Today e-business has become an essential precondition for every organization that aim at achieving a successful business performance. In fact, e-business is especially important for the organizations in the tourism industry, which are working in the emerging internet-empowered business environment (Buhalis & Jun 2011). Thus, the companies related to the tourism industry should transform their business processes in order to take an advantage of the Internet technologies and successfully compete in the emerging global market.
In order to examine the social media activity the example of the Travel Joy Hostels was chosen. The Travel Joy Hostels represents a London hostel that belongs to SMEs. This hostel is a relatively young company founded in June 2009 (Travel Joy Hostels 2014). The Travel Joy Hostels provides a personalized customer service and, thus, has top rating on the famous websites for tourists like Tripadvisor, Booking.com, Hostelworld and Hostebookers (Travel Joy Hostels 2014). For example, the company was rated as the best cheap hotel in London based on the customer feedback left on the TripAdvisor (TripAdvisor, 2016). The company is fully presented in the Internet space through the website and social accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (Travel Joy Hostels & Bar Chelsea, 2016).
The purpose of this paper is to provide the analysis of the social media portfolio of the Travel Joy Hostels Chelsea and develop a new detailed social media strategy for this hostel. The report consists of the following parts. The first part presents a literature review. This part discusses the issues related to e-tourism, Information Communications Technologies and their relation to hospitality services. The second part presents a case study. This part provides a social media portfolio analysis for Travel Joy Hostels and the overview of the company’s profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Further, the part also contains the description of the mobile applications developed by the Travel Joy Hostels. Finally, the paper provides the analysis of the links with other websites and search engine optimization. The third part presents discussion and conclusion. Finally, the fourth part contains recommendations to the Travel Joy Hostels regarding the improvement of the social media strategy.
According to Hajim (2015), e-tourism can be defined as a type of the inter-regional commercial business, related to the travelling of people to other cities or countries. E-tourism is based on using electronic communications and informational technologies, such as the Internet, in order to provide essential information for travellers. Buhalis (2003) suggests that e-tourism involves three disciplines: tourism, business management, and information systems. Strategically, e-tourism changes all the business processes including the value chain development, the processes of building of the strategic relationships with other tourism organisations, and the processes of creation of the efficient relationships with the company’s stakeholders (Buhalis,2003). On the tactical level, the e-tourism applies e-commerce and aims at maximising the effectiveness of the company.
ICT and Hospitality Sector
Bethapudi (2013) states that Information Communications Technologies (ICT) have become an important part of the development of the tourism, travel and hospitality industry nowadays. The integration of ICT is essential for excellent business performance of every tourism company (Balandin & Laizane 2009). Mihajlović (2012) proves that ICTs enable customers to find, purchase and use tourism products. Karimidizboni (2013) adds that the improvement abilities of ICT allow to decrease the size of the necessary equipment and the costs for developing; ICT can also help to promote and strengthen the tourism industry. Thus, the provision of tools for creation, management and distribution of travel offerings supports the globalization of the travel industry.
According to Bethapudi (2013), ICTs allow to combine the functions of the supply chain management and the relations with the customers. Thus, a variety of operations, such as selection of the product, placing an order, completion, payment and reporting, can be performed together. Thus, the availability of the Internet has drastically improved the hotel representation and reservation processes. Nowadays, it is easier to book a hotel through the web, which represents the greatest impacts of ICT on the tourism and hospitality sector (Parsons & Oja, 2013). Such a capability of online booking allows decreasing costs for tourism and hospitality companies.
Importance of the Website. One of the necessary factors for maintaining the customer base and building brand-loyal customers is building an effective website (Nassar & Abdou, 2013). In order to establish an efficient Web presence and attract more consumers, it is necessary to add many functions to the hotel Website, such as helpful maps, hotel photographs and videos from events, the last updated information about local events, etc. Building a strong online presence is especially important for the independent small hotels, since they can present their business to a variety of customers. Thus, creating a strong website is a major instrument for customer attraction and retention, since a well-designed Website is able to accentuate the advantages of the hotel in comparison to the competitors, and to avoid the negative impact of customer service flaws, distribution issues, and technical failures.
SEO and SMEs. According to Google (2010), the search engine optimisation (SEO) can be defined as the set of processes based on designing the website content in such a manner that it allows adding a highly ranked search engine. As a result of SEO, more visitors can be attracted to the website that ensures the increase of the awareness about the company’s goods and services. According to Mihalic and Buhalis (2013), the identification of the key words and terms posted on the Web page is necessary to ensure a high rating of the Website, since it makes it easier for the search engines such as Google and Yahoo! to identify the Website by their special algorithms.
