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Figure 1: graph showing facebook usage by age and gender by December 2011 5
Social media has a great role to play in any industry today and continues to play a key part in the consumer travel experience. Consumers need to have information on various hotels and restaurants available for booking, and the ongoing engagements while enjoying their tour. The use of social media in the hospitality industry has many impacts as shown on this discussion. The analysis focuses on both positive and negative impacts of social media on the hospitality industry. The positive effects of social media in the hospitality industry include the creation of a direct brand endorsement, provision of a platform for rating and monitoring an organization, improved customer services, and introduction of cost-effective operations. Alternatively, social media has some major negative impacts on the hospitality industry. These include encouraging social monitoring, promotion of cybersmear, and loss of potential customers due to inability to cope with technological changes. Moreover, the discussion gives several recommendations on the appropriate ways that the hospitality industry could follow to prevent social media challenges.
Service industries today mainly rely heaving on social media in order to reach out to customers. The hospitality industry is one of the growing sectors that have utilized social media for customer satisfaction and attraction. The hospitality industry is a business sector that specializes in delivering direct services to customers. This industry offers quality customer services through various marketing features available in the current business environment. Most common examples of firms under this industry include restaurants, tour guidance, and flight attendances among others. The hospitality industry has also realized this fact and adapted to the currently used social media services to introduce different changes in their marketing and communication. In addition, the engagement of the hospitality industry in the social media has enabled constant communication with potential customers hence creating a great impact on their business operations (MobileMarketingWatch, 2012). The advancement in technology has sophisticated the concept of social media making it have both negative and positive effects on the hospitality industry. The following discussion focuses on the most crucial positive and negative impacts of social media in the hospitality industry.
The positive effects of social media in the hospitality industry include the creation of a direct brand endorsement, provision of a platform for rating and monitoring an organization, improved customer services, and introduction of cost-effective operations. Alternatively, social media has some major negative impacts on the hospitality industry. These include encouraging social monitoring, promotion of cybersmear, and loss of potential customers due to inability to cope with technological changes.
The first positive effect of social media on the hospitality industry is the creation of a direct brand endorsement. Social media is an example of technology description that facilitates interaction, creation of user-friendly contents, and collaboration between businesses and customers (Forest Time, 2013). Joining peer-to-peer networks enable industries share resources and contents in the network that can be accessible by other peers directly. The most interactive social channels like FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace and Google + have enabled many hospitality industries create social endorsements through customers engaging with positive peer influencers. Travel companies ensure total representation in the appropriate social media channels. Active online monitoring enables a company gain insight into new products and visitors. Most people who visit certain restaurants say their friends inspired their holiday choice and travel plans through comments and photos posted on social media channels. The following strategy has acted as the source of competitive advantage especially when customers participate online through praising a certain place.
Facebook is the most commonly used social media channel and statistics show that by December 2011, this social channel had more than 20 billion active users as represented on figure 1. In addition, studies show that almost 70% of companies in the hospitality industry that have invested on social media, especially Facebook receives a high number of customers who claim to have been referred by their friends. The above information shows that social media networks foster collaboration and relationships (Facebook, 2011).
Figure 1: graph showing facebook usage by age and gender by December 2011. Source: FaceBook, 2011)
With the adoption of Information technology, many restaurant businesses have moved from the traditional ways of serving the customers to the more advanced methods. Information a technology has brought about opening of more businesses around the globe because different people can view different hotels in almost all parts of the world. Delays are eliminated within the restaurants with the introduction of online services. Customers can order for their dishes and pay using online means, and customers can still enquire for home delivery services saving time and cost of travelling to the hotel. Technology enables the business restaurants to get a quick response from the customer that assists in improving their services to fit the needs of the consumers. Most restaurants utilize the software that allows customers to place orders online in order to reduce errors, use of fewer phone lines and promote their products using the communication channels like the emails and Facebook.
Secondly, social media affects hospitality industry positively through providing a platform for rating and monitoring the progress of a company. In the present world, most businesses have their own websites and social media profiles where they allow visitors to give feedback on their services. An online generated customer feedback has a higher credibility and more acceptable than the information received from a face-to-face encounter. Most hospitality companies have FaceBook or Twitter accounts where people like or post their views on how they perceive their services. In addition, social network users speak of specific services offered by a certain company making others connected stay informed about new strategies in the market and adopt them. The use of such social networking sites also enables managers to manage their companies effectively by following customer recommendations as long as they are positive (Stelzner, 2010).
