A critical assessment of the key success factors of social media as a marketing tool in the South African tourism industry
Mostert, Clarise Letitia
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The purpose of this study was to critically assess the key success factors of social media as a marketing tool in the South African tourism industry. Numerous studies have been done on social media, but none of them were focused on optimising the success of social media in the South African tourism industry. Relationship marketing and social media is interrelated, where relationships form the foundation of social media. Social media has become the world’s latest marketing marvel, disseminating the lives of its users. Social media also plays a crucial role in the marketing efforts of organisations in the service sector, such as the tourism industry. However, it has become evident that there are still a number of tourism organisations that are currently not optimally utilising social media in their marketing strategies and this gap needs to be addressed. This study was aimed at three empirical objectives which were addressed with data gathered by means of a questionnaire. The questionnaire was distributed by fieldworkers at the O.R. Tambo International Airport. Stratified sampling was used in order to ensure a representative sampling size. 450 questionnaires were distributed, of which 446 completed questionnaires could be used for statistical data analysis. Firstly, for article one the factors inhibiting the use of social media were determined, as well as whether it differ for international and national tourists. Factor analysis was done in order to determine the main factors inhibiting the use of social media, and an independent samples t-test was applied to determine similarities/differences between international and national tourists. The results indicated that the main factors inhibiting the use of social media included Content Challenges, Privacy Issues, and Personal Perceptions. No significant differences were found on the factors inhibiting the use of social media by international tourists versus national tourists. Novel to this study is the fact that from the results it was clear that tourists who are currently not participating in social media do have access to social media sites and have the technical skills and competency to use social media, and are well informed about the different types of social media. Even though social media users spend almost one third of their time on social media sites, there are also a number of people who are not participating in social media. This part of the market is totally untapped. Thus, it is also important for tourism organisations to give attention to the factors inhibiting the use of social media. In article two, the purpose was twofold: firstly to determine how and why tourists used social media for travel and tourism purposes, and secondly to determine whether there was a correlation between the tourists attitudes towards social media and the factors identified for the use of social media for travel and tourism purposes. In this article a factor analysis for the reasons for participating in social media for travel and tourism purposes, correlations between the attitude of tourists toward the use of social media and the factors of the use of social media for travel and tourism purposes were done. It was evident that three factors for the use of social media for travel and tourism purposes existed: Information Gathering, Interaction and Communication and Content Sharing. Novel to this study, it was clear that significant correlations exist between the attitudes of tourists towards the use of social media and the factors identified for the use of social media for travel and tourism purposes. However, it was significantly identified that strategies that focus on information gathering and content sharing should enjoy primary attention and resource allocation. In the third article, the purpose was to assess whether tourists’ attitudes and their opinions regarding the success factors for social media can contribute to increased tourism social media activity. A summary of the factor analysis of the reasons for using social media for travel and tourism purposes, a factor analysis of the critical success aspects for the use of social media and standard multiple regression of the attitudes and most important aspects influencing the use of social media for travel and tourism purposes were discussed. The results indicated that tourists’ attitudes toward the use of social media for travel and tourism purposes were dependent on the Degree of Trust and Willingness to Participate in social media. These respondents utilised social media specifically for Information Gathering, Interaction and Communication as well as Content Sharing. The results also revealed that tourists’ Degree of Trust and Willingness to Participate in social media are predictors for Information Gathering for travel and tourism purposes; tourists’ Willingness to Participate in social media and the Perceived Beneficial Aspects they can gain from using social media are predictors for Interaction and Communication through social media for travel and tourism purposes; and tourists’ Willingness to Participate in social media and Content Accessibility and Sharing are predictors for Content Sharing on social media sites for travel and tourism purposes. Conclusions, contributions and recommendations regarding the outcome of the study were made. The main contributions of the study include contributions to the theory of the field, methodological contributions, as well as practical application contributions. With regard to the theoretical contributions, a framework was developed to optimise and explain the interrelatedness of relationship marketing and social media. This framework can be adopted by researchers and scholars to understand and argue that social media is closely related to the principle of building relationships. Also, due to a lack of a universally accepted definition for the term ‘social media’, and analysis was done in order to assess the most common principles of the term, to develop a definition that can be regarded as universally acceptable by tourism researchers and scholars. Contributions in terms of the methodology entail the development of suitable questionnaire to gather the necessary information for the data analysis of this study. This questionnaire was developed due to a lack of a suitable questionnaire to gather the necessary information for data analysis for the outcome of the research study. The high internal consistency of the questionnaire allows for it to be adopted by other researchers in the field of social media and the tourism industry. Lastly, the main contribution of the study to practical application of the results, a framework was developed to optimise the use of social media as a marketing tool in the South African tourism industry. This framework can be practically implemented by tourism organisations for International and National tourism markets within the South African tourism industry to ensure the optimisation of online social media marketing efforts. The framework was developed in a way that will ensure it is easily understandable, as well as the fact that it will comprise the minimum amount of effort when implementing the framework in the development of social media marketing strategies of tourism organisations. Adequate knowledge and information regarding the above-mentioned aspects can contribute to more effective marketing strategies, increased brand awareness and increased market share. This study also contributes to the existing literature of social media, the effective and successful implementation of social media marketing strategies and has a positive impact on future research with regard to the application of social media as marketing tool in the South African tourism industry.