mean closed to the normal distribution should be 30(cited by Saunders et al., 2009, p218). That is why for the implementation of the research thetarget sample size was 350. Due to the availability of the existing sampling frame, a simplerandom sampling technique was applied. Hence, all the population was organisedalphabetically and each member was assigned an individual unique number, and according tothese numbers the samples were selected using MS Excel program.Finally, considering the limited time frame for the study, the comparative content analysissample is composed by three top hotel organisations that are already employing social webmarketing strategies. In order for the investigation to be more objective, the sample alsoincludes both national and international companies. 3.3. Data CollectionThe data needed for the implementation of the qualitative research was gathered by analysisof existing academic literature and theories in the field. On the other hand, the data neededfor the quantitative comparative research was collected through content analysis of theexamined organisations’ presence on the social web particularly focusing on four of the mostpopular social web platforms, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Blogs. The content analysisinvolved categorisation and analysis of the organisations’ social web content that wasimplemented in March to April 2012. Based on one of the most prominent guides in thesector, the Hospitality eBusiness Strategies Best Practices, and the previously mentionedacademic study executed by Hays, Page & Buhalis (2012) examining social media asdestination marketing tool, a list of relevant categories was created, which is presented inTable 2. Page | 16
    • Table 2: Categories’ list for the content analysisAlthough the content analysis allows an explanation of the way social media has beenintegrated by the organisation, it does not particularly determine the strategies applied to thisspecific type of integration, and, that is why, the study is complemented by the use ofsecondary data gathered from additional public sources regarding the businesses (e.g.documents and reports).Finally, for the implementation of the survey research strategy, an appropriate on-linequestionnaire was modified that was based on previous research in the field (Cox et al, 2008).It contains 14 closed and 2 open questions that examine online consumer behaviour, travelplanning, and purchase intentions and attitudes towards social media marketing (seeAppendix 1). The first couple of questions are background and they focus on determining apersonal profile of the examinee, including general questions about age, gender, occupation, Page | 17
    • etc. The rest of the questions are particularly related to the investigated research problem. Thequestionnaire was given to a sample derived from the Abcone hotel’s guest history records bye-mail. Data was collected over a one-month period, and it was then analysed throughspreadsheet software Microsoft Excel using descriptive statistics (frequency and proportions)with 95% level of confidence. Table 3: Data collection process’s details Who? Abcone hotel’s existing customers, National & International Hotel Organisations When? From 22 September 2011 to 21 April 2012 Where? London How? Questionnaire Survey, Literature & Theory Analysis, Comparative Content Analysis How many? 350 existing hotel’s customers, 3 hotel organisations 3.4. Pre-testing and Pilot SurveyPre-testing is the first stage of the data collection process. In comparison to the main study, ituses a small sub-sample and its main objective is to assess the effectiveness of the primarydata collection plan (Adams et al., 2007, p87). Therefore, the preliminary questionnaire wasgiven to a sample of 5 people. After completing the survey, the respondents wereinterviewed, and asked to provide a feedback, suggesting improvements. Upon the results ofthe pilot survey, the layout of the primary questionnaire was changed. In addition, some ofthe primary questions were either reconsidered, or removed. Page | 18
    • 4. FindingsIn this section the key results of the comparative content analysis and the online survey arerepresented. 4.1. Phase one: comparative content analysis 4.1.1. Organisation profileThe sample of the examined hospitality organisations includes Roger Smith Hotel (RSH),CitizenM Hotel Group, and The May Fair Hotel. Roger Smith Hotel (RSH) is a smallindependent family business in New York. In contrast, CitizenM is a small group of boutiquehotels with current presence in Glasgow and Amsterdam, having plans to further expand toLondon, New York and Paris. The May Fair Hotel, on the other hand, is a medium luxuryhotel based in central London. 4.1.2. Organisations’ social web presenceThe earliest adopter of social media from the organisations’ sample is Roger Smith Hotel. Itestablished a video-based corporate blog, RogerSmithLife.com, and YouTube channel in2006. The blog currently contains a collection of 938 videos that are further published inYouTube. RSH’s YouTube channel has 619,333 views and 480 subscribers. In contrast,CitizenM and The May Fair created their YouTube accounts in 2007 and 2008, respectively.Currently, CitizenM’s channel reports 72,079 numbers of views, and only 54 numbers ofsubscriptions, as compared to The May Fair’s 289,910 views and 140 subscribers. Interestingtrend is that that the date at which each member registered with YouTube is not directlyrelated to the number of subscribers and views. In addition, the Facebook and Twitter’sstatistics revealed a similar pattern. Even though the three hotels joined the platforms in thesame year, 2009, at present, there is a significant difference between the numbers of theirFacebook fans and Twitter followers. For example, RSH has 4,036, CitizenM has 9,968, andThe May Fair has 11,346 fans on Facebook, and 12 527, 10 716, and 9,378 followers onTwitter, respectively (See Appendix 2).Besides the commonly popular social media platforms, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, thehotel companies have adopted some other applications and social media approaches. As it hasalready been mentioned, RSH is actively blogging through its corporate blog. Likewise, TheMay Fair Hotel is also engaged in blogging, updating its followers throughthemayfairhotel.co.uk/blog/. In comparison, CitizenM is not managing a corporate blog, but Page | 19
    • instead it is issuing a quarterly digital magazine, citizenMag, which serves the same purpose.Other social media websites that are used by the hotels are Flickr, Linkedin, Foursquare, andVimeo (See Appendix 2). 4.1.3. Social media strategies applied by the examined organisations 4.1.3.1. Activity level and frequency of useAlthough all three organisations demonstrate significant presence on the social web and usevarious sites, there is a substantial difference between their usage levels of the distinct sites.Some websites are found to be more actively used than others. For an illustration, the datagathered from the hotels’ posts clearly shows that Twitter is the most actively used socialmedia website by all three organisations, followed by Facebook, YouTube and Blogs.Table 4: Average daily and total number of posts/tweets/uploads in March 2012 FB Twitter YouTube Blog Organisation Total Total Average Total Average Total Average Average Blog FB Tweets Tweets YouTube YouTube Blog FB post posts posts in in in uploads uploads posts in in March in March March March in March in March March March Roger Smith 1.8 55 5.5 166 0.7 23 0.1 3 Hotel CitizenM 0.2 7 6.6 197 * * ~ ~ Hotel The MayFair 0.3 10 3.1 94 0.06 2 0.1 3 Hotel Combined 2.3 72 15.2 457 0.76 25 0.2 6*CitizenM Hotel is not involved in publishing original videos, but it is active in recommending other users’interesting hotel-related and general video content.~CitizenM Hotel releases a quarterly online magazine.In order to further examine hotels’ level of engagement with the four leading social mediaplatforms, the average daily and total number of posts during a one-month time period werecalculated (See Table 4). The combined number of all three organisations’ Tweets in Marchwas 457, as compared to 72, 25 and 6 posts and uploads on Facebook, YouTube and Blogs,respectively. Consequently, the hotels’ average numbers of daily posts were: 15.2 onTwitter, 2.3 on Facebook, 0.76 on YouTube, and 0.2 on Blogs. Page | 20
