An examination of social media as a customer engagement tool for visitor attractions
Mohan, Arya Presanna
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Since its development, social media has been a constantly changing phenomenon. Social media, in simple terms can be defined as an online platform that facilitates online communication, networking, and/or collaboration. The recognition by marketers that they should regain some control over the customer-controlled social media space has prompted many businesses to invest in their social media presence. Social media has an immense significance in an ‘information-intensive’ industry such as tourism as it allows for the revision and implementation of their business models and operations. Social media could be used as a powerful marketing tool when it comes to customer engagement in tourism, given the opportunities presented by these media to facilitate close relationships with tourists. By adopting a customer engagement model proposed by Sashi (2011) and applying it to social media marketing within the tourism industry, this paper seeks to evaluate how social media could be a marketing tool for Irish tourism providers. By doing so, ultimately this research hopes to create a clear understanding of the degree and nature of interaction between Irish tourism providers and customers in social media platforms. This study adopts an inductive approach seeking to explore the nature and degree of the usage of social media among a selected sample of Irish tourist providers. The research utilises the concurrent triangulation method under mixed methodology to examine in what ways, and for what purposes, Irish tourist providers are employing social media as a marketing tool in their customer engagement process. The research approach of this study is qualitative in the form of semi-structured interview and analysis of social media content and quantitative in the form of content analysis including social media analytics. An appropriate sampling frame for the study was identified and a small purposeful sample of five tourism providers from visitors’ attraction points were selected. The research findings supported the research objective of this study, that social media can be utilised as a customer engagement tool for visitor attractions. This study also showed that visitor attractions have made significant progress towards understanding the existing social media features and are evolving their customer engagement activities alongside new technological developments. Drawing on these research findings, clear and practical guidance is offered to Irish tourist providers that are seeking to actively incorporate social media in their customer engagement activities. This study has undertaken an in-depth analysis of each stage of the customer engagement cycle in order to establish a clear indication of the role of social media in the customer engagement activities of Irish tourist providers. Thus, this research could play a crucial role in filling the existing research gap and educating tourist providers in how they can reap the benefits of social media to further facilitate the sectors growth and improve customer engagement.
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