Critical Review: “Like” and “Check-in”: How Hotels Utilize Facebook as an Effective Marketing Tool
Critical Review: “Like” and “Check-in”: How Hotels Utilize Facebook as an Effective Marketing Tool
This paper is a critique of the research traditions utilized in the ‘”Like” and “Check”: How hotels utilize Facebook as an effective marketing tool’, written by Kelly V Phelan, Hsiang-Ting Chen, and Matthew Haney, and published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology, Volume 4, Issue 2, 2013. The critique will explore the philosophical background of the article and the logical approach followed by the authors in the process of conducting the research. It will also evaluate the research questions and research methods, including sampling, data collection, data analysis, validity, and ethics of these methods. The epistemology, philosophy and ontology of the research will also be critiqued.
2 Article Overview
The main purpose of this paper is the examination of the method through which Facebook serves as an effective marketing tool for hotels as well as the manner in which consumers tend to interact with the property through the measurement of the total number of ‘likes’ and followers on Facebook, the accuracy of the information that is generated by the website as well as explanation of the customer comments. The paper deals with the nuances of how the widespread use of Facebook has proven beneficial for the tourism and hospitality sector. The motivations of the consumers for ‘liking’ Facebook pages of different hotels have been explored in the paper and it attempts to determine the extent of the impact that Facebook will have on the future of the industry. The reliability and accuracy of the data gathered from social networking sites is also discussed in detail.
The literature review of the provides necessary details for hotels to come up with proper strategies of marketing. The article highlights how the use of Facebook acts as a great platform for hotels to interact on a direct basis with their customers and improve their hotel delivery service. In case a hotel wants to utilize the entire potential offered by Facebook in order to reach a larger section of customers and promote their business, they need to first get an idea about the dynamic nature of the online environment along with the way in which social networking is capable of facilitating the various marketing strategies. The article states that it is necessary to analyze the performance of Facebook as far as the benefits on the hotel industry are concerned since hotels have the potential to diagnose various problems and bring about a change in their present marketing practices. Therefore, the main aim of the first section of the article is to understand the patterns used by hotels for Facebook use as well as the manner in which Facebook features are adopted by hotels for the purpose of reaching out to a larger section of potential customers and showing them that hotels can embrace the power of social media to increase their efforts of marketing. This part touches upon the key concepts that will be found in the rest of the article and gives the readers a fair idea of what the content of the article will be like.
3 Philosophical Background
In recent times, the number of ‘likes’ garnered by a specific hotel on Facebook happens to be an indicator of the level of popularity that the hotel enjoys among the public. Since a lot of initial attraction of customers towards a particular hotel stems from the power of its promotional activities, it is not unusual for hotel to focus a great deal on its marketing and promotional campaigns based on the Facebook outcomes . It is necessary to understand the links that are shared between Facebook and the hotel industry. For that, however, an in-depth knowledge of both avenues is required by the marketers and the gathered information should be used effectively by hotels to improve the quality of the services and conform to the needs of customers.
The researchers have based their study on the concept that, as with other aspects of marketing, social media marketing too requires in-depth planning, controlled implementation and intelligent management. Social networking sites are meant to be interactive and can be greatly utilized for customer engagement . However, while the authors have extensively discussed the literature surrounding this philosophy, they have not discussed any theoretical models such as Technology Acceptance Model or TAM , the Attitude Toward the Ad or AAD model , and the Social Media Customer Relationship Management or SCRM model , that have been proposed by scholars for social media management. As such, while the authors provide the reader with an understanding of how and why social media is critical for marketing in the hotel industry, they do not provide a clear philosophical foundation on which the research can be based.
4 Logical Approach
5 Research Question
6 Research Methods
Twenty-three different criteria have been identified by the methodology followed by the article to evaluate the aspects of Facebook pages for hotels. The content features of the hotel include functioning links which remain active, well-designed and error-free pages, regular updates on the hotel, a calendar with upcoming events listed, online surveys to gather customer feedback, links to other social networking pages, media sites and sister properties and affiliates. The property information includes photos, videos, promotional materials, amenity information, contact details, background description. The interactions between the customers and hotels on Facebook tend to deal with the total number of fans the hotel has on Facebook, the number of people that are discussing the property, the total number of people who checked in to at the hotel, the replies of the property to comments, suggestions and feedback, and customer opinions on the products and services offered by the hotel.
As stated earlier, the authors do not provide sufficient justification of their choice of research methods. While the study covers a large amount of data and participants, its scope is not defined. The researchers do elucidate the process they followed to arrive at the hotel Facebook pages that were observed and used for data collection. They could have considered following a case study method that would have allowed them to conduct qualitative research while lending greater focus to the scope of the research. Literature has shown that case studies are best suited for research that aims for a holistic and extensive evaluation of a subject. It enables the researcher to attain information from participant perspectives by relying on multiple sources of data . Case studies provide researchers with detailed and rich elucidations of the phenomenon being studied . They also prove to be excellent reference points for future research as they are able to better highlight errors in management approaches towards a phenomenon .
7 Sampling and Data Collection
8 Ontology and Epistemology
Ontology is the assumptions of a research of a reality that exists and the interaction between its different components. This research sought to find the relationship between the users of Facebook and their interaction with hotels’ marketing initiatives through the site. While through their extensive literature review, the authors noted that it has been proven that social media sites play a significant role in marketing, they have not been able to define the human element of this research. As discussed earlier, the demographics of users have been completely ignored in the study. Considering that age, race, gender and education form a critical part of individual identity, the ontology adopted by the researchers is flawed. It ignores significant aspects that would influence the relationship between users and social media marketing of hotels. On the other hand, the authors have formed a concrete epistemology for the research by conducted extensive primary research and presentation of data. Through their study, the authors form a clear, evidence based link between social media and marketing. Despite the flaws on the oncology, the epistemology is sound.