    • Comparing the hotels’ posting frequency individually, it should also be noted that there is asignificant difference between hotels’ average daily posts on each individual website, whichmight be referred to various factors and strategies. According to Table 4, Roger Smith Hotelis the most active one on Facebook and YouTube. CitizenM, on the other hand, is the mostactive user of Twitter, but the most passive one of YouTube. The May Fair hoteldemonstrates decent activity and presence on all four social media sites. Finally, after moredetailed examination of the hotels’ daily social web activity, Figure 4 clearly shows that thereis no specific pattern of how often the organisations post a day. For instance, RSH’s tweetsvary from 2 to 36 per day, and Facebook posts from 1 to 15 (See Appendix 2). Figure 4: Combined frequency of FB & Twitter posts, March 2012 4.1.3.2. Content characteristicsBesides the frequency of usage and activity level, in attempt to understand hotels’ strategies,the particular content of each individual post on Facebook and Twitter also was examined.Each post was coded into one of the categories that have been presented in the Methodologysection. After the data was analysed four main clusters of posts were differentiated: ‘customerservice- related’, ‘promotional’, ‘informative’, and ‘engaging’. ‘Customer service-related’posts include all those posts that provide some form of customer-related content, such assupport driven or posts responding to any customer issues. The all posts centred on specificservice, event, discounts, etc. were defined as ‘promotional’. ‘Informative’ posts’ clustercontains the posts that provide any information about new trends, updates, events, reviews,etc. Finally, a post was characterised as ‘engaging’ if it directly asked a question or requiredsome form of response. A good example is a post on Facebook by the May Fair Hotel:FRIDAY FUN! Fill in the blank. My favourite item from the mini bar is _______. Figures 5 Page | 21
    • and 6 present the numbers of hotels’ posts and tweets in each individual group as percentagesof their total posts/tweets in March 2012. Figure 5: Percentages of organisations’ total tweets in each content group, March 2012 Figure 6: Percentages of organisations’ total FB posts in each content group, March 2012According to Figures 5, there is a substantial difference between the percentages oforganisations’ tweets in the distinct content groups. About 66% of CitizenM’s total tweetswere customer service-related, whilst 9% were engaging, and only 6% and 3% werepromotional and informative, respectively. The majority (60%) of the May Fair hotel’s tweetsalso were customer service-related, while only 9% were engaging, 6% promotional, and 3%informative. RSH’s tweets, on the other hand, were predominantly engaging, about 30%.Similarly to the other three hotels’ results, RGH’s promotional tweets were the fewest ones,only 4% of the total tweets. Page | 22
    • In addition, analysing the content of organisations’ FB posts, it can be noted that there is aconsiderable variance between the numbers of FB posts and the numbers of tweets in eachindividual cluster (See Figure 5 and 6). While the highest percentages of hotels’ total tweetswere customer service-related, the majority of the FB posts were defined as promotional,engaging and informative. For instance, 49% of RSH’s total FB posts were promotional, 18%engaging and only 4% were found to be customer service-related. The majority (45%) of theMay Fair Hotel’s posts were engaging, 36% were informative, and 18% were promotional.None of the May Fair Hotel’s FB posts were customer service-related. Likewise, CitizenM’scustomer service related posts were 8%, whilst 31% of its posts were informative, engagingor promotional. From these results can be concluded that hotels employ Twitter as mainlycustomer service-focused platform, and Facebook as more brand image-oriented technology.Besides the content type of organisations’ posts on Facebook and Twitter, the content ofhotels’ uploads and posts on YouTube and blogs was also analysed and categorised. About80% of RSH’s videos on YouTube and its corporate blog are reports and reviews of thecompany’s distinct initiatives and events, including The Lab:Arts, RS POP, Cookbook, whichare related to art, culture, and urban movements, for example. Interesting fact is that thevideos are not tourism-related and promotional, or brand-oriented. In contrast, the May Fairhotel’s videos are more image-oriented, presenting reviews and reports of events that havebeen hosted at the hotel, interviews with special guests, and ‘how to make’ videos that arefound to be more customer-oriented.Moreover, analysing hotels’ corporate blogs and blog-type magazines’ content, a pattern oftopics and categories of the posts can be identified. The majority (about 70%) of the contentand stories are not tourism and travel-related, but related to art, lifestyle, culture, fashion, etc.Comparing the three hotels’ individual publications, the May Fair hotel’s posts distinguishfor more PR and promotional posts. 4.1.3.3. Level and categories of interactivityInteractivity in this research was defined as a category for use in the content analysis as a postthat includes any form of interactive content such as pictures, videos, and links to otherwebsites that can be liked, favoured, commented or shared, as well as direct replies tocustomers. Hence, Tables 5 and 6 represent the numbers of posts on Twitter and Facebookfor each hotel individually, separated in 4 and 3 distinct clusters, respectively. Page | 23
    • Table 5: Number of Tweets in different interactive categories, March 2012* Organisation No. of No. of No. of No. of No. of tweets tweets tweets tweets total including including including including tweets replies picture links videos Roger Smith Hotel 57 36 28 6 166 CitizenM Hotel 151 6 14 - 197 May Fair Hotel 56 6 16 1 94 Combined 264 48 58 7 457 *Interactive tweets are including tweets from different other categories, such as informative, promoting, etc. Table 6: Number of FB posts in different interactive categories, March 2012 Organisation No. of No. of No. of No. of total posts posts posts posts including including including picture links videos Roger Smith Hotel 26 15 7 55 CitizenM Hotel 1 3 - 7 The MayFair Hotel 5 1 - 10 Combined 32 18 7 72 *Interactive tweets are including tweets from different other categories, such as informative, promoting, etc.In terms of tweets, about 82% of the total combined tweets in March were defined asinteractive. Moreover, the majority (36%) of the total combined tweets were actually repliesto another user. Analysing the three hotels individually, it can be noticed that 77% ofCitizenM tweets in March were replies to customers and users, and only 10% includedpictures or links to external website. RSH’s replying tweets were 35% of its total tweets,while 22% included pictures, 17% included link, and 4% included videos. The May Fairhotel’s tweets, on the other hand, included 60% replying tweets, and 17%, 6%, and 1% tweetscontaining links, pictures and videos, respectively.The interactivity level of hotels’ posts on FB is found to be similar to that on Twitter - 80% ofthe total combined FB posts were characterised as interactive. Examining the posts’ Page | 24
    • interactivity of each hotel separately, the most interactive hotel on Facebook is found to beRSH, with 88% of its total posts including picture, videos, or links to external websites.CitizenM and the May Fair hotel demonstrate relatively lower level of interactivity - about60% of their posts contained either pictures or external links, whilst none of their tweetsincluded video.Finally, the interactivity level of organisations’ corporate blogs and blog-type digitalmagazines is found to be high. All three hotels’ posts are characterised by simple butengaging writing style, combining videos or other types of media. Page | 25
