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With recent discussions about the negative side of social media and consumer complaints about Twitter abuse arising, marketers worldwide should have a think about how social media can backfire in tourism. Many tourism providers worldwide recognise the importance of social media for their organisation and are actively engaging on a range of social media channels. However, there are not  lot of stories about social media campaigns backfiring and tourism organizations being in trouble over things they have said or consumers’ sometimes very negative or offensive reactions towards things tourism providers are saying on social media channels. This article will look at some recent examples of social media campaigns backfiring and causing major troubles for the image and brand of the tourism organisation (The Guardian 2013).

MALDIVES TWITTER CAMPAIGN

A recent Twitter campaign by the Maldives Tourism Authority backfired and brought a darker side of the popular tourism destination to the surface. After being awarded as the most romantic destination in the world, @myvisitmaldives launched a Twitter campaign, using #SunnySideofLife” promoting the beauty of the destination. The tweet and hashtag got soon picked up by locals and used to raise awareness of the currently criticized human rights situation in the country. Residents of the Maldives tweeted about the police brutality and lack of democracy using #SunnySideofLife. Soon the hashtag was trending on Twitter not only because of positive tweets about the destination’s beauty but also because of tweets about the more negative side of the destination and ongoing political issues.

COUNTERACTING ESCALATIONS

Social media campaigns need to be monitored closely by the tourism providers in order to ensure they run smoothly. Very often, social media campaigns backfire due to issues or environmental catastrophes going on somewhere in the world and tourism providers posting something that could be considered as offensive or insensible due to specific events such as a hurricane. Social media managers are therefore needed in any organisation to supervise posts very closely and react to current events and crises in a very timely manner, avoiding to upset any consumers following the organisation’s social media.

The same is applicable for negative comments posted on social media. Comments on Twitter for example require organisation’s very timely reaction. Consumers that are not happy with an experience, product or service need to be heard and a human response is crucial. No doubt that this can be quite difficult to manage, as it often requires almost 24/7 availability of somebody who can reply to such comments appropriately but examples have shown that companies that are not answering might actually end up with wider damage to their brand and overall image in the industry. Consumers reading other consumers’ negative comments want to be assured that a tourism company does react and try and resolve any issues. In the past, unanswered negative comments have been shared by consumers and left companies with thousands of comments stating the anger of consumers about this inappropriate way of reacting to complaints. The reach of comments on social networks can sometimes be extraordinary, so companies in tourism need to ensure they can tackle any issues that might occur when the power of social media is actually backfiring.

Crisis management for social media is very important and needs to be addressed in any organisation worldwide. Positive comments and consumers engaging with organisation’s content is great but negative comments will happen at some points and these need to be dealt with appropriately in order to sustain an organisation’s success on social media. Think about plans, guidelines and strategies now, as once negative comments are coming in, it might be too late to think about how to handle these to minimise damage to the company’s image and brand!

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