Monthly Archives: September 2022

Interactive engagement through travel and tourism social media groups

This an an excerpt from one of my latest article that was published through Technology in Society (An Elsevier Journal).

Credit: Joel Saget / AFP

Suggested Citation: Camilleri, M.A. & Kozak, M. (2022). Interactive engagement through travel and tourism social media groups: A social facilitation theory perspective. Technology in Societyhttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2022.102098

This study builds on previous academic knowledge on the acceptance and use of social media groups. It relied on valid constructs that were drawn from the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) and Theory of Acceptance Model (TAM), as the proposed research model comprised “attitudes toward technology” and “behavioral intentions” constructs. However, it integrated them with perceived interactivity constructs, including “real-time conversation” and “engaging” as well as with “content attractiveness” from Electronic Retail Quality (eTailQ).

This empirical investigation clarifies that the content attractiveness of social media posts as well as their engaging content and real-time conversation capabilities, can have significant effects on social facilitation behaviors of individuals, and on their intentions to revisit social media groups. The findings from this study reiterate the importance of continuously creating relevant content that appeals to social media followers.

Previous research posited that online users should keep their followers engaged through rich media ([77]). Other theoretical underpinnings reported that interactive websites, particularly social media and video sharing platforms, can offer great potential to DMOs to promote tourism and hospitality services ([88]).  Internet domains can showcase a wide array of high-res images and video clips to lure online users to book their travel itineraries to visit destinations ([90]). The digital media and mobile applications (app) ought to be as functional and responsive as possible ([99]). They should load quickly without delays to reduce the likelihood of dissatisfied visitors, who can easily switch to another website or app ([74]).

In this case, the results suggest that there are very significant effects between the online users’ perceptions about engaging content and their intentional behaviors to check out the social media pages (on a regular basis); and between their perceptions about engaging content and their social facilitation dispositions to communicate about social media groups through online and offline channels, in the presence of others. The respondents are appreciating the attractive content, including images or videos, that are disseminated through the social media groups’ posts. Moreover, the findings indicate that they hold positive perceptions about the co-creation of user generated content. Evidently, the exchange of information as well as the responsiveness between two or more online users was leading them to revisit the social media groups.

This study is consistent with the relevant literature that sought to explore the online users’ perceptions about the websites’ interactivity features ([30], [34]). Other researchers maintained that real-time conversations had a positive effect on the online users’ attitudes toward engaging websites ([84]). In this case, this argumentation holds for social media groups, as well.

This contribution underlines the importance of posting engaging content including appealing images and videos through social media. It clearly indicates that interactive content as well as the social networks’ real-time conversation capabilities can foster positive social facilitation behaviors. Arguably, individuals are interested and intrigued to interact with other online users through popular social media groups in the presence of other members. They are likely to join in online discussions and conversations in prolific social media groups, particularly in those that are regularly disseminating attractive content, and in those that facilitate interactive engagement among their members.

The cocreation of user generated content in social media, blogs and review sites is driven by online audiences. This study confirms that the relevance and attractiveness of social media content can have a positive effect on triggering real-time conversations as well as on social facilitation. This reasoning is consistent with the social facilitation theory ([33],[40],[60],[61]). This research corroborates that while the presence of other individuals can increase the likelihood of social engagement, a passive audience may inhibit them from sharing their comments about the attractiveness of interactive content.

The findings of this research also yield plausible implications to practitioners. The researchers indicate that social media subscribers are attracted by the online content that is being posted by DMOs and travel marketers. Online users and prospective travelers are increasingly browsing through interactive content including images and videos of travel destinations. The social media groups are offering a variety of multimedia content that is appealing to online users. Very often, they allow their followers to engage in two-way communications, as members can comment on posts and may also interact with other online users, in real-time. This study suggests that the research participants are visiting the social media groups as they considered them as helpful for their decision making, prior to booking their travel itineraries. Apparently, they were intrigued to revisit these groups and were likely to communicate about their content with other people through offline and online channels, as it appealed to them and captured their attention.

Therefore, travel marketers ought to focus on publishing quality content. This increases the chances of their engagement. Prospective travelers are attracted by multi-media features including high-res images with zooming effects and video content; that are adapted for mobile technologies, including tablets and smartphone devices. Travel marketers and DMOs ought to curate their social media group(s) with appealing content to raise awareness about their tourism products. It is in their interest to share relevant and attractive material to increase the number of followers and their engagement. More importantly, they are expected to interact with online users, in a timely manner, to turn them into brand advocates and to encourage social facilitation behaviors.

In sum, this empirical research clarifies that the attractiveness of online content of social media groups, including their images and videos of destinations, as well as their interactive and real-time conversation capabilities are affecting their subscribers’ revisit intentions. They are also influencing their social facilitation behaviors – in the presence of others. This study raises awareness on the importance of sharing engaging content and of encouraging interactive discussions among social media subscribers. The researchers contend that content creators can lure individuals to visit and revisit their social media pages/groups to generate leads and conversions. Arguably, the more engagement (e.g. through emojis and shares) and conversations (e.g. comments), the greater the chances of captivating the attention of existing followers and of enticing the curiosity of new ones. For the time being, the social facilitation paradigm is still relatively under-explored in academia, particularly within the travel and tourism marketing literature.

Future researchers are encouraged replicate this study in different contexts. They may adapt the measures that were used in this research, including engaging content, real time conversation and social facilitation constructs, in addition to other popular constructs that are drawn from TRA, TPB and TAM. They may include other constructs in their research models, including those relating to psychological theories that can clarify their motivations to engage with other individuals through such digital channels. Further research could focus on the demographic backgrounds of their respondents to better understand who, why, when and where they are engaging with other users through social media groups. Perhaps, there is scope for other studies to employ different sampling frames and methodologies, including inductive ones, to explore this topic in more depth and breadth.

The full list of references are available in the full article. You can download a prepublication version here: 362888940_Interactive_engagement_through_travel_and_tourism_social_media_groups_A_social_facilitation_theory_perspective

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