role-of-social-media-in-hospitality-industry

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Role of Social Media in Hospitality Industry: How do
Online Reviews Influence Consumer’s Decision on Restaurants or Hotels

Introduction

Hospitality industry is one among those industries,
where viral marketing approach facilitates more strategic influence than that
of any other mean. We, as a customer, generally have great belief on the
feedbacks of the other users of specific services than that of benefits
proclaimed by the service providers. An experience of actual customer provides
high affirmation of the service quality and exerts higher impact on the actual
decision making process. A typical customer, who is unaware of the quality and value
of products and services, but willing to try the services starts looking for
user feedbacks or review about a product or service providers. In such
scenarios, the feedback and reviews starts acting as a decision influencers and
relative significance of such reviews gets enhanced at that time.

In
present scenario, where social media and virtual community platforms have
started creating a virtual world, where people are in close connection or part
of wide network, any information which passes through it gets transmitted to
wide range of people almost instantaneously.
As the social media networks facilitates much faster and superior
sharing of information than that of any other mean, thus role of social media,
in promotion of hospitality or any other business, can be considered as matter
of critical business perspective. (Todman, 2012) Through, use of the social
media sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc, hospitality industry can interact with
customers and potential target communities, either before, during or after the
vocational trips or use of restaurants and hotels services.

Social
Media is relatively new but possess abundant advantages, such as affordability,
viral influence and potential to spread information or brand awareness as
quickly and as far as possible, which develops linkage with customer, creates
awareness and massive traffic for the service. (Lim, 2010) Although, it has
been acknowledged and verified by various researchers and scholars that social
media has high potential of spreading information and brand awareness, but some
of the authors have also projected doubt about its ability for making positive
influence over the brand visibility and brand image.

In
context of that certain authors and scholars have propounded that use of social
media may be effective in customer listening and data analytics purpose, which
can help in improvement of the customer satisfaction and quality of service,
but if it will be used for managing reputation then it may not appear as
advantageous, as any negative review will turn up the strategy of reputation
management to damage control. (Barsky and Waite, 2012) This specific
generalization of social media concept, with reference to its applicability in
hospitality industry, creates a new scope of evaluation of the relative
importance of social media in business perspective of Hospitality industry.

Considering
the varied opinion of the people regarding the influence of social media on
business growth prospects of the hospitality industry, it seems obvious to
perform exploratory research on this subject and derive meaningful outcome. In
context of the differing aspects of influence of social media on consumer
behavior, the paper would attempt to find answer of the question that how much
effective are the online reviews in influencing the decision of customers? and
do online reviews project actual specification of the hotel, restaurant or any
hospitality industry part?

Literature Review

It cannot be denied that social media is
taking an important place in social and personal life of human being,
especially in terms of information sharing and getting updates of the current
affairs and events. As the time of actual social interaction gets limited
because of tightly scheduled professional and personal life, thus current age
population started moving towards virtual methods of social interactions. In
that trend, the massive influence has been made by some of the social media
sites and mobile applications, which are dedicatedly designed to provide
seamless connection and unlimited information sharing opportunities to the
people.

Corporate world has
identified the extreme potential of these social media platforms and made
rigorous attempts to utilize the core benefits of its network in promotion and
expansion of their business reach. The business of hospitality industry (hotels
and restaurants) has high influence of the words-of-mouth promotions and viral
information sharing to promote the business around the target markets. In that
context social media tools facilitates an advantageous alterative to the
hospitality industry, where quick and reliable sharing of information,
authentic feedbacks and interactive communications can be achieved with much of
ease and customers may get benefitted of that by using them in their decision
making process. (Lim, 2010) It has been further propounded by the Lim (2010) in
its researches that social media tools offer various strategic advantages to
the hospitality industry, such as linkage with customers, higher brand
awareness, review on the products and services and massive traffic for service
provider, which are the basic decision influencer for customers.

It has been further
supported by the Withiam (2013) in his studies, which projects that social
media has great potential in awareness creation, as guests are usually willing
to share their experiences in form of reviews, likes and dislikes, which can be
easily converted in insightful information by using appropriate analytic
methods. These reviews plays critical roles in stimulating the though process
and final decision making that whether such services should be used or not, or
at least may give a try or not. In order to develop comprehensive customer
engagement plan it is advisable to utilize all social media tools like
Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, etc to cover every aspects of customer
engagement. (Withiam, 2013)

Further
researches in this domain have facilitated insight that there exist abundant
advantages of the social media, such as cost efficiency, interactive direct
communication with customer, brand awareness, and also act as verbal evidence
which induce people to believe the facts when they confront with commercial
advertisement. (Hailey, 2010) Realization of such benefits has induced hotel
and restaurant owners to utilize the social media network to promote their
business and adopt customer analytics to generate understanding about the
customer’s preferences and satisfaction.