    • 4.2. Phase two: online surveyAs mentioned in section three, the survey sample was derived from the Abcone hotel’s guesthistory records. Abcone is a small, three-star family hotel situated in central London.By the end of the survey closing date, 89 surveys were completed. Hence, the rate ofresponse was approximately 23%. However, it should be noticed that not all respondents whoentered the survey responded to all questions, since some of the questions were optional.Additionally, some of the questions were not asked to all respondents if their previousresponses suggested a question was irrelevant. These points should be taken intoconsideration when referring to the total number of responses represented in the distincttables and figures in this section. Finally, 7 responses were not entirely completed, and thenthe test number of responses for the research was 82. 4.2.1. Respondent profileThe demographic profile of survey respondents is presented in Table 7. This profile wascompared to the profile of the initial sample of 350 Abcone hotel’s customers from which thesurvey participants were derived, in order to identify any relevant response trends. In general,the sample of the respondents is found to be relatively representative excerpt from the totalresearch sample.The age range of the surveyed participants comparatively reflects that of the initial researchsample of 350 hotel customers. About 60% of the respondents were between 30-49 years old.Another 21% were aged over 50 years, and only 16% and 3% were 18-29 years and less than18 years, respectively. Similarly, the gender profile characterised by higher percentage (67%)of female respondents is also reflecting the profile of the original sample.In terms of country of origin, the majority of the respondents were from the UK (23%), whichis in accordance with the overall sample profile, where the UK representatives are the highestpercentage of the whole population. The UK is followed by Italy (17%), Spain (15%), US(15%) and Australia (10%) as the most often cited places of origin among the surveyparticipants.The employment status profile of the respondents was defined by 56% full-time and 15%part-time employees, 21% retired and 6% students. This category was not compared to the Page | 26
    • research overall sample profile, because the database profile does not provide employment-related information. Table 7: Demographic profile of respondents Sample Variable Category N Responded (%) (%) Age Group Less than 18 2 3 0.5 18 to 29 13 16 22 30 to 39 24 28 23.5 40 to 49 26 32 38 50 to older 17 21 16 Total 82 100 100 Gender Female 55 67 61 Male 27 33 39 Total 82 100 100 Country of Origin UK 19 23 17.6 Italy 14 17 12 Spain 12 15 14 USA 12 15 9.5 Australia 8 10 7 Germany 4 5 3.5 France 2 3 5.3 China 2 3 8.2 India 2 3 2.4 Japan 2 3 3.1 Other 5 4 17.4 Total 82 100 100 Employment Full-time employee 46 56 N/A Part-time employee 12 15 N/A Seasonal worker 0 0 N/A Unemployed 0 0 N/A Retired 17 21 N/A Student 5 6 N/A Other 2 2 N/A Total 82 100 N/A Page | 27
    • 4.2.2. Use of social mediaThe first specific question, directly related to the research problem, had as a purpose toidentify the familiarity of the respondent with some of the most popular social mediaplatforms. The survey asked participants to indicate whether they have ever used any of thefollowing social web platforms: social networks (e.g. Facebook, Linkedin), YouTube,Twitter, Forums, Blogs or customer review portals (e.g TripAdvisor). The results arepresented in Figure 7. Figure 7: Use of social media (in percentages (%)*) *this is a multiple question, do not add to 100Figure 7 clearly demonstrates that social networks are the most commonly used (90%) socialmedia technologies among the examined population, followed by the video-sharing platformYouTube (82%) and the specific customer review websites (72%). Another 66% of therespondents have used the micro-blogging website Twitter, whilst 51% and 43% have usedforums and blogs, respectively. All of the survey participants have used at least one of thespecified social web platforms and were generally familiar with social media. 4.2.3. Reasons to use social mediaTo determine the reasons for using social media, the survey asked participants to indicatewhat the motives behind their choice of using a particular social web platform were. Six mainreasons were identified, namely ‘curiosity’, ‘entertainment’, ‘informativeness’, ‘usefulness’,‘interaction’, and ‘passing time’. Among these, obtaining information was defined as a majorreason to use social media, indicated by approximately 80% of the total respondents. 71%pointed out the opportunity to interact and communicate with peers as a reason to engagewith social media. Further 68% of the participants perceive social web as entertaining.Usefulness, passing time and curiosity were indicated by 56%, 41% and 34% of the samplepopulation, respectively. Page | 28
    • In addition, to examine whether any demographic factors influence the general use of socialmedia, a chi-squared hypothesis test with 95% level of significance was also implemented.The following hypotheses were considered:H1: There is a positive correlation between age and use of social media.H2: There is a positive relationship between gender and use of social media.H3: Employment status will positively affect use of social media.According to the results from the chi-squared test, there was a relationship between use ofsocial media and age range, with a significance of p= 0.00029. The very low level ofsignificance clearly demonstrates that there is sufficient evidence to support the first testhypothesis (H1) that age positively influences use of social media.The second research hypothesis (H2), however, was not supported. The significance resultequals p=0.61 and then it is unambiguous that there was no relationship between gender anduse of social web. Hence, the gender factor has no effect on people’s engagement with socialmedia.Finally, the third study hypothesis (H3) also was rejected. The significance was estimated atp=0.12, which clearly reveals that there is no correlation between use of social media andsocial status. Therefore, there is no evidence to support the initial assumption thatemployment status will positively affect use of social web technologies. 4.2.4. Types of travel information obtained from social mediaIn order to discover the reasons to visit a particular social web site during trip planning, thesurvey participants were asked to specify what type of travel-related information they hadpreviously searched for on the social web. The results are presented in Table 8.Approximately 85% of the respondents used social media to gather information about traveldestinations, and only 10% have not used social media for travel purposes at all. Page | 29
    • Table 8: Reasons to visit the social web during travel search Information about: Responded (%) Travel Destinations 85 Accommodation 62 Other travel-related services 56 Not have used 10 4.2.5. Social websites visited during travel searchTo examine the people’s familiarity with some widely popular travel-related social websites,the respondents were asked to identify which sites they had already used from a list.Moreover, they were further asked to define the level of usefulness of the site on a 7-pointscale (where 1 = not at all useful, 7 = very useful) as presented in Table 9. Table 9: Social websites visited during trip-planning process Barely useful Responded * Quite useful Very useful Somewhat Minor use Not at all Not sure useful useful Total Website (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) Trip Advisor 77 22 29 32 6 3 2 6 Expedia 69 21 17 17 25 8 2 6 Yahoo Travel 59 24 20 20 18 5 9 4 Travelocity 50 3 21 26 26 14 7 3 Orbitz 46 4 19 18 15 21 14 9 Virtual Tourist 43 6 3 13 32 9 12 11 Facebook 42 13 10 17 60 10 3 7 YouTube 40 1 3 20 57 3 4 12 TravBuddy 36 6 14 12 33 18 11 6 Travel Up 33 5 23 17 36 8 6 5 IgoUgo 32 8 13 21 31 18 6 3 Epic Trip 27 0 5 4 71 4 12 4 *72 total answers of this question Page | 30