Thirdly, the use of social media in the hospitality industry acts as a cost-effective means of engaging and interacting with potential customers. Social media channels form one of the cheapest methods of advertising a business. The method is termed cheap because it does not entail big amount of cash in designing posters, organizing for road shows, or paying media stations to advertise your business. The method only requires a company to create a social networking account through the internet and invite a few friends. It happens automatically that friends of friends join the group or page and big network created out of it. Industries get direct access to active users without any extra cost. A social media page that offers an easily accessible, appealing and straightforward network gives customers a chance to participate and like it even before visiting the real restaurant or hotel (Weed, 2011).
In order to ensure total customer satisfaction, most hospitality industries have introduced innovative customized networks that prompt customer services. The positive review by online customers has a great significant to the growth of a hotel and travel industry. Moreover, restaurants can easily invite potential customers because most people post about their travelling plans on social media networks. The presence of social media in the hospitality business not only creates profit avenues but also assists in creating a global competitive advantage.
On the other hand, social media has some negative impacts on the hospitality industry as discussed. To start with, active involvement in social media encourages social monitoring. Social media technologies facilitate online functioning that composes social networks. Since most adults participate in social networking, research has shown that network monitoring is an important business function offering valuable user information concerning wealth. Computer experts have come up with specific data software programs that monitor any social network content. The information collected by these programs reveals various marketing strategies used by other businesses to attract visitors. Direct competitors make use of this information to destroy the image of a particular company by hiring stokers who post bad things concerning the company. In addition, such network monitors retrieve messages sent by specific companies to specific prominent customers. Competitors take this opportunity and restructure messages to give distorting information that would make such customers gain a bad reputation of their visiting hotels (Stanisic, 2013).
Secondly, social media networks promote cyber-smear in the hospitality industry. Most companies have a way in which employers communicate with employees through social networks created by company management. Sometimes employees use such sites to talk inappropriate language or share confidential information. In addition, there are some social networking channels that promote harassment of hotel employees for example, stainedapron.com or bitterwaitress.com. Foodservice workers use such networking channels to post their frustrations and anger, an action that force employers to monitor them. Social networks are formed to promote good relationship between employer and employee. Despite the high popularity of social networking activities, most hospitality companies prefer not engaging in the online environment because it makes them more comfortable in workplaces (Forest Time, 2013).
On the other hand, while social media attracts potential customers to hotels and tourist attractions through peer-to-peer networking it also has a negative effect on the business operations. People exeunt managers seeing many likes from all corners of the world, only to be disappointed by the number of customers that turn out on a weekly basis. For instance, most have their own Facebook pages and Twitter handles that have millions of followers. These followers always post good things about a company, swearing how they will travel to the destination, but fail at the long run. An organization that depends only on customer reviews and online booking faces a huge surprise because most people who visit such places only come to like their social networks after enjoying the company services (Stanisic, 2013).
According to Stanisic (2013), the use of social media in the hospitality industry affects their operation negatively when some companies fail to implement the necessary changes. Social networking requires an active user interface where there is constant a 24 hour communication between the company and the client. New hotels have the capacity to introduce advanced technologies because it comes along with the facility design, but older hotels have such limitations. Customers like a networking channel, where they ask questions and get immediate responses. Hotels that have rendered their social networks dormant get many negative surveys from customers and eventually loose most potential visitors (2013).
The current increase on the number of internet users has made social media the best channel for businesses to advertise and attract potential customers. As seen from the above discussion, social media has both positive and negative impacts in the hospitality industry. Majority of hotel bookings and advertisements are made online, but the nature and effectiveness of online social networks used determine the eligibility of the process.
The following recommendations would assist in minimizing unwanted cases associated with the use of social media. Firstly, managers in the hospitality industry have a duty of ensuring they utilize social networks effectively, in the correct manner to attract more customers. Companies can avoid these challenges if they make follow-ups of their social channels to avoid cases of social monitoring and cyber smear. Secondly, companies should employ tough software systems that in order to prevent hackers from accessing information. Finally, the hospitality industry should engage in as many social media networks as possible. This enables the company convince customers with another site in case they receive a bad reputation.
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