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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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Top social media platforms

Image by Sara Kurfeß

Many online users have subscribed to different social media, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, among others for different reasons. Individuals and groups use them to publish their ideas in writing, images or videos. They also enable them to share hyperlinks to articles, pictures and videos. There are social media users who like to follow the updates of their friends, colleagues, acquaintances or individuals who share their interests. Very often, the news is broadcast through social networks and is disseminated in a viral manner through the social media users’ likes or shares before it is covered by the traditional media like television and newspapers. Online users may be intrigued to use the social media create their social network, or to join virtual communities. They may do so to connect with other individuals who shared their interests and values. Many online users have subscribed to different social media, including Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter and Linkedin, among others for different reasons.

Currently, Facebook has 2.45 billion users. Other popular social media networks include Instagram (1 billion users), Reddit (430 million users), Snapchat (360 million users), Twitter (330 million users), Pinterest (322 million users) and Linkedin (310 million users).

Individuals and groups use these social media to publish their ideas in writing, images or videos. They also enable them to share hyperlinks to articles, pictures and videos. There are social media users who like to follow the updates of their friends, colleagues, acquaintances or individuals who share their interests. Very often, the news is broadcast through social networks and is disseminated in a viral manner through the social media users’ likes or shares before it is covered by the traditional media like television and newspapers. Online users may be intrigued to use the social media create their social network, or to join virtual communities. They may do so to connect with other individuals who shared their interests or values.

Facebook is used by various organisations, including businesses to engage with its users. For example, different businesses are creating interactive pages and groups to disseminate information about their products and services. They utilise Facebook Messenger, or live videos to enhance their communications. Facebook is also used by academics to enhance the visibility of their publications and to raise awareness about the findings from their research. However, individuals use this medium to keep in touch with friends, colleagues, classmates, former classmates, former co-workers, and with other individuals who may share similar interests.

Like Facebook, other social media, including Twitter can be used to target large audiences and communities. Twitter is a platform that is based on topical content. Generally, its users are encouraged to use keywords and hashtags on particular topics, in particular locations. Twitter is restricted with a 280-character limit. Therefore, its subscribers have to post short, focused messages with relevant content that appeals to their followers. Moreover, they are expected to dedicate time to look after their account as they need to respond to their followers to avoid negative criticism. However, it allows direct, two-way communications among subscribers. Hence, it can be used to engage in interactive conversations with other users. Other digital networks include Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.  Instagram and Pinterest are focused on the dissemination of images and visual content. Like Instagram, Snapchat also features videos and user-generated content and may include influencer marketing material. On the other hand, Reddit appeals to more than 150,000 communities and niches, who share similar interests on various topics.

The usage of social media has radically influenced the style of communication and the dissemination of knowledge and information. Platforms can be personalised, self-managed and interconnected as they can blend written content with images, videos and hyperlinks. This disruptive innovation has led individuals from different demographic segments in society, to refine their digital and communication skills. It is obvious that social media has impacted our way of thinking, talking and even our social lives.

This is an excerpt from one of my latest working papers entitled; “The impact of social media and fake news on socio-political contexts”.

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Corporate Social Responsibility Communications through Digital Media

 reporting

Companies are increasingly focusing their attention on integrated marketing approaches toward different stakeholders24. Many of them are becoming knowledgeable in using social media channels to protect their reputation from bad publicity and misinformation. Their content strategists and inbound marketers who care about customers are realising that they have to continuously come up with fresh, engaging content with a growing number of quality links.

Businesses need to make sure that their corporate websites offer relevant content for different search engines. Consistent high quality content ought to be meaningful and purposeful for target audiences25. Consumers and other stakeholders expect informative yet interesting content through digital channels, including blogs, podcasts, social media networking and e-newsletters. Such content marketing approaches bring customer loyalty26, particularly if the businesses deliver ongoing value propositions to promising prospects on their website27. Very often, they offer insightful stories to customers28 or inspire them with sustainable ideas and innovations29. Corporate web sites could even contain the latest news, elements of the marketing-mix endeavours as well as digital marketing fads.

Social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics30. These networks may help business communicators and marketers identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have also learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content  (Some of the most popular hashtags on the subject, comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions and green non-governmental organisations. They may also help during fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

The ubiquity of Facebook and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. These social media channels empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.

Moreover, LinkedIn is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. Evidently, these innovative avenues provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet31. YouTube, Vimeo and Vine seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate CSR communication through video content. These digital media also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

This is an excerpt from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299349607_Unlocking_Corporate_Social_Responsibility_Communication_through_Digital_Media

References

24. Camilleri, M.A. “Unleashing Shared Value Through Content Marketing.” Triple Pundit, 10th February 2014. http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/02/unleashing-shared-value-content-marketing/
25. Camilleri, M.A. “A Search Engine Optimization Strategy for Content Marketing Success.” Social Media Today 28th May, 2014. http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/search-engine-optimization-strategy-content-marketing-success
26. Lindgreen, Adam. “The design, implementation and monitoring of a CRM programme: a case study.” Marketing Intelligence & Planning 22, no. 2 (2004): 160-186.
27. Andersen, Poul Houman. “Relationship marketing and brand involvement of professionals through web-enhanced brand communities: The case of Coloplast.” Industrial marketing management 34, no. 1 (2005): 39-51.
28. Pulizzi, Joe. “The rise of storytelling as the new marketing.” Publishing research quarterly 28, no. 2 (2012): 116-123.
29. Lozano, Rodrigo, Francisco J. Lozano, Karel Mulder, Donald Huisingh, and Tom Waas. “Advancing higher education for sustainable development: international insights and critical reflections.” Journal of Cleaner Production 48 (2013): 3-9.
30. Small, Tamara A. “What the hashtag? A content analysis of Canadian politics on Twitter.” Information, Communication & Society 14, no. 6 (2011): 872-895.

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