    • It should be noted that 72 of all participants answered this question. Of these, 77% had usedTrip Advisor, which is then the most often used travel social website, followed by Expedia(69%), Yahoo (59%), Travelocity (50%). The social network Facebook and the video-sharingplatform YouTube were also quite popular, indicated by 42% and 40% number of therespondents, respectively.Regarding the degree of usefulness of the distinct social websites, an interesting pattern isthat non-travel specialised social sites, such as Facebook and YouTube were not consideredas useful as the majority of the travel-related sites. For an illustration, YouTube wasrecognised as useful by only 24% of participants who had used it, whilst Trip Advisor wasperceived as useful by 83% of users.Besides the pre-selected list of travel social websites, the questionnaire additionally askedrespondents to self-nominate up to five travel-specialised and non-travel social websites theyhad consulted during trip planning process. As a result, 41 participants answered thisquestion. Surprisingly, the responses included only websites that were not provided in thepre-selected list. The most commonly cited one was LonelyPlanet (33 entries), followed byWotif (27 entries), Google (20 entries), and Hostelworld (13 entries). The rest of the entrieswere regional and national websites. 4.2.6. Effect of social media on travel decision-makingAnother particular objective of the survey was to identify the influence level of travel 2.0 onusers’ actual travel plans. Therefore, the questionnaire asked respondents to remember backwhen they were planning a journey and specify how often the content provided by other usershad any effect on their final travel plans. Figure 8 clearly demonstrates that the majority(63%) of the respondents stated that their travel decisions had been ‘sometimes’ affected byuser-generated content, 16% reported that the information had been influential ‘mostly’ of thetime, and 20% claimed that it had been effective either ‘about half of the time’ or ‘never’. Page | 31
    • Figure 8: User-generated contents effect on travel planning decisionsRegarding the effectiveness of social media on travel decision-making, two further questionswere asked:  How likely are you to make a final decision relating to purchasing a travel product because of the influence of consumer-generated content?  How likely are you to completely change your existing travel-related decision because of the influence of consumer-generated content?The responses of both questions are provided in Figure 9. According to the figure, 49% of thetotal respondents claimed that they would make a final purchase/booking decision as a resultof the impact of consumer-generated content on the web. On the other hand, 30% wereunlikely to make a purchase influenced by information provided by other users. In contrast,27% of the participants were likely to completely change their final travel decisions due tothe impact of consumer-generated content, as compared to 35% who were unlikely. Page | 32
    • Figure 9: Influence of consumer-generated content on final travel plans (in percentage %)Finally, the respondents were asked to indicate at what stage of their trip planning processthey had used social websites. The findings are provided in Table 10. They revealed that themajority of the population (81%) had used social media when beginning to search for anaccommodation in destination that had already been chosen. Equal percentages (43%) of allrespondents indicated that they had consulted to the social web when trying to narrow downchoice of accommodations or when the accommodation had been chosen and looking foradditional information about it. Only 8% of participants had used social media after their tripto compare their experiences with those of other consumers. Table 10: Stages of journey planning when using social media Responded Trip Planning Stage (%) When beginning to search for an accommodation in destination that has already been chosen 81 When trying to narrow down my choice of accommodations 43 When I had chosen my accommodation and was looking for further information about it 43 After my trip to share my experiences with other travellers 27 After my trip to compare my experiences with those of other travellers 8 Page | 33
    • 4.2.7. Perceived reliability of social mediaIn the literature review section, trust was defined as a major factor affecting users’ perceptionand use of social media during trip planning. In result, survey participants were asked todefine the reliability level of a specific social media site they had previously used on a 4-point scale. Table 11 represents the results that align with the results of some other questionsin the research. Trip Advisor, Expedia, and Yahoo Travel are among the most commonlyused sites. Trip Advisor, Expedia, and Yahoo Travel, for example, were perceived with highlevel of trustworthiness. An interesting trend is that users recognised the social networksFacebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube as less reliable in comparison to the other travel-specialised social websites in the list.Table 11: Reliability level of specific travel social media Total Completely Very Fairly Not Responded Reliable Reliable reliable reliable Website (%)* (%) (%) (%) (%) Expedia 70 37 15 42 6 Trip Advisor 82 32 40 24 4 IgoUgo 28 24 41 26 9 Blogs 47 24 34 29 12 Orbitz 43 21 43 25 9 Virtual Tourist 41 20 42 27 11 Yahoo Travel 55 20 31 44 4 TravBuddy 32 9 59 41 11 Forums 68 18 32 37 13 Travelocity 43 17 26 53 4 Travel Up 25 14 21 59 6 YouTube 41 13 26 51 17 Twitter 34 7 20 42 31 Facebook 46 6 31 48 15 Epic Trip 24 5 25 56 14 My Space 23 3 33 43 21* 69 respondents of this question Page | 34
    • In addition, to examine the level of reliability of social media compared to other traditionalsources of travel information, such as travel agents, the questionnaire asked respondents torate the trustworthiness of distinct information sources on a 4-point scale. According to theresults in Table 12, traditional providers of travel information, tourism websites and travelagents, were still recognised as the most credible sources, as compared to the new mediaones. Travel agents (96%) are found to be the most reliable source, followed by tourismwebsites (92%), commercial operators (88%), forums (82%), review websites (75%), andsocial networks (68%). Again social networks were perceived as the least reliable source oftravel information in the list. Table 12: Level of reliability of travel information sources Completely Very Fairly Not Reliable Reliable reliable reliable Sources (%) (%) (%) (%) Tourism Websites 19 38 35 8 Travel Agents 13 34 49 4 Review Websites 10 33 32 25 Social Networks 4 25 39 32 Forums 6 27 19 18 Commercial Operators 0 34 53 12 4.2.8. Attitudes towards social mediaThe final specific question in the survey had for purpose to identify what is the users’perception of social media in general and tourism context. It asked participants to statewhether they agree or disagree with a list of statements. Table 13 presents the results, and themain trends are as follow:  67% of the respondents agreed that they would be more willing to make a purchase from a company that has a personal relationship with them.  65% people agreed that they had much better impression of a company that uses social media and engage with their customers on the web.  87% of the participants positively perceived organisation that responded to customer reviews.  In terms of travel information, majority of the population (62%) preferred consumer reviews over organisation’s description of itself. However, 58% specified that they Page | 35
    • would only take into account user-generated content that is provided by independent travellers. Further 52% stated that user-generated content is of real importance for them.  In general, about 80% of the survey participants agreed that tourism organisations should incorporate social media into their business.Table 13: Attitudes toward social web and user-generated content Strongly Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Disagree AgreeI would be more willing to purchase a product/ service 8% 12% 12% 45% 22%from a company that has a personal relationship with meI feel organisations should engage with their customers 0% 5% 30% 40% 25%on social web sitesI have a much better impression of a company that uses 2% 5% 28% 45% 20%social web for customer serviceIt is positive when an organisation responds to customer 0% 0% 12% 45% 42%reviews/user-generated contentI prefer consumer reviews over a hotel’s description of 0% 5% 33% 36% 26%itselfIt is best to rely on organisations websites for 8% 20% 32% 32% 8%information when planning a tripI would only take notice of user-generated content whenit is provided by independent travellers (i.e. with no 0% 8% 34% 45% 13%involvement from travel operators)Consumer-generated content has limited importance for 10% 42% 30% 10% 8%me when I plan my travelThird party travel sites, such as tripadvisor.com, are themost trustworthy source of consumer-generated 8% 13% 56% 21% 3%informationTravel information provided by unknown people are not 10% 28% 30% 20% 12%usefulTourism organisations should incorporate social 0% 5% 15% 55% 25%media into their sites Page | 36