9 Analysis of Data
The findings of the data included in the article demonstrate that most hotels remain consistent when it came to content information that would be posted on Facebook. The level of attention to detail happens to be critical since it represents the way in which the hotel manages to conduct its business and develop its brand image. The results indicate that Facebook pages for hotels are updated on a daily basis and the page administrator is in charge of moderating or updating new wall posts. Hotels tend to rely more heavily on the use of Facebook compared to other social media websites. However, the authors, once again, do not provide sufficient details of data analysis methods used to arrive at these findings. They state that three researched ‘compared’ data collected over a 48 hour period, however, they do not clarify whether a systematic tool was used for the analysis.
10 Validity and Ethics
At the end of the article, the authors acknowledge the limitations of their research. They note that the sample size of 100 hotels was possibly too large to provide a more focused and meaningful analysis. The sample was also limited to the US market only. However, they justify this selection by stating that a large sample enables a more comprehensive study. They acknowledge that, as the study was qualitative in nature, it may have been subject to biases when the data collected was being analyzed. The authors mention that a longitudinal study may yield more accurate results. They also note that narrowing the scope of the research and focusing on gaining in-depth consumer perspectives may encourage better understanding of the role of social media in marketing in the hospitality industry. However, the authors do not discuss how they ensured the validity of the research or the ethical considerations taken into account. Not having a validation creates doubt over the accuracy of findings of the paper. At the same time, considering this article observed information available on social media, privacy rights of users should have been ensured. However, the article provides no information if and how the authors ensured this.
While the article provides a great amount of information through its literature review and research, there is a high degree of vagueness surrounding the methodology followed by the authors. To begin with, they do not state a clear research question. Further, they do not provide an explanation of the research methods chosen, nor do they compare other options and elucidate why they were not chosen for the study. While the epistemology of the research is sound and identifies sufficient criteria for the researchers to prove that social media does influence marketing effectiveness in hotels, the ontology is flawed. While the researchers focus on the wider reality of social media influence on marketing, they do not address the realities of specific user groups attributable to the hotel industry. The sampling of the study is also flawed as it takes into consideration a large number of hotels without defining a demographic group of users to focus on. Hence, the sample is highly diluted. Finally, the authors provide no details about the validation and ethical considerations of the study and hence the reader cannot be certain that the findings are accurate and the research was conducted in an ethical manner.
The article highlights one of the most prominent difficulties that hotels experience with social media, namely the absence of a standardized benchmark. The results derived from the critique of the paper show how numerous hotels have failed to interact properly with customers and offer reliable and timely information. They often entice potential buyers by highlighting the property through videos and pictures. These aspects need to be enhanced by the practitioners if they wish to get a significant return on investment and recognize what the customers want . All these points are important for a hotel that wishes to use the power of Facebook in a good way for its advantage but the article neglects to touch upon many of these points in detail. Some are mentioned briefly but the details have been glossed over without explaining the finer points. However, all of this is necessary for the article to explain properly the situation what the hotel industry is doing wrong in terms of its social networking use. They must be able to understand their shortcomings and prepare to rectify the problems immediately if it wants to utilize Facebook till its full potential.
Ban, J., & Ramsaran-Fowdar, R. R. (2013). Developing a model for online social travel networks in the tourism industry. Proceedings of 23rd International Business Research Conference, (pp. 1-10). Melbourne, Australia.
Buhalis, D., & Law, R. (2008). Progress in information technology and tourism management: 20 years on and 10 years after the internet – the state of eTourism research. Tourism Management , 29 (4), 609-623.
Chan, N. L., & Guillet, B. D. (2011). Investigation of social media marketing: how does the hotel industry in Hong Kong perform in marketing on social media websites? Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing , 28 (4), 345-368.
Ciccarelli, S., & Meyer, G. (2007). Understanding Psychology. Singapore: Pearson Education South Asia Pte, Ltd.
Feagin, J., Orum, A., & Sjoberg, G. (1991). A case for case study. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
Heino, H. (2014, February 13). Social Media Demographics - Twitter and Facebook. Retrieved March 24, 2014, from Agile Impact: http://agileimpact.org/social-media-demographics-twitter-and-facebook/
Hsieh, H., & Shannon, S. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research , 15 (9), 1277-1288.
Kang, J. (2011). Social media marketing in the hospitality industry: The role of benefits in increasing brand community participation and the impact of participation on consumer trust and commitment toward hotel and restaurant brands. Retrieved March 24, 2014, from Digital Repository @ Iowa State University: http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1384&context=etd
Kaplan, S. (2010, February 2). Embracing social media message as viral marketing platform. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from Boston Business Journal: http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/mass-high-tech/2010/02/embrace-social-media-messages-as-viral.html
Kasurinen, T. (2002). Exploring management accounting change: the case of balanced scorecard implementation. Management Accounting Research , 13, 323-343.
Leung, X. Y., Bai, B., & Stahura, K. A. (2013). The marketing effectiveness of social media in the hotel industry: A comparison of Facebook and Twitter. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research .
Rong, J., Li, G., & Law, R. (2009). A contrast analysis of online hotel web service purchasers and browers. International Journal of Hospitality Management , 28 (3), 466-478.
Rosman, R., & Stuhura, K. (2013). The implications of social media of customer relationship management and the hospitality industry. Journal of Management Policy and Practice , 14 (3), 18-26.