Lori Ruff’s profound words that “social media is here. It doesn’t go away; no passing mode. Be where your customers are. In social networks. There has been massive investment in social communication/marketing mechanisms by start-ups and giants in all sectors of our global economy. It is a progressive revolution in promoting dialogue and negotiation between customers and suppliers in the consumption of the brand. Remember that it takes two to tango where the SME must share on social networks what is offered by the brand while receiving responses from all potential customers via likes and orders. Unlike in the past where there was a marketing myopia such that the producer was the main consumer decision maker (producing what he thinks he sells but not what customers want/need). A recipe for disaster to say. We reflect on the evolution of marketing and agree that social media for branding has changed the landscape. Now we’re in relationship marketing where the machines talk to themselves and us spearheading profitable brand decisions. Let’s move forward with this ascendancy like a bandwagon towards real brand visibility, otherwise we will be alone in the saga.
Some SMEs in the tourism industry have not yet realized the benefits of such an approach (and it is not too late to practice). Here we merge brand management for tourism SMEs with social media advertising. Where various social and digital networking modes/tools should be applied in order to communicate and sell tourism brands to the rest of the world. We then infuse and go beyond informing how stronger brand equity for tourism SMEs can be achieved through a well-designed social media branding strategy.
As announced in some of our previous editions, we apply marks in order to improve the value of our companies in all aspects (mainly profitability which is transmitted from generation to generation). It is no longer just about numbers and balances in our books of accounts but about social capitalization. Some can simplify it at will. When we equate the projection of our promises with the perceptions of our markets through online and agreed negotiations in the age of digitalization. It is imperative to note that the traditional variables of brand equity still apply in entrepreneurship for tourism. Now we’re adding a flair for the well-calculated, networked speed needed to reach all potential customers.
As successful players in the tourism industry, it is necessary to have a positive brand image, high brand awareness, positive perception of brand quality, high brand loyalty/following and creation of lasting brand associations. The nature of this industry is relationship driven where every visitor must be converted into an advocate/ambassador through discussion and proven excellence. It should remain a fact that the nature of tourism is people-driven, so social media should drive brand sustainability in this tech-driven global village. I won’t let my enterprising colleagues die out of ignorance where social media has proven to be part of our daily constructive mobility from home to the public. We should apply this in our brand marketing urgently. Let’s revolutionize brand value for tourism SMEs through a synergistic socio-technological approach in our time.
To start with, there is social media for tourism SME branding. Image is the trigger for brand momentum/promotion (all other issues follow). In fact, the tourism business is more prone to a negative image than any other type of industry. This is due to traditional gossip that has been converted if not fashioned into e-word of mouth as technology driven semantics. So we now need to reconfigure our branding strategies by leveraging specific aspects of social media for brand marketing communications. An entrepreneur’s task at this stage is to find and develop those elements/designs/graphics that speak to the purity of the business and all its assets, and then integrate them into media-specific communication platforms/tools social. It will be hard to escape under any circumstance when image blurring kicks in (it will be like veld fire and unstoppable). Therefore, it is necessary to have a hybrid social media branding strategy that always defends such surprises. Here we talk about deals, people, partnerships, franchises, achievements, and excellence among other essential cogs. Let social media talk about these tourism aspects as they lead to positive branding. These are the same components that your brand’s competitors will rely on to drive you out of the market.
Next, we come to brand awareness that is most talked about but with little practice. For me, this is a move towards positive brand popularity. Where the tourist operator and its promises are able to reach every potential tourist (locally and globally). When it comes to relaxing and memorable experiences, your brand should be the first thing that comes to mind for the tourist. This is what social media in all their packages/forms have managed to intensify through their widespread connectivity. Of course, some of our offerings require us to be aimed at a specific niche/targeted segment, but with awareness, there is no point in saying enough and doing it. You will become unstoppable. We are talking about that awareness that is enduring to capture the hearts and souls of current and future generations. This is when your website content speaks of newness and continuous upgrading as the core of SME existence. Some of the SMEs in these sectors have deliberately limited their brand awareness and existence because they publish little information which can even last for a while without upgrading or have no website at all (seriously in these times !). This is too fake for this age when social media can even roll over your mobile gadgets and software like Whatsapp, Twitter, Pinterest and any other. The task here is to ensure that every member of the tourism SME (from general employees to managers/owners) is part of the social branding strategy in this electronic massification. You’ll find that some of your employees don’t even have a cellphone that connects to the world through digitalization (similar to how brand advertising was handled in the Iron Age). Invest and provide them as they are part of the locomotive of supreme awareness through digital socialization). The payouts here are more than a multiplier. Enjoy the most powerful, fastest and most reliable Internet. As mentioned above, it takes two to tango in the market, yourself and the customers. This is by giving them more than adequate information about your brand and allowing you to search with the click of a button when they plan/purchase a great tourist experience.
This is an ongoing saga that we cannot exhaust in this single edition but will continue in future editions. Today, I leave you to do a self-assessment and reconsider social media in the tourism sector not as a gatekeeper, but as a game-changer and a heartbeat for widespread branded tourism visibility.
Dr. Farai Chigora is a businessman and an academic. He is the Director of Business Science at the College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance at Africa University. Her doctoral research focused on business administration (destination marketing and branding, UKZN, SA). He is in agribusiness and is a consultant for many companies in Zimbabwe and Africa. He writes in a personal capacity and can be contacted for comments and business at [email protected], WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.