Social media marketing in the hospitality industry: The role of benefits in increasing brand community participation and the impact of participation on consumer trust and commitment toward hotel and restaurant brands
Online community is an effective tool for building the relationship with consumers. Many hospitality firms (i.e., hotels and restaurants) have utilized online communities a new marketing channel to reach their consumers. Previous studies have identified four participation benefits (functional, social, psychological, and hedonic) in the member participation of community activities. In addition to these four factors, this study also added monetary benefit as a predictor of member participation. Demographic factors (i.e., age and biological gender) were proposed to influence the relationships between benefits and community participation. As results of member participation in online communities, trust and commitment toward hotel or restaurant brands have been considered as important factors that enhance consumer relationships with hospitality brands. The purpose of this study was to investigate benefit factors of member participation and the relationships between community participation, brand trust, and brand commitment in hotel and restaurant online communities.
The present study investigated the conceptual model in two contexts, including hotel and restaurant Facebook fan pages. The data on the hotel Facebook fan pages were collected from both the panel of an online research company and the alumni of Iowa State University; whereas the data on the restaurant Facebook fan pages were only collected from the alumni of Iowa State University. After conducting confirmatory factor analysis, the present study identified four benefit factors (functional, hedonic, monetary, and social-psychological benefits) as the predictors of member participation in hotel and restaurant Facebook fan pages. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was used to test the conceptual model.
Based on the results of SEM, hotel and restaurant studies showed different results. The results of the hotel study indicated that three benefit factors (functional, hedonic, and social-psychological benefits) positively influenced members' community participation; member participation positively influenced their trust toward a hotel brand. Biological gender had a significant moderating effect on the relationship between functional benefits and community participation in the hotel study. The results of the restaurant study indicated that two benefit factors (hedonic and social-psychological benefits) positively influenced members' community participation; member participation positively influenced their trust and commitment toward a restaurant brand; members' brand trust also positively influenced their commitment toward the restaurant brand.
The findings of this study provide significant insights for the researchers and marketers. From the theoretical perspective, this is the first empirical research that investigated consumer benefits and responses (i.e., community participation, brand trust, and brand commitment) in online communities managed by hospitality firms. Thus, the study contributes to the understanding of consumer behavior in social media. From the practical perspective, the study suggests some strategies to effectively design hotel and restaurant Facebook fan pages, which can strengthen the relationships with current consumers and attract potential consumers.