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Social Media - potential, perception and usage as a marketing tool: the case of small and medium sized accommodation providers in Auckland
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Although Social Media are a relatively new phenomenon, they have, are and will increasingly influence consumers’ behaviours and their decision-making processes. In particular, information intensive service sectors – such as the tourism industry - will be affected by these changes, creating both opportunities and challenges for individual operators, and indeed for whole sectors. Therefore, the overall objective of this research is to gain a greater understanding of the perceptions of and experiences with Social Media for marketing purposes by small and medium sized accommodation providers in Auckland, New Zealand. More specifically, the primary research investigated the potential compared to the perceived value of Social Media as a marketing tool. Furthermore, it was examined how Social Media are currently adopted and utilised and what barriers exist for a successful implementation. These objectives were accomplished through a series of in-depth face-to-face interviews with a selection of eight small accommodation providers in Auckland between September and October 2011. This exploratory study contributes to the emerging body of knowledge in this area and provides practical recommendations in regard to the selection of appropriate Social Media and their improved utilisation. The research results indicate that there is a significant gap between the currently perceived value of Social Media compared to the potential suggested by various literature. While Review, Voting and Recommendations Sites are perceived to generate actual value in terms of increased visibility and positive word of mouth recommendations for the accommodation providers, the overall uptake of other Social Media for marketing purposes is still at an early stage and their potential to add value to the business is regarded sceptically. Apart from a lack of motivation, perceived barriers such as the lack of resources and knowledge further impede the uptake of Social Media marketing. With this in mind, the study recommends a series of measures that might be implemented in order to improve the effective adoption and utilisation of Social Media for those small and medium sized accommodation providers that are interested in improving or extending their Social Media marketing. These include developing a greater understanding of the Social Media concept and individual channels relevant to the business; strategically selecting appropriate Social Media and specific tools; defining realistic, concrete and measurable Social Media marketing objectives and consequently monitoring these activities by measuring their outcome in regard to the formulated objectives.