    • 5. DiscussionThe following section will analyse and discuss the obtained results grounding on thetheoretical framework outlined in section 2. The headings reflect the research objectives. 5.1. Social media strategiesEach hotel demonstrates presence on commonly popular social networks, micro-blogging,and video-sharing web sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YoutTube. However, there is asignificant difference between the hotels’ level of activity and frequency of use of the distinctplatforms. Twitter is found to be the most actively used by the all three organisations, ascompared to the other three examined platforms. This trend might be simply explained by thedistinct nature and concept of each platform. Twitter’s idea is focused on micro-blogging orposting of short messages (up to 140 characters). YouTube is centred only on video-postingand sharing. Blogs and Facebook, on the other hand, are versatile, providing the opportunityto publish different types of micro-content that might be textual posts, pictures, and videos.However, Facebook as a social network is found to be more social-oriented providing moreclose and direct communication through connections, direct messaging, comments, personalposts, etc. Thus, in business context, Twitter might be recognised as the most effective one interms of customer service by allowing posting of timely updates. On the other hand,Facebook, YouTube and Blogs might be seen as more image-oriented platforms, providingthe opportunity to post various contents. Consequently, the activity level and frequency ofuse of the different platforms depend on the organisations’ individual strategies. If anorganisation’s social media strategy is more customers service-oriented, the organisationswill be more active on Twitter. On the contrary, if an organisation is employing more imageand promotional-focused strategy, it will mainly use Facebook, YouTube and Blogs.Furthermore, it should be noticed that the results of the Facebook and Twitter’s contentanalysis are in accordance with the general public’s use of these sites - ‘12% of Facebookusers update their status each day, whereas 52% of users on Twitter post daily’ (Hays, Page& Buhalis, 2012, p10). Therefore, timely status updates are more integral to the function ofTwitter, for businesses and individuals alike. In addition, although all the three hotels haveYouTube brand channels, the video-sharing website is found not to be so popular andeffective among the businesses. This trend aligns with the results obtained by McKensey&Co(2010) and Booz&Co’s (2011) industry studies revealing that social networks and blogs arethe most frequently used platforms for business purposes. Page | 37
    • The research also reveals that while two of the hotels employed a corporate blog in theirsocial media strategies, the third one had chosen a different approach to reach andcommunicate with its customers. Rather than using a corporate blog, the hotel has establisheda regularly published digital magazine. Although it has integrated a different format, thedigital magazine accomplishes the same purpose as the other hotels’ blogs and, thus, thecontent that the magazine provides is found to be very similar to the one presented by thecompetition: brand information and updates, news as well as travel, cultural, lifestyle andother types of interesting and entertaining material. However, the hotel’s attempt and effortfor brand differentiation and distinctiveness should be noted.Another interesting pattern that was observed in the previous section is that the date at whicheach member registered with a particular platform is not directly related to the number offollowers. Although it might be argued that an organisation employing a given social webaccount for a longer period of time would have more followers, it is evident that the numberof followers does not always correspond with the date of account creation, which is furtherproved by Hays, Page & Buhalis (2012) (Hays, Page & Buhalis, 2012, p8).Hays, Page & Buhalis (2012) also suggest that ‘it is important for organisations to include asmuch rich content as possible, while providing the necessary information to their consumers’(Hays, Page & Buhalis, 2012, p16).The published content on the social web is similarbetween the three hotels. It is predominantly original, created by the organisations, and, at thesame time, very varied including stories, news, photos and videos that are not only related totravel and tourism, but to lifestyle, culture, fashion, art, etc.Furthermore, the research differentiated four main types of social media content, namely‘customer service- related’, ‘promotional’, ‘informative’, and ‘engaging’. The type of contentsignificantly varied between the distinct platforms. For instance, considerable percentage(46%) of the combined hotels’ tweets was defined as customer service-related, as comparedto only 4% of the Facebook posts. Hence, the results align with the assumption made earlierin the discussion that Twitter is perceived by businesses as more customers service-orientedplatform, while Facebook, Youtube and Blogs are found to be more focused and effective onbuilding business’s brand identity, personality and image. Thus, two principal social mediastrategies were defined: customer service-centred and image and identity-focused. CitizenMand the May Fair hotel’s social media strategies are mainly customer service focused,demonstrating greater activity and high interaction with customers on Twitter. On the other Page | 38
    • hand, the RSH’s strategy turned out to be more image and marketing-oriented, particularlyfocused on creation and publishing of various and entertaining content, such as video, picture,and audio-stories on Facebook, YouTube and Blogs. RSH also provides to its social mediafollowers an exclusive discount rate of 10%.Finally, the hotels’ overall interactivity levels on the distinct social web platforms are similar-about 80% of the posts on Facebook, Twitter and Blogs were defined as interactive.However, the interactivity level in each sub-category substantially varies between the hotels.This again depends on the organisations’ individual strategies. The more customer service-oriented hotels CitizenM and May Fair reported greater numbers of directly replying postsand tweets, while RSH’s posts and tweets were more interactive in terms of videos, pictures,and other types of media. 5.2. Business opportunities that social media offersAs discussed in the literature review, social media’s key benefit is that it allows direct andclose communication with customers. This, on the other hand, represents great opportunitiesfor building relationships, brand personality and identity, which will contribute to anorganisation’s reputation and image enhancement (Tuten, 2008, p p25-26). Gotta & O’Kellyalso argue that social web communities can attract potential customers through viralmarketing and word-of-mouth. This argument has been further supported by large body ofmarket and industry studies (Buchin & Chui, 2010; Burson-Marsteller, 2011;Booz&Co/Buddy Media, 2011).The results of this research proved that social media provides businesses with theopportunity to engage with large numbers of customers, create relationships and, thus, buildbrand identity and improve brand loyalty and company image and reputation, which alignswith Tuten’s idea about social media’s business potential. The content analysis clearlydemonstrated that social networks and blogs can significantly affect a brand’s image andidentity, allowing the opportunity to share interesting and entertaining content, and to directlycommunicate, connect and interact with customers. This, on the other hand, represents a keypremise for viral marketing, advertising and buzz building. Moreover, social networks andespecially the micro-blogging site Twitter were also found to be effective customer servicetools that can improve organisations’ service or product quality, which again can enhancecompany’s overall reputation. Social media’s function as customer service instrument was Page | 39
