Why is Social Media Taboo?

“The biggest surprise coming out of my research was the lack of social media participation by individual businesses operating in the tourism industry. How can it be that a marketing tool which reaches a global audience and is free to operate gets so little respect?”

Social Media

You Cannot Hide From Social Media

Just over a year ago ehCanadaTravel.com started to look seriously into the social media craze unfolding online. I, myself, took a big interest and started researching social media on the internet until my fingers bled Maple Leaf red. I am not sure how many articles I studied but it added up to a lot. I often caught myself staying up late reading article after article digging deeper into this “15 minutes of fame” phenomenon and “go viral” addiction.

It was not until ehCanadaTravel.com started to participate in social media did I really find out how social media plays into the tourism industry. Being that we are not a Government funded DMO… social media looked like a positive communication channel for reaching out to the international traveler. Heck, any type of guerilla marketing tweaks our interest.

I found some interesting facts about social media online but most of the shocker-type tourism social media came from my own research and our own analytics. I discovered a lot about the tourism industry and its love-hate relationship with social media.

We analyzed a random sample of 100 tourism businesses in BC, Alberta, Yukon, NWT and Saskatchewan. We looked at their websites. We clicked on their social media links. We viewed their social media pages. What we found made some sense. One could even say it was expected.

Many of the tourism businesses in Canada are managed by an older generation. A generation which does not necessarily embrace technology nor want to learn new technology. Sad to say, some have even convinced themselves their business is too small to make a difference and the effort is to great with little returns.

The biggest surprise coming out of my research was the lack of social media participation by individual businesses operating in the tourism industry. How can it be that a marketing tool which reaches a global audience and is free to operate gets so little respect? Every return is profit on a $0 investment.

Here are some interesting results:

  • From our random sample of businesses only 36 out of 100 tourism businesses in Western/Northern Canada participated in social media.
  • The most recent post was over 3+ months old for 5 of the 36 social media pages.
  • The social media page link on the business website did not work for 3 of the 36 social media pages.
  • Businesses using social media were usually on multiple platforms (2.3 average).
  • Facebook and Twitter are the most popular social media channels.
  • Biggest users of social media were big business, remote business and tops in their field type businesses.
  • Social media participation is very seasonal. Ski hills participate regularly in the winter and golf in the summer but not vice-versa.

Why do tourism businesses not use social media? Here is what we have concluded from our conversations…

  • “I do not have time.”
  • “I have been meaning to do it.”
  • “It takes too much time to maintain.”
  • “I am not technology savvy.”

Again we have to ask ourselves as an industry, “How can this be?” Can you imagine how effective it would be if all 100 businesses participated in social media. That would be an extra 64 social media pages which would be floating around in internet space marketing communities, adventures and activities. Now, can you imagine, if the bulk of business in the industry got behind it… it would have a tremendous impact on the overall Canadian tourism market worldwide.

Social media is free, far reaching and when used properly a great booking engine. After I sat back and thought about it for awhile it made sense to me. All I had to do was look into our past as an industry. Take for example, the internet website. It was not long ago many businesses did not believe a website was an important part of their business. Some did not have one for the longest time. Many still believed that rack cards and tourism information centres would be enough. Change is hard, it seems.

Will the tourism businesses in Canada keep playing catch up with technology? Only time will tell. All I know is that we encourage our Members to participate in all forms of social media to grow their business. We work with them. We provide them guidance and help promote them. But when it comes down to it… they have to put in the effort to make it work. All it takes is a post a day.


The “eh Team” of ehCanadaTravel.com (eh Canada Travel & Adventure) are the brother team of Greg and Colin Girard. Together they are the brains behind the ehCanadaTravel.com travel website, blog, social media and ehTV which is the largest and fastest growing booking, planning and researching tourism and travel network for Western and Northern Canada – currently expanding into Eastern and Atlantic Canada.

15 replies
  1. Canada eh Travel & Adventure
    Canada eh Travel & Adventure says:

    I often wonder though are these tens of thousands of follows legit or bought. I have noticed some of the big players have such large followings and yet they receive very little interaction? It is too easy for some to play the system when you can buy 10,000 followers for $5. I was reading somewhere that 30% of big players on social media buy followers to impress numbers? What have you experienced?