Vermaat (2013) divides SEO strategies into two different categories. The first category is called the “white hat” and the second one is called “black hat”. According to Vermaat (2013), “white hat” SEO techniques contain the following steps: ensure an adequate amount of the key terms within the Web page content, a regular update of the website information, such as photos, videos and texts. In such a way the website will be approved by the search engines. As a result of implementation of the “white hat” strategy, the company’s Website will have high rankings among the search engines, which will increase the amount of Website visitors in turn. The next SEO technique, “black hat”, is based on gaining unfair competitive advantage in ranking competition. As a result of artificial winding rating, the websites are discouraged by the search engines.
Social networking. Miltiadis (2010) also proves that the linkage of the tools for e-tourism brings various benefits for the company, i.e. lower costs for developing the relationships with the customers and a better access to information. For example, ICT allows the reduction of the costs of the hotel by providing the opportunities to stay in direct contact with the consumer. Bethapudi (2013) also proves that ICT has a positive impact on the working conditions of employees by enhancing the efficiency at the workplace, i.e. online reservations. Car, Šimunić, and Laškarin (2013) state that social networking represents an enormous challenge for the companies in the tourism industry. According to the predictions of Car, Šimunić, and Laškarin (2013), social networking will bring radical changes to the image of the industry in the new future. For example, social networking has become the channel for obtaining information, booking the travels, and communication during travelling.
SMEs in Hospitality
ICT and SMEs. ICT affects the hospitality businesses by facilitating the communication with the company’s stakeholders. Thus, ICT serves as an effective channel for sales and provides an efficient platform for engaging consumers. According to Mihalic and Buhalis (2013), ICT has become a source of competitive advantage to tourism, travel and hospitality businesses. The researchers also state that both big and small hospitality companies can achieve the competitive advantage through the use of ICT. In order to benefit from ICT, the companies need to develop unique Web-based marketing campaigns. As a result, the companies will become able to maintain effective communication with the clients.
Factors hindering SMEs from adopting ICT. Despite the obvious advantages of ICT, many SMEs do not adopt it in their marketing strategy. Mohapatra (2013) lists the major factors that hinder SMEs from adopting ICT. First of all, the managers of SMEs may undervalue the potential contribution of ICT to their business. Further, the managers of the small hospitality, travel and tourism companies may think that the investments in ICT will not bring any potential benefits. Secondly, SMEs may associate the adoption of ICT with funding difficulties, since the additional investment costs may be challenging for a small company. In such a situation, Vermaat (2013) recommends to start using cheap or free basic tools in the case of certain budget restrictions. For example, a company with a small budget may use free social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, Skype and other online social platforms.
New technologies and hospitality of SMEs
The development of new technologies, such as social media and mobile applications, has dramatically changed the current state of marketing strategies of hospitality SMEs (Milović 2012). Social media can be defined as a website or application, which provides instruments for online content creation and sharing. The following major social media types are identified: social networks, video and photo sharing platforms, RSS, blogging and microblogging, podcasts (Tiganj & Alerić 2012). Seth (2012) describes several benefits of social media to small hospitality businesses. The researcher distinguishes the following benefits: possibility to create an interaction tool with the customers, increased speed for provision of new information, various forms of content creation. Moreover, according to Cognizant (2014), the hotels that engage in social media can develop highly personalized customer experiences through creation of customer posts, likes and other digital activities, which will lead to competitive differentiation. Moreover, Thomas (2013) explains that social networking circles formed on the basis of mutual interests can increase the numbers of customers and the amount of revenues. In fact, the use of social media for sending special marketing messages to appropriate social cycles allows the company to engage the representative public in the business.
Mobile technologies and SMEs
It is obvious that SMEs can realise significant benefits from the usage of mobile technologies in the operations. PricewaterhouseCoopers (2015) reports that SMEs will be able to generate about $49.2 billion of private sector output from the exploitation of mobile technologies during the next 10 years. Yamine et al. (2014) state that mobile technologies have definitely become new reliable systems useful not only for communication, but also for information search, buying, taking photo/video, etc. Thus, mobile technologies have also become an important tool for travel planning and the distribution of hotel services. For example, one of the ways for adoption of mobile technologies by the hotels is the creation of an intuitive mobile website. Since many people use their mobile phones for searching for travel information, it is essential for the hotel companies to become accessible through mobile web. Moreover, another successful tool for the delivery of the hotel services and the development of strong relationships with existing customers is the creation of special mobile applications. The mobile application will allow the customers not only to book a hotel, but also to stay in touch with the favourite company.