    • further noted by Hay (2010) in his study of social media as a tourism marketing tool (Hay,2010).However, the research does not provide real evidence to support the common belief thatsocial media can actually deliver generation of sales and profits. The return on investment ofa social media marketing campaign is extremely difficult to measure with accuracy, andusually involves the consideration of various qualitative variables (Fisher, 2009). Namelythis issue turns out to be one of the major limitations of social web marketing. 5.3 The relationship between consumer behaviour & social media 5.3.1 Awareness and usage of social mediaAccording to ComScore’s (2011) latest statistics, social networking sites are currently usedby 82% of the world’s online population or 1.2 billion users around the world. Thepenetration of social media has been considerably high over the last couple of years, and itcontinues to increase (ComScore, 2011). Facebook is the world leader with registered about800 million subscribers and about 100% awareness among users, followed by YouTube (500million), Twitter (200 million), and Linkedin (135million) (Customer Insight Group, 2012,customerinsightgroup.com). Reflecting the global trends of social media’s usage andawareness, the results of the online survey revealed that social networks (90%) andYouTube (72%) are the most commonly used social media platforms. Customer reviewportals, such as Trip Advisor and Yahoo Travel, are also widely popular, used by 72% of therespondents. In addition, it should be noticed that all survey participants were familiar withand had used at least one of the specified social media technologies. 5.3.2 Factors affecting social media usage and perceptionThe findings of both content analysis and survey revealed that the key factors affecting thegeneral use and perception of social media are namely ‘curiosity’, ‘entertainment’,‘informativeness’, ‘usefulness’, ‘trust’, ‘interaction’, and ‘passing time’. These results tieback to the UGT, which suggests that online consumer behaviour is mainly determined by aset of either psychological or social needs, motives and gratifications - ‘entertainment’,‘interactivity’ and ‘informativeness’ were found to be the most important ones (Kim et al.2010; Taylor & Strutton 2008; Lee et al. 2006; Morosan & Jeong 2008). According to thesurvey results, ‘informativeness’, ‘interaction’ and ‘entertainment’ were the major stimuli touse social media, cited by 80%, 71% and 68% of all respondents, respectively. On the otherhand, in particular to the usage of social media for travel purposes, ‘usefulness’ and Page | 40
    • ‘credibility’ were identified as principal determining factors. Finally, the content analysisrevealed that 80% of the total numbers of examined posts on the social web were interactive.Large portion of the posted content was also identified as either ‘customer-related’,‘engaging’, or ‘informative’.In addition, the research tested statistically whether there is any relationship between the useof social media and the demographic factors including gender, age and social status. Largebody of literature has demonstrated that offline characteristics of users have influence ontheir online personality and behaviour. For instance, Herring (1993), Louis (2004), andVerhaagen (2005) have proved that there are gender differences in online communication,and that generally females, more than males, tend to use the Internet for social andcommunication purposes (cited by Pfeil et al., 2009, p645). However, the results of thisresearch did not find enough evidence to support the hypothesis that, in reality, there is arelationship between use of social media and gender.In terms of age, research in the area suggests that usually older people have distinctcharacteristics, such as physical or cognitive impairments, attitudes and expectations, whichmight affect their usage and perception of social media (Gregor, Newell, & Zajicek, 2002;Kurniawan & Zaphiris, 2005; Zaphiris, Kurniawan, & Ghiawadwala, 2007 cited by Pfeil etal., 2009, p645). Therefore, it might be argued that age has influence on users’ onlinecommunication and behaviour. The survey results further supported this trend, revealing thata strong correlation between age range and use of social media exists. Finally, regarding thesocial status factor, the results of the study found that employment status does not haveimpact on use of social media. 5.3.3 Use of social media during travel planning processThe results of this research clearly demonstrated that the majority (90%) of the surveyedparticipants visit and review social media sites during travel search process. It was alsorevealed that large numbers of distinct social websites had been used during trip planning.However, the most popular ones were found to be the customer-review travel platforms TripAdvisor and Expedia. These results are, in accordance with Sigala’s (2010), observationsemphasizing that Trip Advisor is a major travel channel (Sigala, 2010, p607).An interesting trend is that social networking sites including Facebook and YouTube werenot as usable as travel-specialised sites for travel purposes. Thus, the fact that these types ofsocial sites registered low level of perceived usefulness is understandable. Finally, the survey Page | 41
    • respondents visited social websites mainly to obtain information about travel destinations andaccommodation. 5.3.4 Social media’s effect on consumer travel behaviourSocial websites and consumer-generated content were generally considered useful by travelconsumers who use them (Compete Inc., 2006; ComScore, 2007). Almost 100% of thesurvey respondents claimed that they would take into account consumer-generated contentwhen making travel plans. Moreover, about half of the population confirmed that consumer-generated content and social media would affect their final purchase decision. However, only27% of the users would in reality change their travel plans due to the influence of informationfound on the social web. Besides, it should also be noted that people usually consult andreview social media when they have already chosen a particular destination and they aresearching for proper accommodation. Very small percentages of traveller use social media toshare and compare their experiences with other consumers.As it was discussed in the literature review, credibility and reliability are found to be the keyfactors determining social media’s user perception and its level of influence on decision-making, especially during travel search process. In accordance with Mandala’s (2010) results,the survey discovered that people still perceive traditional sources of travel information, suchas professional agents and guides, as more trustworthy than new social media sources (ITBBerlin, 2010, p19). Furthermore, the level of reliability substantially varies between distinctsocial media platforms. Travel-specialised websites, such as Trip Advisor, are consideredmore reliable than generic social websites, such as Facebook and Twitter. This can beexplained by the fact that most people use social networks on personal level, mainly tocommunicate and share stories with circle of known friends and peers, rather than perceivethem as trustworthy travel information providers (Cox et al, 2008, p46). Page | 42
