Friday, April 26, 2013

Use of Social Networks in the Hospitality Industry

In 2011, with a team of students from the Bachelor program in Tourism and Hospitality Management at the ESG UQAM School of Management, I led a study on the use of social networks in the hospitality industry. I thank those students for their collaboration: Julie Angibaud, Gabriel Comtois, Catherine Choquette, Virginie Côté, Marie, Carmel Dambreville, Jessica Della Ripa, Émilie Laborde, Virginie Lavergne-Mayer, Maxime Péladeau, Jean-Paul Thions et Kristel Young.

In the central districts of Montreal, those featuring the largest number of tourists, we contacted the 256 lodging establishments listed on this territory; amongst those, 84 agreed to respond to our questionnaire. True, this sample is relatively small in absolute terms, but it nonetheless represents over 32% of the companies in question, which is very significant.

This study reveals several interesting facts. First, unsurprisingly, as you can see in the chart below, Facebook, with 52.4% of respondents, is by far the most widely used social network in this industry, followed distantly by YouTube (28.0%), then by Twitter (19.5%) and LinkedIn (17.3%) almost tied in third place; Foursquare (7.5%), which attracts a very specific type of user, and some others are far behind.

The next table sums the purpose for which lodging establishments use social networks. We can see that even in this age of an interactive Web, the advertising function still dominates; thus, 93.2% of respondents say that they use social networks to «develop property awareness» and 72.7% use it to announce «last minute promotion». However, the next three elements fully take advantage of interactivity on the Web 2.0; thus, 68.2% of the respondents promote the posting of comments and an equal percentage the publication of pictures, while 45.5% initiate the creation of a community amongst their clientele. Three other uses are in line with traditional functions in the hospitality industry, that is announcing «exceptional properties» in a hotel chain (38.6% of respondents), «customer service» (36.4%) and a sub-function of the latter, «concierge extension» (27.3%).

Is a presence on social networks beneficial for establishments that adopt this practice? The final table summarizes the three main benefits mentioned by respondents of our study. First, in this era of fierce competition, 50.0% of respondents say that their presence on social networks helps to build customer loyalty. Second, while profitability, the excess of revenues over expenses, is a concern of every moment, 26.2% of respondents say that their presence on social networks helps to increase their revenues. Finally, while some accommodation facilities are struggling to fill their rooms, 26.2% of respondents say that their presence on social networks helps to raise their occupancy rate.

Hence, a presence on social networks is beneficial; yet, this practice is not widespread in the hospitality industry. In a coming post, I will discuss the type of institution that makes the most use of social networks and the reasons given for not using them.