John Fotis made his doctoral research on “The use of social media and its impacts on consumer behaviour: The context of holiday travel”. During the last years, social media enjoy a phenomenal success in terms of adoption and usage levels. They cause paradigm shifts on how people connect and communicate with each other, on how they express and share ideas, and even on how they engage with products, brands, and organizations. Moreover, social media became significant networks of consumer knowledge.
In travel and tourism, the impacts of social media have already been described as tremendous, primarily due to the experiential nature of tourism products, and especially of holiday trips: purchases are considered risky and therefore decision making processes are information intensive. An adequate number of studies attempt to reveal the role and impact of social media on aspects of consumer behaviour during the travel process that is before, during, and after the trip. However, almost all employ a micro approach, focusing either on a specific type of social medium (e.g. consumer review and rating websites), or on a specific application (e.g. TripAdvisor), or on a specific stage of the decision making process (e.g. information search), or on a specific stage of the travel process (e.g. before travel). Despite the advantages of such micro approaches, still the overall picture on how consumers use social media and their impact as a whole, during all phases of the travel process and throughout all stages of the decision making process remains unclear.
Dr Fotis employed a qualitative methodology to provide an insider’s perspective on how consumers use social media throughout the holiday travel process and the impacts of such use on consumer behaviour. Seven focus groups were carried out with fifty-one active social media users who have been on a holiday trip during the last twelve months. It was revealed that social media are used during all stages of the travel process, and also during all stages of holiday related decision-making processes. Through thematic analysis six themes have been constructed that provide a range of insights on how social media are used and their impacts.
Dr Fotis’ study contributes to existing knowledge by proposing information exchange as an enlarged consumer behaviour construct. Moreover, the study identifies six social media functional spaces that enclose active users’ specific behaviours and cognitive functions: inspiration, collaboration, decision-making, self-expression, communication, and entertainment. Finally, the study proposes the social media enabled travel process model as a framework for understanding use and impact of social media throughout the holiday travel process. A number of implications for practice, as well as emerging areas for future research are drawn.