    • 6. ConclusionThe main objective of this study was to explore the integration of social media as a marketingtool, particularly focusing on the hospitality and tourism industry, and the relationshipbetween social media and online consumer behaviour. The research also aimed to develop abest practice strategic framework and recommendations that can be applied by tourismorganisations in order to improve online business strategies and performance.Three key conclusions emerge from this research. Firstly, hospitality organisations generallyemploy two principal social media strategic approaches: marketing and/or customer servicestrategies. However, the content analysis suggests that hotels are particularly focusing onusing social media as a customer service supporting tool, rather than marketing andpromotional. This assigns to the notion supported by Hay et al. (2012) that ‘social media isstill not widely recognised and/or respected as a vital tool in marketing strategies, and thus isfrequently underfunded and/or neglected’ (Hays et al., 2012, p26). Therefore, social media asmarketing tool is still found to be relatively new and not fully understood strategic method inthe business world. Thus, notwithstanding the social media’s widespread businessintegration, most of the organisations are not taking full advantage of social media and itspotential.Secondly, the research suggests that social media marketing provides businesses with keyopportunities to reach and engage with a large number of customers, create relationships, and,thus, build brand identity and improve company image. However, social web marketing is ata very early stage of development and research and there is no sufficient evidence that itactually generates sales and increases profits.Lastly, in terms of consumer behaviours and attitudes towards social media, the surveyrevealed that social websites are commonly used for travel purposes. More and morecustomers have started searching the social web for travel-related information and especiallyUGC during trip planning process. The impact of social media on consumer travel behaviourand intentions is also evident. Large numbers of the surveyed respondents indicated that UGCand social media influence their final purchase decision. Furthermore, social web content cancause consumers to completely change their existing travel plans. However, the degree ofsocial media’s influence on consumers’ behaviours and intentions, especially during travelsearch process, significantly depends on the perceived credibility and reliability of the socialwebsites’ content. The research demonstrated that traditional travel information sources such Page | 43
    • as travel agents are still perceived by people as more trustworthy than social websites.Moreover, other key factors affecting the general perception and use of social media by theaudience are found to be ‘usefulness’, ‘informativeness’, ‘interaction’ and ‘entertainment’,which further aligns to the UGT.In general, the study suggests that businesses and particularly hospitality organisations shouldtake into consideration the increasing popularity of social media, its potential as a marketingtool, and its effect on consumer behaviours and purchase intentions. However, social mediashould not be employed as an independent marketing strategy, but in combination withtraditional marketing communications and practices.There are several limitations affecting the reliability and validity of the current study thatshould also be taken into account. Firstly, the sample sizes of both primary researches arerelatively small. A small sample size cannot prove with accuracy that the observations did notoccur by chance. Secondly, the content analysis only focused on small and mediumorganisations in the tourism sector. The social web content of larger organisations ororganisations in different sectors may present different patterns and frequencies. Moreover,the content analysis examined a limited number of posts over a one-month period time thatmay not reflect the full range of content presented in an organisation’s posts. The contentanalysis only explains the way social media has been employed by the organisation, but itdoes not particularly determine the strategies applied to this specific type of integration.Lastly, time constraints and some general disadvantages of the survey-based research methodfurther influenced the accuracy of the results. As suggested by Bryman and Bell (2007),surveys rely on participants’ self-report of a past or hypothetical behaviour that may belimited by various reliability issues, such as misinterpretation and deliberate or accidentalmisrepresentation (Bryman & Bell, 2007, p282).Finally, in order to overcome these limitations a further research might be implemented,using larger samples and both quantitative and qualitative research methods, or exploring indetail each one of the study components individually. For example, additional research mightjust compare social media’s integration by organisations in distinct industries, or might focuson the relationship between consumers’ social media perception and different variables. Page | 44
    • 7. Best practice strategic framework and industry implications The results of this study suggest that:  Tourism and hospitality organisations cannot ignore the social media’s increasing importance in the modern business world, and the impact that it has on consumer behaviours and purchase intentions.  Key actions to apply effective social media marketing strategy include: o Creating corporate blog or blog-type web space o Creating interesting, engaging, informative and entertaining content, such as stories, videos, pictures, etc. o Providing exclusive social media offers, discounts or contests o Encouraging participation and interaction o Building relationships, and responding to customer feedback o Regularly posting fresh content, but alleviating spamming o Being flexible and innovative  Credibility and usefulness are the main factors affecting consumers’ social media perception and purchase intentions during travel search process.  Social web marketing should not be applied as an independent strategy, but as a complement to traditional marketing communications and practices. Page | 45
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    • Appendix 1: Online SurveySocial Web Marketing in HospitalityCreated: March 02 2012, 10:14 AMAs part of my degree in Business Management at University of Roehampton, I am conducting a survey about the effectiveness andperception of social web marketing in the hospitality sector.I would be grateful if you would agree to participate in this research. The questionnaire should take approximately 10 min tocomplete. You are free to withdraw at any point. Please be assured that the information you provide will be treated in confidenceand only used for the purposes of this project. Thank you in advance for your participation.Ani NachevaEmail: nachevaa@roehampton.ac.ukSocial Web Marketing in HospitalityPage 1 - Question 1 - Choice - One Answer (Bullets) [Mandatory]What is your age range? Less than 18 18 to 29 30 to 39 40 to 49 50 to olderPage 1 - Question 2 - Choice - Multiple Answers (Bullets) [Mandatory]What is your gender? Male FemalePage 1 - Question 3 - Choice - Multiple Answers (Bullets)Have you ever used any of the following social web applications? (Select all that apply) Social Networks (e.g. Facebook, MySpace) Twitter Forums Blogs Youtube Customer Review Portals (e.g. TripAdvisor, IgoUgo) Not have usedPage 1 - Question 4 - Choice - Multiple Answers (Bullets)What are the reasons and motives to use a particular social web site? Curiosity Entertainment Informativeness Usefulness Social Interaction Passing Time Page | 50
    • Other, please specifyPage 1 - Question 5 - Choice - Multiple Answers (Bullets)Have you ever visited any Internet sites specifically to obtain information about : (Select all that apply) Travel destinations Accommodation Other travel-related services Not have used (Please skip the next 3 questions and go to question number 9)Page 1 - Question 6 - Choice - Multiple Answers (Bullets)Please indicate at what stage of your travel planning process have you used social media websites or applications?(Select all that apply) When beginning to search for an accommodation in destination that has already been chosen When trying to narrow down my choice of accommodations When I had chosen my accommodation and was looking for further information about it After my trip to share my experiences with other travellers After my trip to compare my experiences with those of other travellersPage 1 - Question 7 - Rating Scale - MatrixWhich one of the following social web sites have you used during travel search process? How useful have you foundthe site on a 7-point scale? (Select all that apply, and for the one that you have not used, please choose N/A) Somew Not at Very Quite Not Minor Barely hat all N/A useful useful sure use useful useful useful Trip Advisor  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A Epic Trip  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A IgoUgo  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A Orbitz  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A Virtual Tourist  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A Travel Up  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A Travelocity  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A Expedia  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A Yahoo Travel  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A TravBuddy  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A Facebook  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/A YouTube  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 N/APage 1 - Question 8 - Open Ended - Comments BoxPlease self-nominate up to five social web or customer review websites you had used during travel search process. Page | 51
