Role of Public Relations and Social Media in Destination Marketing.
Tourism economy has reached new heights in the age of social media due to extensive Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and even Snapchat posts and stories. It has the power to influence the publics and their minds and help bring a change. Destination marketing focuses on increasing the commercial and heritage importance of a historical monument, cafe´ or something as common as a public library. Tourism industry has started incorporating the method of destination marketing with a branch of public relations as an aid to attract tourists and generate more revenue. Destination marketing, with the help of social media and public relations also helps in creating awareness and addresses concerns which include risk and maintenance related problems with tourist destinations. Public relations is slowly becoming a core function of destination marketing as it helps in improving the communication between the tourists and the organization responsible for the said destination. The purpose of this paper is to understand how public relations influences publics by using social media method for destination marketing. The main areas included in the study are:
1. Effect of Social Media in Destination Marketing – content analysis of social media posts.
2. The after effects of the tourism industry after it incorporated the social media platform and public relations in their industry.
Keywords: Tourism economy, destination marketing, social media, communication
The internet has been one of the most profound inventions of the last century. Over the decades, the internet has incorporated and combined the features of existing media with new features such as interlinked activities and the ability of a digital device to respond individually on multiple platforms. This has increased venues for doing business online.
Since the initiation of internet usage, tourism planning has always been one of the major reasons the people use the internet. The conception and approachability of the internet has vitally changed how travelers access information and the way they research, plan and book trips. The experiences are also shared along the way.
One major contribution to the internet age has been social media. The social media platforms give the liberty and power to its users to collaborate, communicate and post their original content.
Social media, the global media network that connects us all, has become a modus operandi of the 21st century and has determined an unprecedented growth in human interaction in modern times. (1)
It literally translates to the mode of operation that is taken by all the users.
Social media has multiple terms that are used in an exchangeable manner as there is no definite statements to make up a definition. Terms include social media, user-generated content (UGC), consumer generated media (CGM), online social networks (OSN), social networking sites (SNS), Web 2.0 and Travel 2.0. Social media generally refers to web applications that allow for the user to post and share content. (2)
Keywords: consumer generated content, social networking sites, global media network, internet.
Social media has slowly turned into a platform to showcase travel destinations and promote various offers and packages. This development in the use of social media has increased the scope of the field of “Destination Marketing”. The number of people is increasing when it comes to turning to traditional social media platforms to book their next vacation. Marketing activities in places of tourism enables the acceleration of increase in importance of the elements that make up a tourist spot. Various tactics are applied in order to attract tourists and help them make complete use of the tourist spot.
As social media becomes the primary medium by way of which travel information is shared, Destination Marketing Organizations must meet the needs of travelers by providing value-added information and services that differentiate themselves from travel agencies and other tourism portals. Knowledge of the travel destination is acquired through social interaction, in addition to traditional market-generated materials and web sites – including Destination Marketing Organizations. Consumers can demand what they want from tourism destinations: their expectations are higher and subsequently they are much more difficult to impress. Listening and engaging travelers are now critical to DMO success. (2)
In this framework, the strategic nature of decision-making requires constant flexibility – both behavioral and technological, to meet up with the standards of destination marketing.
Keywords: social media platforms, tourism, strategic nature, travel information
Social Media in Tourism Industry:
The involvement of social media usage in destination marketing and Destination Marketing Organisations started after the development of Web 2.0 which started incorporating the medium of social media and Travel 2.0 which used the same behavior as Web 2.0.
Social Media is not just a trend anymore. It is used and practiced by the majority of the tourist industry and hospitality practitioners. It is now seen as a form of art for the development of the industry. It is also now seen as a persuasive communication tool to gather more customers and increase the company's revenue and profits alongside.
User-Generated Content (UGC) was rapidly incorporated in the industry and was found to be an effective way to build an engaged and authentic communicative path with the targeted audiences. This was done as to reach out to people across the popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, at times Twitter as well.
The industry has also started involving influencers and famous people in their routine. They have started incorporating the use of content that is generated by these influencers such as videos, blogs and podcasts who are travel or non-travel oriented. This has been done in order to reach out to the fan base and the communities that were formed by the influencers or bloggers.
Since it is the age of the millennials, Destination Marketing Organisations have also started using social media lingo such as hashtags to attract and promote more users to visit the links to travel blogs and websites. The end result that is desired by the companies is the content for tourism spots to go ‘viral' so that there is more virtual footfall on their websites.
