268 | 30, pp. 265-281 | doxa.comunicación

January-June of 2020

The use of Facebook as a tourist communication tool in major international urban destinations

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978

In this context, it is evident that destinations have increased their need to communicate and understand the importance of communicating the brand (Fernández-Cavia, 2011). Territories with a strong brand are more likely to attract tourists and new residents or future investments (Morgan, Pritchard, and Pride, 2011). Although a territory is not a product, most studies (Fernández-Cavia and Huertas, 2009) consider that branding can also be applied to regions. The territory-brand is now what most identifies a tourist destination (De San Eugenio, 2011).

The image of a tourist destination is still the overall perception that a tourist has of it (Bigné, Isabel Sánchez, and Sánchez, 2001). In this sense, social media is a great tool for contributing to the excellent image of the destination, facilitating two-way communication between the organisation and its audiences (Fernández-Cavia and Huertas, 2014). Its use allows us to know what travellers think, and the destination marketing organisations (DMOs) can engage in dialogue with them and open the door to future relationships (Wigley and Lewis, 2012; Fernández-Cavia and Huertas, 2014; Mariné-Roig and Huertas, 2016).

1.2. Social media in tourist destinations

Social media offers many opportunities for tourist institutions (Xu, 2010) and contributes to destination branding (Domínguez y Araújo, 2012). The idea is to make sure that tourists remember it since they will choose their tourist destination based on the destination’s image. Therefore, as explained by Folgado, Oliveira, and Hernández (2011), the destination will try to emphasise its unique character by using promotional techniques that seek to create a secure and robust brand.

The brand image that tourists have of the destination will play an essential role in its success. Generally, tourists have limited knowledge of tourist destinations before visiting them. Therefore, if the destination has a strong, differentiated brand image, it is more likely to be included in the tourists’ travel itinerary (Beerli and Martín, 2002). Consequently, one of the main reasons for using social media is to improve the brand’s image (Piñeiro, 2012).

To interact with tourists and engage in authentic dialogue, logically, proper management of social media is needed, allowing for comments and responding to them. If the tools are only used unidirectionally, dialogue cannot take place (Míguez et al., 2014). Not surprisingly, although social media itself enables interaction because of the technology (Lovejoy and Saxton, 2012), social media managers must use it correctly for it to be effective (Zhou and Wang, 2013). Some authors (Míguez et al., 2014; Martínez-Sala and Campillo-Alhama, 2018) point out, however, that the DMOs are not taking full advantage of social media’s potential as a tool for generating dialogue with their audiences.

Since its appearance, “all levels of governments, mainly use the Internet as an electronic bulletin board to publish information, without making a real effort to interact” (Castells, 2001), this model seems to be the same in the case of tourism communication via social media (Martínez-Valerio, 2012). Establishing relations between DMOs and different users is maybe one of the most transcendental aspects of social media (Altamirano and Túñez-López, 2016).

Thus, while it is true that social media has offered new opportunities, they have also posed a significant challenge for tourism institutions, as well as for communication directors and the media managers themselves. They have had to