Social media is progressively more popular and tour operators are wondering whether they should join trend or not. There are a few reasons why tour operators should use social media. Firstly, it helps tour operators have more control over their online reputation. Secondly, social media can assist tour operators in effective marketing by getting the word out and engaging with customers. Lastly, Google loves social media and the more social media accounts the tour operator has, the higher it is ranked on Google search results page. (Lenoir, 2016)
In order for tour operators to use social media, they need to know which social media tools and strategy to use. The honeycomb of social media model can help tour operators. The honey comb of social media is a framework which consists of seven building blocks that assist companies to understand social activities in order to develop a strategy that suits their company best (Peelan & Beltman, 2013). These building blocks can be used individually or together.
When looking at the seven building block of the honeycomb of social media, there are four building blocks that would be interesting for tour operators which are identity, presence and reputation blocks as explained in Peelan & Beltman (2013)
- The identity block is the extent to which users or companies share or convey themselves. Identity can be shown through images, graphics, descriptions, followers, comments and much more.
- The presence block is the extent to which a user knows if others are available. Staying relevant is important in social media.
- The reputation block is the extent to which users can identify the standing of others and content, including themselves on social media.
- The sharing block is the extent to which users exchange, disturbed and receive content. If companies had no content to share, they would not have any identity, presence or reputation.
Facebook has all of the building blocks that are interesting for your operators. According to Kietzman et al (2011), Facebook contains the following blocks on the picture below. Facebook is good tool for sharing as well but the article was published in 2011 which means it lacks the latest trends and up to date information. Moreover, tour operators can use Facebook as social media tool to create a strategy that spread brand awareness and engages with customers. Facebook can be used in combination with storytelling by posting photos, stories about wildlife and environment, guides, employees, locals, unique facts about the tours, charity activities and events, interesting records, special guests or celebrities on tours in order to have customers engaged with the tour operators’ brand and products. An example is a well-known tour operator, TUI. They post about existing destinations, new destinations, when they have good deals, when they have contests on Facebook which leads to customer engagement.
In conclusion, tour operators should join the social media trend and the honeycomb of social media model can assist in the process. These building blocks are useful for understanding the engagement needs of social media users. Using a few blocks instead of all of them can clarify how existing platforms add value. After looking at the blocks that are relevant for tour operators, Facebook seems to be a good social media tool and therefore create a strategy that ultimately leads to customer engagement.
Kietzmann, Jan H.; Hermkens, Kristopher; McCarthy, Ian P.; Silvestre, Bruno S. (2011) Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business Horizons
Lenoir, S. (2016). Hubspotnet. Retrieved 4 October, 2016, from http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/123098/file-31373350-pdf/eBooks/ebook-social-media-for-tour-operators.pdf
Peelen, E., & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management.Pearson.