UNIVERSITY OF GHANA
THE EFFICACY OF SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY. THE CASE STUDY OF DESTINATION MARKETING ORGANIZATIONS IN GHANA.
BENJAMIN BOATENG JNR
DR. KOBBY MENSAH
TOC o “1-3” h z u INTRODUCTION PAGEREF _Toc506250233 h 3OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY PAGEREF _Toc506250234 h 5RESEARCH QUESTIONS PAGEREF _Toc506250235 h 6SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY PAGEREF _Toc506250236 h 6LITERATURE REVIEW PAGEREF _Toc506250237 h 6PROPOSED RESEARCH METHODOLOGY PAGEREF _Toc506250238 h 12References PAGEREF _Toc506250239 h 13
Tourism is a large and booming global industry, which can be seen in terms of numbers of participants (i.e tourists and operators) and in terms of the overall expenditure. Tourism is big business. More than anything, it’s an ever-increasing market. This is a market that is continually reshaping as the customer and their technology evolves around it. For brands and tourism based organisations, to enter this pool of customers requires a strategy that taps into various stages of the customer’s decision-making process CITATION Car17 l 2057 (Caraivan, 2017).
Digital Tourism can be defined as the digital support of the tourist experience before, during and after the tourist activity. This might be a recommendation system to help someone find suitable accommodation during holiday planning CITATION Ard03 l 2057 (Ardissono, Goy, Petrone, Segnan, & Torasso, 2003), a mobile tour-guide application on their smartphone while there or the ability to easily explore holiday photos around a table once at home CITATION Apt06 l 2057 (Apted, Kay, & Quigley, 2006). The concept of digital tourism is not new and permeates many of the online activities people engage in today with trip planning using Expedia and TripAdvisor, travel management with airline frequent flyer websites and Tripit, mobile tour-guide applications on smartphones and photo management including Facebook, Flickr, iPhoto or Picasa. However, what is new is the concept of digitally enhanced tourism. Through the use of technology, the aim is to further improve the quality or extent of a tourist experience CITATION Uri05 l 2057 (Uriely, 2005).
Since tourism is a continuously increasing market, it is vital for business owners in this field to learn how to reshape it. As customers use technology as soon as it is released on the market, tourism-based organisations must find a strategy to establish connections with their customers. Such a connection should enable the person responsible with the implementation of technology to have access to customers’ opinions and answer their questions or comments as soon as they are posted on-line, so that potential future clients are attracted and not put off by negative comments that remained unanswered CITATION Car17 l 2057 (Caraivan, 2017).
Consumers are constantly browsing and spending more time on-line than ever before and buying trends are closely related to the digital marketing space. Thus, digital tourism is no longer strictly defined as spending a vacation in front of your computer, watching films or photos from various places on Earth. It is rather defined as a programme that makes businesses thrive or fail. Efficiency in the digital world implies to be aware of various aspects that aim at converting fans into real ambassadors. Visitors need to be offered not only unforgettable experiences but also destination awareness CITATION Car17 l 2057 (Caraivan, 2017). This study seeks to investigate the efficacy of social media (SM) marketing on tourism in Ghana by destination marketing organisations (DMOs).
SM is one source of information that influences people’s decision about the journey they plan to make. Online social travel networking is also changing the way tourists plan their trips CITATION Maq15 l 2057 (Maqableh, et al., 2015). Miguéns et al. (2008) stated that these websites and applications allow users to interact and provide reviews on hotels or on local tourist attractions CITATION Mig08 l 2057 (Miguéns, Baggio, & Costa, 2008). People therefore, use social media to collect information about the best trips and the most attractive places to visit in their travel destination. For example, a family that is preparing to visit the Elmina Castle can search for information about it on social media websites and ask or communicate with people from Elmina to guide them, also tourist may use people rating, comments and opinions of other tourists on social media about different services and destinations within Elmina and its environs.
Usually people trust in others’ comments and responses but, despite the great benefits and importance of social media sites, they have their challenges as well, reliability and credibility are arguably among the greatest of these now. Moreover, potential tourists prefer to collect information from several different social media sites according to their needs CITATION AlB17 l 2057 (Al-Badi ; Tarhini, 2017). Based on these facts, this study seeks to investigate the effectiveness of social media in the activities of destination marketing organisations and if there can be an alternative way of promoting DMOs other than SM.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDYThe study is designed to achieve the following aims and objectives. The specific aim is to find out the effectiveness of social media in the activities of destination marketing organisations. The specific objectives are:
To determine which social media platforms are more effective for DMOs.
To determine the type of content that DMO’s use to engage customers.
To determine an alternative way of marketing by DMOs other than SM.
RESEARCH QUESTIONSIn relation to the above research objectives the questions of this study are:
Which social media platforms are more effective for DMOs?
What type of content do DMOs use to engage customers?
What alternative way of marketing can DMOs adopt?
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDYThis study seeks to investigate the effectiveness of social media in the activities of destination marketing organisations and if there can be an alternative way of promoting DMOs other than SM. To obtain answers to this objective, strands of literature will be reviewed. The results of this study will help DMOs to be able to identify which social media platforms are more engaging for them, the type of content that DMOs use to engage customers and which elements and themes are more effective on social media. This study will be of use to government agencies and department in tourism as well as government and private DMOs in Ghana.
