Introduction

The area of Lebanon is ranked 170th worldwide (CIA, 2014). It is smaller than Connecticut, making it one of America’s smallest states. Lebanon is also one of the few Middle East countries that has a democratic government. Lebanon’s economy is free-market and follows a long tradition of laissez faire economics. Lebanon’s location on the Eastern Mediterranean Coast is a key factor in its status as the ‘window’ to Europe, North Africa and the rest the Middle East. Its economy has enjoyed some very successful times, and it was once called the “Paris” of the Middle East prior to the country’s bloody 15-year-long civil war that ended in 1990.

Even though Lebanon is small, it is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Christians, Muslims, Druze, or other minorities are scattered all over the country. Even Lebanon’s political system, which is based upon sectarian power sharing, is not without its problems.

This diversity played an important role in the nation’s problems. This diversity was essential for the country’s sectarian Civil War. It is also responsible for its current political paralysis. However, other factors (mainly international) may also be to blame. The country currently has no acting President, and rival political parties continue to fight and hinder the country’s development rather than facilitate it.

Additionally, Lebanon’s close proximity to Israel makes it an important foreign policy/proxy battlefield for other nations. Each nation uses Lebanon for its selfish ends.

The country’s economic health has been severely affected by the sad political realities. This sector is also the most affected, as Lebanon is a service-based economy.

The nation’s economy is dominated by tourism. According to the Lebanese Ministry of Economy & Trade, “Tourism is long been one of Lebanon’s most important economic sectors” (Economic Research Unit 2010, 2010).

Additionally, the World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that Lebanon’s tourism and travel sector contributed more than $4 billion to GDP in 2013. (World Travel & Tourism Council 2014).

In 2012, the travel and tourism sector accounted for 10% of the country’s economy. However, that percentage dropped to 9% in 2013. (ibid. p. 14). This can be attributed to the political environment in the country and other factors. The number of tourists visiting the country has declined from 2011 to 2013.

The tourism industry has struggled in recent years and businesses have very little room for error. Tourism-related (TR), businesses in Lebanon are being squeezed by the political and economic environment. These businesses have to compensate for growing losses or decreasing profits and work with less resources. It is impossible to predict when the political and economic situation in Lebanon will improve, especially with the civil war in neighboring Syria showing no signs of slowing down.

Lebanese TR companies can adapt to these difficult times in many ways, including reducing their staff and cutting down on advertising and marketing budgets. Marketing budgets are often the first thing to be cut when there is an economic recession or tough time. This is especially true since TR businesses must do more marketing in order to compensate for the loss of businesses.

Social media marketing strategies are one solution. They cost very little or no resources and are perfect for Lebanon’s current economic climate. Social media marketing can help TR businesses overcome the obstacles of low business and limited budgets.

Problem Statement

The positive impact of social media on businesses has been very high over the past few years (Kaplan et. al., 2010 and Stelzner 2010, Treem & Leonardi 2012, p. 143, Baker & Green 2014).

Moreover, Facebook fans and Twitter followers of a brand are more likely than non-fans to recommend these brands and purchase from them (Cruz & Mendelsohn 2011, 2011). However, research studies are not required to prove the impact of social media on businesses. This is a fact that social media users (which represent more than 30% of the global population) know. Social Media marketing tools are becoming an integral part of businesses’ overall business strategies.

It would be natural to expect that Lebanese companies would adopt Social Media Marketing as an integral part of their overall marketing strategies. However, this is not the case. Social media usage in the Middle East, especially Lebanon, is much lower than that of the West. There is also much potential for growth in the tourism sector. Tourism businesses are not able to take advantage of social media’s marketing opportunities because they have limited investment in technology.

Despite the obvious benefits of social media marketing, the Lebanese tourism sector isn’t taking advantage of them. This is a problem, especially as the economy is in a difficult time.

Lebanese TR companies and all businesses in Lebanon aren’t using social media as much as they should. This is a major problem as it leads to wasted resources and missed opportunities. Businesses that use social media marketing tools have a greater chance of success.

Study’s purpose

If we don’t know the reasons behind the slow adoption of social media marketing in Lebanon, the fruits and benefits of these tools could take a while to manifest.

Many TR businesses could be left behind if there is no research on how to effectively implement a social media campaign in the Lebanese context.

Even though there are many studies that have been done in the West on how to effectively implement social media marketing campaigns for their purposes, these results may not be applicable to Lebanese. This study aims to identify the factors that can be used to implement social media marketing in Lebanese TR companies.

Social media marketing is an essential part of marketing campaigns and the overall success for tourism-related businesses.

Lebanese tourist-related (TR) businesses are far behind the developed countries in terms of investing in and using SMM. Why is this? SMM has many benefits. To catch up with the rest of the world, how can Lebanese TR companies deploy an SMM campaign in the most efficient way? The study was designed to identify the reasons for low SMM investment and use by Lebanese TR business owners, and to guide them in using SMM.

Methodology

This study serves two purposes. This study seeks to identify the factors that prevent Lebanese TR companies from using social media marketing tools. Interpretivism is the philosophy that allows for inductive approaches to move from specific to general research. The methodology is qualitative and the strategy is ethnographic. Ten participants are interviewed in depth from ten companies. Five companies were more visible on social media than the five others. The participants provided valuable information and solutions to the research problem.

By Mary

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