Social media portfolio analysis
Social networks. As it was mentioned before, the usage of social media in a company’s business practice is necessary for the SMEs, especially for the hostels. Social media allows the company to raise customers’ engagement and develop an efficient supply chain. The analysis of the company’s profiles in three social networking platforms is used to evaluate the social media portfolio of the Travel Joy Hostels. The following type of grading was chosen for the evaluation process: 5 – very good, 4 – good, 3 –average, 2 – poor, 1 – very poor. Although, the maximum grade the company could get was 5 and the minimum grade was 1.
The first social platform analysed is Facebook. The company has branded the Facebook page with the logo and the photo of the hostel. Further, the page also contains contact information, such as location, Website, telephone. The important information about the working time is also provided.
Furthermore, the company has integrated the Facebook Webpage with Instagram; Tripadvisor app allows to inform the customers about the features of the daily business and to compare the hostel to the competitors (Travel Joy Hostels & Bar Chelsea, 2016). Additionally, the full analysis and the evaluation of each item based on the company’s Facebook profile are mentioned. The total score of the company’s Facebook page review is 65/100. In order to improve the rating of the Facebook page, the company needs to complete several steps: publish posts more often, create posts that are more engaging, review the length of the posts and make them shorter if necessary, encourage the fans to ask more questions, use hashtags in the posts.
The Travel Joy Hostels has also created a Twitter account. Unlike its Facebook page, the company’s account in Twitter is less popular and has fewer followers. According to the analysis, the total grade of the company’s Twitter account is 23/45. Thus, it also requires some improvements, which will help to attract more potential customers.
The company is also presented on Instagram. The Travel Joy Hostel has started posting photos and videos on Instagram at the beginning of 2014. However, a rapid growth of likes under the company’s posts on Instagram have started from September 2013, when the company has begun to share more photos and videos with customers and integrated the Instagram app with Facebook page. The number of likes has been growing constantly.
Mobile applications. Mobile technology allows the creation of strong relationships with the customers and makes the provision of company’s services easier. The Travel Joy Hostels has integrated the button “buy now” in the Website (Travel Joy Hostels 2016 c). Thus, it became easier to book the hostel. Moreover, the company’s Website is optimised for mobile usage. For example, when the consumer visits the company’s Website using his/her mobile telephone, he/she immediately sees the button “book now” and the buttons of social networks (Travel Joy Hostels 2016 c). Moreover, the company has developed free mobile apps, available on Google Play and App Store (Travel Joy Hostels 2016 c). Thus, the company enhances strong relationships with its customers, since the company’s app is available on mobile phones.
Links with other websites and search engine optimization. The company has also ensured the links to other websites, such as accounts on Twitter and Facebook, about pages on Tripadvisor, and the link to the booking service. The main picture clearly presents the city of location. The company’s website has a user-friendly interface that allows to find all necessary information quickly and to connect with the company via the social networks.
In fact, the search optimization analysis proves that there are some problems connected to the company’s website (SEO Workers 2016). Site Analyser (2016) reports that the total score of the website of Travel Joy Hostels is equal to 56.9%. According to Site Analyser (2016), the performance and the design aspects of the company’s website are well optimized; the rate of performance is equal to 75.5% and the rate of design is equal to 71.0%. However, the content, SEO optimization and accessibility aspects should be improved, since their scores are 9.5%, 53.6% and 55.8 % respectively.
Discussion and Conclusion
The literature review proves that Information Communication Technologies have become an inseparable part of each successful business. Regarding the development of the Internet technologies, it is evident that the tourism, travel and hospitality industry is undergoing significant changes. The majority of scientists including Bethapudi (2013), Balandin and Laizane (2009), Mihajlović (2012) and Karimidizboni (2013) agree that Information Communication Technologies provide special instruments for development, management and distribution of travel services all over the world. The researchers also agree that the presence of the hotel in the Internet is necessary for successful business performance (Mihalic & Buhalis 2013). For example, a well-developed website can attract more consumers to the company and can make it easier to search for the information about the hotel services.
Further, the researchers agree that search engine optimization is important for small and medium businesses and big brands. Mihalic and Buhalis (2013) argue that websites, which are optimized in accordance with the search engine features, will have higher search ratings. Thus, the search engines such as Google and Yahoo! will rank the company’s website higher, which will attract more visitors (Mihalic & Buhalis 2013). As a result, the company will be able to inform the potential clients about the services and goods that may yield higher profits due to the increased consumers supply.