Although,
most of the authors and scholars have generated insight that use of social
media in business endeavors exerts positive influence over the promotional and
brand awareness aspects of the hospitality industry, but some of the authors
have differing viewpoint on this. As
Barsky and Waite (2012) has projected through their analytical research outcome
that use of social media may be effective in aspects of customer listening or
customer feedback analytics purpose, but certainly not going to help if being
utilized for the objective of reputation management.

The prime reason, of such opposing
opinion, has been given to relatively high rate of negative reviews, which
constitutes more deteriorating effect than that of any reputation building
outcome. (Barsky and Waite, 2012) As a result of that the whole sole reputation
management efforts get transformed into damage control activities. It has been
validated from the collected data that guests who experiences problems are
three times more responsive or likely to write reviews, than that of a
satisfied guest, which may cause inverse influence over other customer’s
decisions and reputation building efforts of service provider. Also as most of
the online review sites post the user comments after four to five days, within
which customer may have left, thus decreases the service recovery prospects for
the service provider. In its analytics review of the casesStanisic
(2013) has also highlighted the challenges, which may occur because of the
negative review posting, either being done by the visitor or by the competitors
of the products or service provider. In this highly competitive world it became
necessary to not only plan for reputation and awareness creation but also adopt
appropriate measures to control the negative feedback of visitors and false
reviews of competitors. (Stanisic, 2013)

In
context of the differing influence of the social media tools, such as a social
publicity or business promotion vs distorted view of business because of
negative reviews, it seems necessary to perform exploratory research and
explore the answers of specific research questions, being specified ashow much effective are the
online reviews in influencing the decision of customers? and do online reviews
project actual specification of the hotel, restaurant or any hospitality
industry part?

Research Design

In context of the comprehensive analysis of
the importance of social media (positive or negative reviews) over the business
prospects of hospitality industry and decision making approach of the
customers. Review of literature like articles, journals, research papers, etc.
can facilitate meaningful insight on the research topic. These sources can
provide valuable insight about certain aspects, such as probable or potential
benefits and challenges in using social media, how much effective they are and how
they influence the psychology and decision making approach of the customers.
However, such inferences will be able to facilitate only qualitative research
and analysis outcomes, but in order to reach at a conclusive result it will be
needed to validate the initial inferences with help of quantitative data.
Through validation of the inferences on basis of specific quantitative data,
such inferences can be converted into concrete research outcomes and can be
made more justified.

In order to perform
quantitative research, it will be needed to identify, observe and collect the
data from different resources such as primary research activities (interview,
survey or judgmental sampling based data collection) and secondary data sources
(from statistical journals, datasets, etc.). As the research includes
assessment of social media influence on consumer decision making as being
influenced of rating and reviews on social media, thus an attempt to conduct a
survey can help in getting meaningful insights. For this survey the specific
respondents will be the people using social media tools, which can be easily
found in different communities of social media tools like facebook, twitter,
etc. A sample size of 100-150 respondents will be sufficient to derive valid
conclusion of research.

In this survey specific
questions will attempt to get actual information about the perception, which is
created when they see online reviews. The specific questions can be formulated
as: Do your purchase decisions count online reviews as basis? (Yes / No); would
you change your decision to visit specific hotel or restaurant on basis of its
review or would like to give a try? (Change / Try); do you believe that online
reviews about hotel and restaurants are true? (Yes/No); what kind of review you
desire to post or share more, either positive or negative? (Positive/
Negative). These questions will help in exploring the answers of research
questions and may validate the inferences drawn from secondary resources of
data collection.

References

Todman, J. (2012). Importance of Social Media in the
Hospitality Industry, retrieved from.muddywall.com/importance-of-social-media-in-the-hospitality-industry/”>http://www.muddywall.com/importance-of-social-media-in-the-hospitality-industry/

Lim, W. (2010). THE EFFECTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS
IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY, retrieved from.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1694&context=thesesdissertations”>http://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1694&context=thesesdissertations

Barsky, J. and Waite,
M. (2012). For Hospitality, Social Media Is Too Little Too Late, retrieved from
.marketmetrix.com/pdfs/MMx_Social_Media_Too_Little_Too_Late.pdf”>http://corp.marketmetrix.com/pdfs/MMx_Social_Media_Too_Little_Too_Late.pdf

Withiam, G. (2013).
Social Media and the Hospitality Industry: Holding the Tiger by the Tail,
retrieved from.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/chr/pubs/roundtableproceedings/roundtable-15500.html”>http://www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/chr/pubs/roundtableproceedings/roundtable-15500.html

Hailey, L. (2010).
The importance of social media marketing today, retrieved from

.com/?The-Importance-of-Social-Media-MarketingToday&id=3873989″>http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Importance-of-Social-Media-MarketingToday&id=3873989

Stanisic, G (2013).
The impact of social media and technology within hotel industry, retrieved from
.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/280/”>http://goricastanisic.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/280/

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