As service organisations place more emphasis on social media for communication and feedback from customers and potential customers, it is important to note the role of relevance and recall that exist in relation to the use of social media for the pre- and post- purchase sharing of service experiences. For any company in the hospitality sector understanding these drivers are critical, not only can social media activity have strong relevance and recall and thus extend the positive effects of a hotel purchase but also, individually and collectively, heavily influence future consumers at the pre-purchase stage. This impact will increase as consumers spend more time on social media sites (which will become more self-selecting and targeted to particular consumers) and less on visiting commercial web pages. This may, however, also make managing the service experiences more difficult in the long term (with the growth of all user generated content). If companies do not engage in this social media space where customers spend increasing amounts of time, they run the risk of their marketing efforts becoming irrelevant and marketing communication being performed by peer groups in social media who ask/offer advice to customers, bypassing the company and the opportunity to either improve their services or recover from service failures. This may impact further on brand value as users revert to unmanaged user generated sources on social media and networks to ensure credibility, authenticity, trustworthiness and expertise. It is clear that the hotel sector has a significant volume of customers actively engaged in social media and increasingly need a social media communication strategy. To further exploit social media hotels need to actively engage with customers, provide social relevance in their message and bring strong recall. Furthermore, a trustworthy social media marketing strategy may help both their potential customers reduce the perceived risk of purchase and extend the positive purchase experience for recent customers.
The main objective of this research is to investigate the key UGC systems that influence hotel purchase, identify the drivers and determinants of social relevance that influence relevance and recall. Initially, this research will determine the various stages in online hotel buyer behaviour which are critical and sensitive to UGC (consumer point of view) and the activities of hotels in the social media channels (producer point of view) and identify “gaps” between the consumer-producer in terms of social media activities, It will particularly make recommendations for hotels on social media strategy that “fit” target markets with social relevance and aid recall.

January 2011 – June 2012
Economic partner: Brand Karma
Financial partner: HES-SO

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