The Development of social media marketing packages

Social media have been transforming the way people communicate with each other and with companies. This is true especially in the tourism s...

Social media have been transforming the way people communicate with each other and with companies. This is true especially in the tourism sector where customers more and more often interact with other people on social media during the different phases of their travel planning, especially during information search (Xiang and Gretzel 2010; Shao 2009). In fact, at this step of the consumer behavior process, social aspects like sharing, opinions and recommendations from friends play a central role. A study of PhocusWright (2013a) on the European travelers found that more than 50 % of interviewed individuals consider recommendations from friends and family influential and extremely influential in the decision process regarding whether to try or not a new brand.13 In fact, the travel planning process is mostly influenced by travel review websites (69 %), followed by online travel agencies (57 %), travel provider sites (56 %), and friends and relatives (43 %) (TripAdvisor/TripBarometer 2013). A study by Google Think Insight (2013) confirms that both leisure and business travelers increasingly search online for reviews of other tourists (42 % leisure; 55 % business), find inspiration (42 % leisure; 48 % business), and look at travel content or reviews by friends or family (27 % leisure; 39 % business).

The statistics presented here and in the previous sections demonstrate the increasing use of social media by travelers during the decision-making process. As a consequence, academic research on the topic mainly aimed at studying the impact of social media on both consumers and companies (Leung et al. 2013) has increased over recent years. A stream of research is particularly focused on impacts of social media on travelers. In various studies scholars observe the behavior of travelers interacting with social media in different stages of the travel planning process: before leaving (pretrip), during their stay (during-trip), and after having come back (post-trip).14 In relation to these steps, the majority of researchers agree on the increasing role of social media especially for gathering information, evaluating alternatives, avoiding unpleasant places, and providing ideas before purchasing (Gretzel 2007; Anderson 2012). In fact, user-generated content such as customer reviews, travel diaries, etc. has become a key source of information for travelers (Pan et al. 2007). Electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) offers noncommercial, authentic, and experiential detailed information about destinations and operators that are considered generally more and more reliable because they are not managed by the company (Buttle 1998).

Therefore, travelers check feedbacks and read about the experiences of other people before choosing a destination, a hotel, etc., and then share their experience during the trip and after it when they get home. In particular, the interactions among travelers in the “during-trip” experience are increasing, thanks to the development of mobile technologies (Buhalis and Law 2008) that allow travelers to publish on Facebook images and videos of what they are doing, chatting real-time with friends about the experience they are enjoying by means of social networks or of other mobile apps (i.e., WhatsApp).15 The change in travelers’ habits concerns also the relationship with travel companies. In fact, according to recent statistics, consumers prefer social media to interact with brands and service providers (learn more about products, compliment brands, complaining about a product/brand) (Nielsen 2012b).



social media marketing packages


All these trends could become opportunities for travel companies to develop marketing strategies toward various target markets (Inversini et al. 2010; Munar 2010; Xiang and Gretzel 2010). Moreover, in view of the effect on purchases of negative customers’ feedbacks published on the Net (Chatterjee 2001; Laczniak et al. 2001), companies may sometimes face some threats. In the light of this, a stream of academic research focuses on social media application from the supplier perspective. In particular, social media play a key role for promotion activities, product distribution, communication, management, and research (Leung et al. 2013). Even if until now practitioners have valued social media especially for promotion and communication rather than as independent distribution channels (Noone et al. 2011; PwC 2013), the future trend for social media marketing could move from the current brand marketing to conversions and sales. However, the use of social media as a communication tool, if properly managed, can engage customers with a possible effect on customer loyalty, electronic word-of-mouth, and consequently on corporate sales and revenues (Dellarocas 2003; Chevalier and Mayzlin 2006; Dellarocas and Zhang 2007). Despite the increasing attention of practitioners and academic researchers on the topic, a few studies in the tourism sector demonstrate a slow process of adoption of social media by travel operators (Stankov et al. 2010; Leung et al. 2011). Some companies, eager to be present “on the Net,” forget that it is a special environment with specific rules needing a specific strategy, obviously integrated with other more traditional marketing strategies.

In the light of these first reflections, the following chapters will analyze in detail the effects of social media on the travel sector from the customer and the supplier perspectives. Possible future trends related to the development of ICTs in tourism (i. e., social mobile marketing) and specific aspects of ongoing discussions (i.e., social media metrics, SNSs privacy policies, social intelligence ethical and legal implications, etc.) will be also examined.

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