    • Page 1 - Question 9 - Choice - One Answer (Bullets)How often the information provided by other consumers had any influence on your actual travel plans? Never Sometimes About half Mostly AlwaysPage 1 - Question 10 - Choice - One Answer (Bullets)How likely are you to make a final decision relating to purchasing a travel product because of the influence ofconsumer-generated content? Not at all Very unlikely Unlikely Not sure Likely Very likely DefinitelyPage 1 - Question 11 - Choice - One Answer (Bullets)How likely are you to completely change your existing travel-related decision because of the influence of consumer-generated content? Not at all Very unlikely Unlikely Not sure Likely Very likely DefinitelyPage 1 - Question 12 - Rating Scale - MatrixPlease choose any of the following social web platforms that you have already used when making travel decisions,and indicate the level of trust you hold in it? (Select all that apply, and for the one that you have not used, pleasechoose N/A) Completely Not Reliable Fairly Reliable Very Reliable N/A ReliableTrip Advisor  1  2  3  4  N/AEpic Trip  1  2  3  4  N/AIgoUgo  1  2  3  4  N/AOrbitz  1  2  3  4  N/AVirtual Tourist  1  2  3  4  N/ATravel Up  1  2  3  4  N/ATravelocity  1  2  3  4  N/AExpedia  1  2  3  4  N/AYahoo Travel  1  2  3  4  N/ATravBuddy  1  2  3  4  N/AFacebook  1  2  3  4  N/AMy Space  1  2  3  4  N/A Page | 52
    • Twitter  1  2  3  4  N/AForums  1  2  3  4  N/ABlogs  1  2  3  4  N/AYoutube  1  2  3  4  N/APage 1 - Question 13 - Rating Scale - MatrixWhich one of the following sources of travel information do you consider as more or less reliable on a 4-point scale(where 1=not reliable, 4=completely reliable) Not Reliable Fairly Reliable Very Reliable Completely ReliableTourism Websites  1  2  3  4Travel Agents  1  2  3  4Commercial  1  2  3  4Operators/Accommodation WebsitesReview Websites (e.g. TripAdvisor)  1  2  3  4Blogs  1  2  3  4Social Networks  1  2  3  4Forums  1  2  3  4Page 1 - Question 14 - Rating Scale - MatrixPlease make a selection for the following statements: Strongly Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree DisagreeI would be more willing to purchase aproduct/ service from a company that  1  2  3  4  5has a personal relationship with meI feel organisations should engage with  1  2  3  4  5their customers on social web sitesI have a much better impression of acompany that uses social web for  1  2  3  4  5customer serviceIt is positive when an organisationresponds to customer reviews/user-  1  2  3  4  5generated contentI prefer consumer reviews over a  1  2  3  4  5hotel’s description of itselfIt is best to rely on organisationswebsites for information when  1  2  3  4  5planning a tripI would only take notice of user-generated content when it is provided  1  2  3  4  5by independent travellers (i.e. with noinvolvement from travel operators)Consumer-generated content haslimited importance for me when I plan  1  2  3  4  5my travelThird party travel sites, such astripadvisor.com, are the most  1  2  3  4  5trustworthy source of consumer-generated informationTravel information provided by  1  2  3  4  5unknown people are not usefulTourism organisations should  1  2  3  4  5 Page | 53
    • incorporate social media into their sitesPage 1 - Question 15 - Choice - One Answer (Bullets)Please specify your employment category: Full-time employee Part-time employee Seasonal worker Unemployed Retired Student Other, please specifyPage 1 - Question 16 - Open Ended - One LinePlease specify your country of origin: Page | 54
    • Appendix 2: Comparative Content AnalysisBasic Twitter statistics for the analysed hospitality organisations, data collected 04 April 2012 Organisation Twitter handle Followers Following Total No. No. of Special of tweets tweets Social March Fans 2011 RateRoger Smith @RSHotel 12, 527 6,081 8,431 166 YesHotelCitizenM Hotel @citizenM 10,716 4,581 3,108 197 -The May Fair @TheMayFairHotel 9,378 1,060 999 94 -HotelBasic Facebook (FB) statistics for the analysed hospitality organisations, data collected 04 April 2012 Organisation FB Page No. of No. of No. of No. of No. of No. of pictures/ No. of Booking Likes posts check- pictures videos video recommendations application March ins added by 2011 othersRoger Smith facebook.com/roge 4,036 55 2,409 534 6 39 35 YesHotel rsmithhotelCitizenM Hotel facebook.com/citiz 9,968 7 - 160 - 89 - Yes enMhotelsThe May Fair facebook.com/The 11,346 10 11,198 176 3 4 43 NoHotel MayFair?ref=tsAverage daily and total number of posts/tweets in March 2012Organisation Average FB post in March Total FB posts in March Average Tweets in March Total Tweets in MarchRoger Smith Hotel 1.8 55 5.5 166CitizenM Hotel 0.2 7 6.6 197The MayFair Hotel 0.3 10 3.1 94Combined 2.3 72 15.2 457 Page | 56
    • Daily tweets in March 2012 st th th th th th th st th th stOrganisation 1 4 7 9 12 15 18 21 25 28 31 M M M M M M M M M M MRoger Smith 2 7 36 25 14 9 5 18 14 12 19HotelCitizenM Hotel 22 7 39 29 18 13 6 15 13 25 8The May Fair 7 4 15 8 8 6 2 10 3 17 12HotelNumber of Tweets in different content categories in March 2012 Organisation Customer Informative Engaging Promotional Other Retweeted Original* Total Service- (direct (Not Related questions, Original) contests, etc.)Roger Smith Hotel 21 17 49 7 37 35 131 166CitizenM Hotel 131 5 17 12 32 6 191 197May Fair Hotel 56 15 8 7 8 18 76 94Number of Tweets in different interactive categories in March 2012*Organisation No. of tweets No. of No. of No. of including tweets tweets Tweets replies including including including picture links videosRoger Smith Hotel 57 36 28 6CitizenM Hotel 151 6 14 -MayFair Hotel 56 6 16 1*Interactive tweets are including tweets from different other categories, such as informative, promoting, etc. Page | 57
    • Number of FB posts in different categories in March 2012 Organisation Engaging Customer Promotional Informative Other Total Posts by (direct Service- other questions, Related contests, etc.)Roger Smith Hotel 10 2 1 27 15 55 14CitizenM Hotel 4 1 4 4 - 13 18The MayFair Hotel 5 - 2 4 - 11 8Number of FB posts in different interactive categories in March 2012Organisation No. of No. of No. of posts posts posts including including including picture links videosRoger Smith Hotel 26 15 7CitizenM Hotel 1 3 -The MayFair Hotel 5 1 -*Interactive tweets are including tweets from different other categories, such as informative, promoting, etc.YouTube Basic Statistics March 2012Organisation YouTube Handle No. of No. of Average No. of Views No. of Videos Videos No. of Subscribers March Videos MarchRoger Smith Hotel youtube.com/user/rogersmithnews 938 23 0.7 619,333 480CitizenM Hotel youtube.com/user/citizenmobile 4* * * 72,079 54The May Fair Hotel youtube.com/user/themayfairhotel 49 2 0.06 289,910 140*CitizenM Hotel is not involved in publishing original videos, but it is active in recommending other users’ interesting hotel-related and general videocontent. Page | 58
    • Corporate blog/digital journal basic statistics March 2012Organisation Blog/Magazine No. of Interactivity Informative Promoting Posts MarchRoger Smith http://rogersmithlife.com/ 3 Audio Posts, Video, Calendar, 10% special blogHotel Pictures, engaging Events, etc discount language, lifestyle storiesCitizenM http://citizenmag.citizenm.com/ It is Pictures, - -Hotel released Stories, Different quarterly theme for each issues, engaging languageThe May Fair themayfairhotel.co.uk/blog/ 3 Pictures, engaging Events Promoting Posts ,Hotel language Hotel-orientedOther social media platforms & pagesRoger Smith Hotel  facebook.com/pages/Roger-Smith-News-20/38572720863?ref=ts  facebook.com/thelabgallery  youtube.com/user/panmanproductions  flickr.com/photos/rogersmithhotel/  jamesknowles.tumblr.com/  rslilys.com/  panmanmixtapes.tumblr.com/  rspopshop.com/  thelabgallery.com/CitizenM Hotel  foursquare.com/citizen  flickr.com/photos/citizen  linkedin.com/company/citizen  vimeo.com/citizenm Page | 59