LITERATURE REVIEWDIGITAL TOURISM
Digital Tourism can be defined as the digital support of the tourist experience before, during and after the tourist activity. This might be a recommendation system to help someone find suitable accommodation during holiday planning CITATION Ard03 l 2057 (Ardissono, Goy, Petrone, Segnan, & Torasso, 2003), a mobile tour-guide application on their smartphone while there or the ability to easily explore holiday photos around a table once at home CITATION Apt06 l 2057 (Apted, Kay, & Quigley, 2006). The concept of digital tourism is not new and permeates many of the online activities people engage in today with trip planning using Expedia and TripAdvisor, travel management with airline frequent flyer websites and Tripit, mobile tour-guide applications on smartphones and photo management including Facebook, Flickr, iPhoto or Picasa. However, what is new is the concept of digitally enhanced tourism. Through the use of technology, the aim is to further improve the quality or extent of a tourist experience CITATION Uri05 l 2057 (Uriely, 2005). Instead of making travel bookings easier or replacing a printed guide with a multimedia one or supporting better photo management, new technologies can appreciably intensify the tourist experience. Digital tourism focuses on a wide variety of destinations and contexts, e.g., museums, rallies, countryside’s, zoos and theme parks CITATION Dur11 l 2057 (Durrant, et al., 2011). Designers and researchers have been employing a number of different tools and solutions to accommodate the tourist, e.g., interactive maps, tourism assistants, identification of interest points and souvenir generation CITATION DeC09 l 2057 (De Carolis, Novielli, Plantamura, ; Gentile, 2009), CITATION Dur11 l 2057 (Durrant, et al., 2011). These tools and approaches are a handful of design techniques in the digital tourism domain.
In conclusion, digital tourism may be about being creative and easily accessible, responding to clients quickly and being present on online media, but paying too much attention to technology should not affect the attention that visitors and guests deserve on they reach their destinations CITATION Car17 l 2057 (Caraivan, 2017).
Social media (SM) or social networking sites generally refer to web applications that allow for the user to post and share content. Common social media applications include: Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare, Flickr. Some authors have attempted to classify social media into six types: social networking sites, blogs, virtual social worlds, collaborative projects, content communities, and virtual game worlds CITATION Kap10 l 2057 (Kaplan ; Haenlein, 2010). Social networking media includes a wide range of applications including media, content syndication, tagging, blogging, web forums, customer ratings, evaluation systems, virtual worlds, podcasting, and online videos CITATION Xia10 l 2057 (Xiang ; Gretzel, 2010). A survey of 1,000 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s students was conducted to determine whether generation Y is the main audience of the social media marketing, and to find the relation between the respondents’ involvement in social media marketing and changes in their buying decisions. The study finds that social media marketing effectiveness is highly influenced by its messages/contents quality, the company’s involvement, and its association with the other marketing platforms CITATION Pra11 l 2057 (Pradiptarini, 2011).
Social media and search engines have become the major mean to find tourism related information on the web CITATION Xia10 l 2057 (Xiang & Gretzel, 2010). Social media is, all things considered, the Web 2.0 phenomena embodied in the form of applications, services and communities, and is gradually changing how society communicates, consumes and contributes to the creation and distribution of information. The online world has become more dynamic thanks to prosumers (Bandulet & Morasch, 2005; Hao, Wei, & Wenjing, 2008; Toffler, 1980), which have no desired recollection with the web of the past in which the information published was static and interaction with other users and/or producers of information barely existed. Social media thus conceives the web as a media that enables multidirectional communication and empowers users to contribute in a collaborative or non-collaborative way, overcoming the traditional time-related or geographical barriers (Carvalho & Raposo, 2012). Tourism has also followed this trend and has also moved into a 2.0 version.
Social media websites allow consumers to post and share their comments, opinions and personal experiences related to travel that will provide information to others CITATION The07 l 2057 (Thevenot, 2007). Potential tourists obtain information from different sources and learn from the experiences of others and, while doing so, make decisions and changes in relation to their own travel experience. This supports Friedman’s theory that “the world is flat” and consumers are gaining power in determining the production and distribution of information due to the increasing easiness to Internet access (Friedman, 2007). Also, Thevenot (2007) corroborates this theory by stating that, since social media is gaining popularity, users gain the power to influence, while organizations and their marketing departments are gradually losing influence in the process. In fact, the shift from the previously mentioned Web 1.0 to a Web 2.0 reality put the user in the driving seat leaving organizations to play an unexpected role (Schegg, Liebrich, Scaglione, ; Ahmad, 2008). This is also true in the tourism context, where institutions and companies no longer have control over the picture painted about their destination or product CITATION Hay13 l 2057 (Hays, Page, ; Buhalis, 2013). That picture is now a collective work of art, with colours, outlines and intensity that may vary over time and that may be perceived in a different light according to who is looking at it.