Keywords: destination marketing organisations, communicative path, social media lingo
How social media helped Destination Marketing Organisations:
The tourism industry has spread out on the social media platforms. This increased the visibility of the tourist spots all over the media. This helped the industry as more tourists and general vacationers started viewing these posts more often than before. This increased the research done by the tourists for planning and booking vacations.
People have started posting their vacation pictures and experiences since the conception of social media as it helps them gain attention. This has caused a significant rise in sharing experiences. Companies saw this as an opportunity and encouraged the people to post on the pages that were created by them. This increased the number of followers or “fans” on pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This led to more people getting to know about the tourist spots by seeing these posts and using the hashtags linked with the posts.
Since a lot of people have started using social platforms to get in touch with the companies, the companies have changed their customer service structure. A new branch of customer service has been incorporated to handle the deals, communication, registers and complaints. This system is now used on social media platforms for the convenience of the customers.
Earlier, all the travel agencies required the customers to physically walk in the offices to plan and book their vacations without having no prior knowledge of where they want to travel to. These days, all the details of multiple vacations spots are available on sites like Facebook. Price listings, vacation details, facts about the tourism places and FAQs, everything is provided for the convenience of the customers. This has pushed the travel agency to go digital.
There has always been a trend of providing loyalty programs to the customers. E-mails, notifications on social media are sent to the customers containing information about certain tourism places depending on their history and preferences. Local and international content is displayed for the customers. Loyalty programs or deals include discounts or prizes to customers who constantly travel with the same companies. Since the age of digitalization, companies have started with online competitions, offers and deals which include activities such as “Upload a picture to win a certain prize”. This has helped the agencies to retain their existing customers and also to attract more customers.
Keywords: vacation, customer service, social media
How public relations is used in destination marketing:
Tourism industry has started using public relations as a tool along with social media to increase awareness about the destinations. Public relations help increase the reputation of the destinations and also helps in building the brand standing of the destinations which are still being discovered or established. Having a professional public relations practitioner or officer helps the company in reaching out to new communities. This increases the number of bookings that are made by the consumers. It also acts as an aid to retain their existing customers. It helps in knowing the customer's needs, wants and also their intent.
Destination Marketing Organisations take the help of public relations in order to create campaigns and help in implement them.
Campaign ideas such as special visits, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), awareness campaigns related to maintenance and the safeguarding destinations are implemented.
To attract customers on the internet, pictures clicked by professional photographers are uploaded. These pictures influence the possible customers to click on the links to the destination packages.
Influencers and famous people are also invited to be a part of these campaigns. Companies are still building their image and reputation with the help of PR by creating innovative online brochures an advertisements. Compared to marketing, public relations has proved to be quite inexpensive.
Due to the dynamic growth in the technology in the last decade, people have shifted to “buying” their vacations on the internet. In the daily lives, people are shown visuals of destinations that seem tempting.
All of these processes are proudly presented by the companies on their websites as well as their pages on different social media platforms mainly Facebook and Twitter. The customers take interest in these happenings and the impression that is created by the companies on the customers help them in gaining potential consumers as well, thus increasing their profits.
Public relations has helped the entire tourism system into generating an effective public communication path for the industry. The communication is the main focus for the industry as it helps them develop a clearer path for their users to get in touch with the employees of the companies. It has also helped a lot of organisations break a lot of barriers associated with effective communication with the travellers. Public relations gave them an insight on how to engage the customers and gain their loyalty and interest and how they could keep on booking with the same company.
Keywords: public relations, tourism, effective public communication, loyalty
Since the conception of the internet, the pattern of information flow has dynamically changed. Information can be passed around search engines, social media platforms with ease. The development has helped the growth of the tourism industry as the internet has restructured the pattern of how the data that is to be communicated is distributed and understood by the potential customers (Buhalis and Law, 2008).
The age of blog posting, content on Wikipedia, virtual “families”, tagging and collaborating with peers or friends has inspired the idea of generating consumer created content and posting it on various social media platforms. This has popularised the social platforms that are used by travellers (Gretzel, 2006, pan et al., 2007).