    Yes, I agree it is not free. Me bad. Should of been more clear. There is definitely a cost in time and staffing of a digital marketing campaign. However the hard costs of print, radio and TV is much higher reaching in the thousands of dollars a month. Why not divert funds from old school marketing into a digital campaign. Out sourcing social media can be very economical compared to other forms of media.

    Thank you for your feedback. Be well. Be active.

  2. Canada eh Travel & Adventure
    Canada eh Travel & Adventure says:

    No, we do realize there is a cost in time and staff for an effective social media marketing plan. We were just comparing hard costs of various types of marketing mediums like SEO, print, radio and TV. Maybe it is time to divert those funds from old school marketing to cover the costs of digital marketing. The future of tourism is online not in rack cards.

  3. Canada eh Travel & Adventure
    Canada eh Travel & Adventure says:

    Yes, the investment is time and staffing. But compared to other forms of marketing the costs are manageable. Businesses need to seriously evaluate the high costs of old school marketing and maybe diverse funds into staffing for social media. Or out source the tasks to third party marketers. Many are reasonably priced as they work from home. Thank you for your feedback. You made some very good points.

  4. Canada eh Travel & Adventure
    Canada eh Travel & Adventure says:

    Agreed. Perhaps I should of made it more clear. Yes, the investment is time and staffing. So true on the point of doing it poorly is damaging. However there are programs now which assist in maintaining social media pages and responding to comments via email. If a business can spend hours answering emails they can make an effort posting once a day on social media and maintaining response.

  5. Frederic Gonzalo
    Frederic Gonzalo says:

    Sad, but oh so true! I remember attending a Social Media event for travel industry in San Francisco, back in March 2010, and was flabbergasted to see and hear speakers (hotels, airlines, etc.) talk about their tens and hundreds of thousand followers on Twitter, or Facebook, discussing ROI and best practices. Back home, in the province of Quebec, we were barely scratching the surface!

    Times have changed somewhat, but I still notice that lag you describe in this post. I have been working the past three years as speaker, blogger and consultant, helping travel organizations with their digital strategy, including social media, and it's an uphill battle, for sure.

    The biggest issue, I believe, it that social media is NOT free. It's a misconception. It takes time and resources to manage them. And more and more, it takes cold hard cash to make inroads, in particular on Facebook where promoted posts and targeted ads hold great potential and value for money. But it ain't free. Same goes for TripAdvisor, where many hoteliers can perform well, assuming someone takes time to answer comments. Many will opt for Business Listings, and even TripConnect. Thus, it ain't free.

    Keep the conversation going, that's what social media is all about, right?

  6. Kyle Miller
    Kyle Miller says:

    Part of the reality is that it's not exactly a $0 investment. In capital outlay maybe, but effective social media requires a definite investment in the time and effort of at least one person spending at least a handful of hours per day or week servicing or engaging with the community. Time is money, and as cost effective as SM is, somebody has to be the 'social' part of the equation. Doing it poorly is more damaging than not doing it at all.

  7. Rob Ringma
    Rob Ringma says:

    Good article and surprising results. Good social media requires more than a $0 investment though. You need to invest the time to develop a well thought out strategy and typically , if you are serious about results, an employee resource to facilitate , manage, gather relevant content, converse and dissect your analytics. This investment is the only way to move it from the side of your desk hobby to a true part of your marketing mix.

  8. Peter Sheehan
    Peter Sheehan says:

    The tourism industry is not the one big industry that we think it is . We have all those large brands and then we have all the Ma and Pa, and family owned products . The latter are the ones with the unique properties in the unique locations , but they are not the ones that have the time to spend going to a lot of meetings , so they rely on associations , many of which really are not that effective when it comes to helping grow the business . They also do not have time to use social media and many see it as a waste because they do not know the best way to take social media and use it to find new clients . Ma and Pa Tourism in many rural and coastal locations is all about finding new clients every year . The competition now with underground competitors is causing major financial damage in many locations and governments don't care .

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