In short, the adoption of practices of using social media in tourism is fundamental (Gretzel, Yuan, ; Fesenmaier, 2000; Hjalager, 2010; Ruzic ; Bilos, 2010; Schegg et al., 2008). However, without a solid understanding of the role played by social media in the process of finding online information by tourists, it is not possible for organizations to leverage this strategic knowledge and use it to their benefit.
DESTINATION MARKETING ORGANISATION (DMO)
A Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) is any organisation, at any level, which is responsible for the marketing of an identifiable destination. This therefore excludes separate government departments that are responsible for planning and policy (Pike, 2004). In the context of rapidly growing global tourism and ever more regions trying to attract important income from tourism, co-ordinated marketing efforts at the destination level are even more critical than ever before. Most destinations rely on destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to design and implement marketing strategies to overcome fragmentation and inefficiencies in the tourism industry CITATION Mor13 l 2057 (Morrison, 2013). These DMOs are the curators of destination-relevant information and the custodians of often very powerful brands. They are storytellers that weave pieces of information together and megaphones that amplify messages the tourism industry seeks to spread in order to attract customers. Most DMOs follow a broad market approach by trying to attract many types of tourists and by promoting diverse travel experiences in their respective regions. Some DMOs, however, focus their marketing effort solely on a specific market segment or promote only a certain type of special-interest tourism CITATION Kal09 l 2057 (Kalogera ; Koutoulas, 2009).
The emergence of new tourism destinations, the change in the motivations and preferences of tourists, and the intense competition in a rapidly and radically changing global environment, have forced destinations to seek more innovative marketing strategies in order to gain a competitive advantage. Moreover, Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) are under increasing pressure to demonstrate cost effectiveness and evidence the additional value which accrues from their marketing interventions. This pressure is exacerbated further by the continuing global economic crisis, its impact on their public spending resource allocation, and the subsequent drive for value-for-money. If DMOs cannot demonstrate this added value, they will face further budget reductions and the curtailment of their activities (Morgan et al., 2012).
On the other hand, destination marketing practices are greatly influenced by advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) due to the fragmented and information intensive nature of destination products (Cobos et al., 2009). Online information is now a primary influence on consumer decisions in nearly all major markets. Technological changes also impact on the way that destinations manage and market themselves. ICTs have changed the tourism industry in an unprecedented way, and to a degree that has not been seen in any other sector (WTO and ETC, 2008).
In addition, one significant development in the ICTs are social media, which gain prominence as an element of DMOs marketing strategy, offering them the opportunity to reach a global audience with limited resources CITATION Hay13 l 2057 (Hays, Page, ; Buhalis, 2013). In fact, the emergence of Web 2.0 and social media – two popular buzzwords today (Leung, Law, van Hoof, ; Buhalis, 2013) has resulted in an explosive increase of not only travel-related content, but also applications and technology for effective destination marketing (Lee and Wicks, 2010; Sigala, 2009). In a marketplace where consumers become more demanding, distribution is more transparent and supply is increasingly competitive, keeping pace with the challenges will determine destinations’ competitive positioning (WTO and ETC, 2008)
PROPOSED RESEARCH METHODOLOGYPopulation
This study will be a quantitative study and therefore the population of this study will be all the destination marketing organisations (DMOs) in Ghana. With regards to the tourism industry, these destination marketing organisations (DMOs) are responsible for marketing tourist site attractions and tourism as a whole in Ghana. As of January 2018, Ghana had a population of over 20 destination marketing organisations which were actively engaging both inbound and outbound tourists for purposes of promoting tourism in the country.
Out of the population, a total sample of 5 DMOs will be selected using convenience sampling for this study. The sample size will be selected based on social media activity. This is also to help collect comprehensive data which is best fit for the study. Convenience sampling is a non-probability sampling technique that attempts to obtain a sample of convenient elements. The selection of sampling units is left primarily to the interviewer. The convenience sampling technique will be used because sampling units are accessible, easy to measure and cooperative.
The basic instrument for data collection to be used will be a survey. In a survey, data can be collected in a short period of time and in a relatively cost-effective way. The survey will be divided into four parts: The collection of general information such as age, gender, educational level, occupation etc.
•An investigation of the extent to which tourist site campaigns are more effective in tourism by DMOS in Ghana.
•An investigation into which social media platforms are more engaging for DMOS.
•Additional comments and feedback.
The survey will be distributed amongst individuals following the DMOS on the various social media platforms and have interest in travelling both locally and internationally to tourist sites in Ghana. It will be done mainly online using Google forms by publishing the link on the various social media platforms.
The basic instrument for data collection to be used will be a survey. The survey will be distributed amongst individuals following the DMOS on the various social media platforms and have interest in travelling both locally and internationally to tourist sites in Ghana. It will be done mainly online using Google forms by publishing the link on the various social media platforms.
Analyses of Data
Social media analytics is the practice of gathering data from social media websites and analysing that data using social media analytics tools to make business decisions. The most common use of social media analytics is to mine customer sentiment to support marketing and customer service activities CITATION Rou18 l 2057 (Rouse, 2018). Social media analytical tools will be used to analyse the effectiveness of the various social media platforms by DMOs.
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