Even though the usage of internet for the tourism industry has shot up, there is not enough theories or ideas to describe the practice based around the ideas of using social media in the online searches in the tourism industry domain. However, the social media that facilitates these communications between the companies and the consumers has developed as an important aspect in the tourism industry (Zheng Xiang, Ulrike Gretzel, 2010). Products, brands, services and issues now are circulated online. These new sources of information are circulated throughout the social media platforms. These sources are introduced and created and are later distributed on social media (Blackshaw and Nazzaro, 2006). In this generation, more travellers are attracted to the usage of these social media sites that showcase the content that is generated by the companies (Litvin, Goldsmith and Pan, 2008).
The effect of social media has taken an emotional turn in these past decades. The content that is created by the consumers which is known as Consumer Generated Content (CGC) is a combination of facts and opinions that is voiced by the consumers. It also showcases impressions and emotional background of the experience of the consumer (Blackshaw and Nazzaro, 2006:4).
There has also been research in the socio-psychological approach of social media in the tourism industry. The biggest competition marketers face is the social media industry. The social media platforms, using personal references display the most relevant data to the users across different social media. This influences consideration, understanding, provisional and allegiance levels.
The stories, blogs and content that are generated by the customers and are posted on the social media. This content which is created has a link to the vacation spots and the companies that have provided the packages to the travellers. The stories that are created by the travellers or consumers are further assessed by the Destination Marketing Organisations. The organisations engage with these travellers and their content and all the related content on social media. The Destination Marketing Organisations can further collaborate with this generation of travellers as the technology of networking and social media is already incorporated in their systems which helps them know when their content is being talked about. The social networking software is integrated is seeded in nearly all their workings. It is also a central part of the experiences the companies gain throughout the entire process.
There are chances where the customers who have purchased a package from the companies are not as active or social media users. So this method that is used to gain information from the users is only restricted only to the social media users (Leask, Fyall and Barron, 2014).
According to Digital Tourism Think Tank, 2013, the tourism industry has now developed to be the most consumable product in the market. It is the most visible and sought-after industry to approach. Additionally, after the method of social media usage has been incorporated in this field, it makes the branding and destination marketing of tourism places more subjected in the social media discussions, which includes both industry-penetrating workings as well as the content that is posted by the users.
There was a research which was conducted regarding how reliable travellers are reliable on social media for getting information about destinations. The study shows that around 93% of the travellers take inspiration from the reviews and are influenced by the content that is published. In link with this study, around 80% of the travellers have a conversation with the members of their social networking communities to take suggestions and recommendations who have been on that specific vacation before booking the said vacation (Digital Tourism Think Tank, 2013).
In correlation to this, online stories do have a substantial effect on the potential travellers and are also targeted towards possible future travellers and site visitors who search about the content without any bias (Martin, Woodside and Dehaung, 2007). For Destination Marketing Organisations, it is a must for them to analyse and work on the stories that are submitted by the holidaymakers (Woodside, Cruickshank and Dehaung, 2007). Social media has definitely become the key aspect for DMO's branding tactics (Hays, Page and Buhalis, 2013).
The most effective way to attract customers is to create a storyline or a game where the customers take part and the experiences can be shared between the companies and the customers (Kaplan, 2012).
For this research, to understand the working of social media and public relations, the researcher has opted to do qualitative research. The research includes the development of social media in the tourism industry with the help of academic journals and articles which talk about both technological and responsive approaches of social media.
Social media has been a huge part of the tourism industry since the conception of Travel 2.0. It has not only helped the social media users to find more tourism spots but also has helped the Destination Marketing Organisations to gain insight into what the customers need from them and how to provide them with what they want. It has developed into a field where communicating with the public in an effective way resulting in high profits for the company and gaining experiences for the travellers.
Limitations are as follows:
1. Majority of the papers that were published even remotely related to public relations included marketing more than the area of public relations.
2. Not enough relevant statistics were available to show the progress of social media in the industry throughout the years.
(1) “The Social Destination”: How Social Media Influences the Organisational Structure and Leadership of DMOs. - Mihaela Jucan, Cornel Jucan, and Ilie Rotariu
(2) Social media as a tool of destination marketing organizations - Jovan Popesku, Singidunum University, Serbia
(3) “The Social Destination”: How Social Media Influences the Organisational Structure and Leadership of DMOs. - Mihaela Jucan, Cornel Jucan, and Ilie Rotariu
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