The researchers also emphasise the importance of building a strong relationship with the customers via social networks platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc (Car et al. 2013). They prove that companies in the travel industry will definitely benefit from the optimization of the supply chains through the social networks. For example, the clients may use the company’s social platform in order to obtain information, book the travels and communicate during their travelling. Furthermore, the researchers also describe significant benefits of mobile technologies usage. They state that modern customers use smartphones for information search more frequently than the PC (Yamine et al. 2014). Thus, the company needs to develop well-designed mobile applications and a mobile version of the website in order to ensure that the customers are able to connect via their mobile phones.
The case of the Travel Joy Hostels is a good presentation of the modern scientific views related to the Information Communications Technologies. There are several similarities in the social media strategy of the Travel Joy Hostels and the scientific views. Firstly, the company has developed a well-designed website that provides all the necessary information. The website of the company is well-organized and has links to other websites such as Facebook and Twitter that are highly recommended by the scientists. Furthermore, the company has provided a button “book now”, which appears at the top of every page on the website. Thus, it ensures that the customers are able to find all the necessary information about the hostel services quickly and book a hostel without any issues. In fact, it is also necessary to analyse the company’s presence on the social networking platforms.
The most developed social networking platform of the Travel Joy Hostels is Facebook. The company has collected more than 4.5 thousand followers (Travel Joy Hostels & Bar Chelsea 2016). The analysis of the company’s Facebook profile proves that some improvements are necessary. For example, the total score of the company’s Facebook profile is only 65 out of 100 points (Exhibit A). There are a few major issues connected to the Facebook profile of the company. According to the analysis, the Travel Joy Hostels publishes only one post per week (Exhibit A). Moreover, the posts are too long and contain 100-500 words each (Exhibit A). A low number of new likes and low engagement rate prove that the company fails to engage the fans into the posts. Instagram and Twitter accounts of the Travel Joy Hostels are less developed than the Facebook account. In fact, Instagram and Twitter engage only 352 people (Travel Joy Hostels 2016 a; Travel Joy Hostels 2016 b). The analysis of the profile pages proves that the company needs to increase the number of new posts. There is also a low activity of the follower on the pages.
The analysis of the company’s website proves that there are some issues related to SEO optimization. Moreover, poor content and accessibility need to be improved. However, the company is well presented via the mobile application, since it has developed the app both for Google Play and for App Store. Moreover, the website of the company has two versions: the first version is designed for PC, and the second one is designed for mobile phones.
Actually, the Travel Joy Hostels are widely presented on the Internet. The company has created both the website and the accounts in social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Moreover, the company used mobile technologies in order to provide access to the company via smartphones. However, there are several aspects of the company’s social media strategy that should be improved. Thus, this section describes a new social media strategy for Travel Joy Hostels that is based on the findings of the report. The recommended social media strategy is based on three aspects.
The first aspect is related to improvement of the management of the company’s Facebook page. First, the company needs to increase the number of published posts. Further, the company needs to write engaging posts in order to engage more people. Moreover, it needs to review the length of the posts and reduce the word count to less than 100 words per post (LikeAlyzer 2016). The next step involves encouraging the fans to ask more questions and to communicate directly with the company (Rydefalk 2014). Thus, the company needs to ensure that the managers react to every post from the visitor of the page. In such a way, the managers will demonstrate that the opinion of the customers is important for the company; the customers will also make sure that their question related to any services provided by the hostel will get an answer. Finally, in order to improve the navigation through the company’s posts, it is necessary to use hashtags in every post (LikeAlyzer 2016). Thus, the company’s followers will be able to find appropriate information posted on the company’s Facebook page. Moreover, the company needs to make any posts in the evening. Finally, it is necessary to create engaging posts and to provide polls and raffle prizes. Such a technique will help to engage more people in the discussion, post likes and shares. As a result, more people will be aware of the hostel.
The next step involves improving the search engine optimization of the company’s website. The analysis of the company’s website proves that it is necessary to improve the ranking on Google search engine. First, it is necessary to place the key words on the web pages. The key words represent the words that people will search for (Demers 2014). The site visitor types the key words in the search engine and gets a list of results. For example, the company may add the following words to the web pages: the cheapest hostel, London best hostel, where to stay in London, etc. The key words should be very specific to the company’s business. Secondly, it is necessary to update the content of the website regularly. The search engines view the regularly updated content as an indicator of the relevancy of the website. Moreover, the website content should have high quality. In fact, it means that the content should be original and error-free. Thus, it is necessary to hire a good writer, who will write unique texts both for the company’s website and for the social pages. Thirdly, it is necessary to provide appropriate images. The images should be tagged with specific keywords, which will help to rank the website high by the search engines.