The role of digital marketing channels on the social identity Essay


Nowadays life is being influenced by the digital environment. The digitalization is one of a controversial and almost new topic in the world. As a result of digital development; many concepts have been changed gradually. The digitization of media represents a phase change in the history of communications (Mulhern, 2009, p.86, Royle & Laing, 2014). A Social communication is not limited by physical distance any longer. One’s social distance to another is determined by the social degree of relationship rather than geo-physical distance (Fortin & Chen, 2017).

These changes have affected on marketing and social groups too. Digital marketing has become an important tool of marketing in today’s world (Jeevan, 2015). Digital marketing is the marketing of products or services using digital channels, including social media, email, website and search engine.

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Despite extensive research on these topics, the role that digital marketing can play on social identity in group-oriented activities such as voluntourism remains a neglected area. Voluntourism is the combination of leisure travel and voluntary work (Barbieri, Santos, & Katsube, 2012, Nyahunzvi, K, 2013).

Because an important role that voluntourism can play in eradicating poverty, developing the so-called third world and providing international awareness of the environmental problem, the study of voluntourism have grown exponentially over the past 20 years. Digital environment aid volunteer tourist to make international group easily, they now are able to stay in touch with the communities that hosted them, as well as with each other, via Facebook and other social media (Sink 2011, Wearing & McGehee, 2013)

I use Social Identity Theory as a framework for this study. Based on this theory this membership can influence on the each member’s behaviour, they define their own identity with regard to social group and that such identification work to protect and bolster self-identity (Islam, 2014). voluntourism studies mainly cover the intention of the volunteer while another important area of study revolves around the organizations that facilitate volunteer tourism (Wearing, McGehee, 2013) Therefore there is an opportunity for the organizations and hosts to use these groups to fulfill their targets by the help of digital marketing and social identity theory.

In this study, two articles have been assisted to get deeper insight and light up the way. First the paper of Mostafanezhad, she investigates how celebrities impact on the volunteering trend and have made it sexy (Mopstafanezhad, 2013). She studies the role of them to expand the culture of humanitarianism among people (mainly females). Then Bone and Bone study that shows how voluntourism can put the participants into the process of deterritorialisation and

recommend that there must be a space for participants to reflexively engage with their tourism experiences beyond sharing photos in social media (Bone & Bone, 2017).

Now I am going to study how volunteering organization and host society can use digital marketing to encourage other members of groups that volunteer tourists are membered, to do voluntourism activities as well, based on social identity theory.

Research question

Tourism is a major source of revenue in many countries, voluntourism as a form of tourism can generate physical assistance in addition to monetary. This physical help is including teaching, health care, construction project, environmental conservation and so forth. Although Awareness of volunteer tourism opportunities continues to expand through viral marketing, social networks, grass roots communication and consumer to consumer information sharing. (Martine Bakker, 2008), this is volunteering organization and host responsibility to manage this trend and put it in a scheduled flow in order to achieve their defined objectives. Hence I can say that the purpose of this research is a detailed examination of the role of digital marketing channels on creating social groups of volunteer tourists and then uses the Social Identity theory as a framework to utilize of those social groups by the voluntourism organization for increasing the desire of group’s members toward volunteering activities. This might put people in the lope of altruism and expand the culture of voluntary work.

This will help us to determine the most effective channel for volunteer tourist to become an effective person in the groups that they are membered and is beneficial for organizations (regardless to the aim of the organization whether they are NGO or the commercial organization) to achieve their goals.

Literature review

Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world and one of the most dynamic economic activities in existence (Martine Bakker, 2008). People travel for many reasons, Recreation is said to be the most important reason for the travel. However in recent years, travellers are seeking something more, such as helping experience, this would come to fruit with voluntourism. Many studies have been done all over the world in voluntourism since it first presented, despite the fact that the majority of these papers have been done in Newzealand,

Australia, Canada and USA. The most popular destinations for voluntourists are India, South America and Africa.

Although Mostafanezhad said that popular mass and social media outlets have become important sites for public moral education,(Mostafanezhad, 2013), the role of digital marketing on it has not been taken into account yet, only the Images of volunteer tourists with young children are now regular representations of the volunteer tourism experience on social networking sites (Mostafanezhad, 2013).

As the global community shrinks in size, the notion of ‘helping your neighbour’ is expanding (Martine Bakker,2008) Many see volunteer tourism as a form of alternative tourism (Britton & Clarke, 1987; Cohen, 1987, 2003; Dernoi, 1981, 1988; Ellis, 2003; Halpenny & Caissie, 2003; Holden, 1984; McGehee, 2002; Pearce, 1980; Singh, 2002, 2004; Sorensen, 1997; Uriely, Reichel, & Ron, 2003; Wearing, 2001, 2003, Wearing & McGehee, 2013) but it is argued that, “those tourists who, for various reasons, volunteer in an organized way to undertake holidays that might involve aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society, the restoration of certain environments, or research into aspects of society or environment” (Wearing, 2001, Wearing & McGehee, 2013).

By reviewing several articles, it is understood that researcher mainly prefers interview as a tool for collecting data also search engine and internet play a critical role for data gathering too. Moreover, different theories have been used as a framework for their studies like the Theory of Reasoned Action, Role Identity theory, Socio-historical Culture approach, etc.

These studies often focus on pre-trip section, mostly the voluntourist’s motivations (Mostafanezhad, 2013, Easton & Wise, 2015, Bone & Bone, 2017, M-Tregeman et al, 2017) based on Wearing and McGehee review 2013 the research identified a number of positive motivations for volunteer tourism, including altruism, self-development, giving back to the host community, participating in community development, and cultural understanding (Brown, 2005; Brown & Morrison, 2003; Callanan &Thomas, 2005; Coghlan, 2008; McIntosh & Zahra, 2007; Stoddart &Rogerson, 2004; Wearing & Dean, 2003, Wearing & McGehee, 2013)).

Some examined the role of the volunteer tourism organization (Nyahunzvi, 2013, Wilkinson et al, 2014, Bhiri et al, 2014, Buchmayer, 2017) for example Nyahunzvi argue that it is important to realize that any mismatch between facilitators’ representations and ‘coal-face’ experiences of volunteering will lead to post-purchase dissonance, bad‘electronic word of mouth’ recommendations and other adverse ‘bottom-line’ effects (Nyahunzvi, 2013)

And finally others discuss the volunteer tourism experience when the participant returns home. According to McGehee, fewer studies have been done on the host and few on the negative impact of voluntourism (McGehee, 2011)

Nancy McGehee proposed the theoretical approach to present critical theory and social movement theory as promising foundations for a holistic study of volunteer tourism. (McGehee, 2011) but the role of social identity theory on voluntourism is considerable too and the impact of digital marketing on creating, and managing this theory would be interesting as well. So it could be a missed loop of this chain.

Theoretical framework

Theories that been applied in this research area are social identity theory and voluntourism, since the voluntourism is group-oriented and it is a kind of project that should be done by a team, the role of social identity theory would be critical for every organization and firm that work in this industry in order to set their marketing strategies. Moreover the question of which digital marketing channels best fit for them would stump them, Therefor the role of social identity theory on volunteer tourist should be investigated precisely, and then the effect of each digital marketing channels (including, search engine, social media, email marketing and website marketing) on the social identity of voluntourism is going to study, and at the end a conceptual framework for the organizations and host societies to maximize their marketing efforts will be introduced.


This research is a mixed research and both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used. It will be divided into two main phases the first is a qualitative phase that contains a precise study of literature in order to gain strong knowledge about different parts of the research and investigate gaps of the proposed model. This process will be conducted through various databases such as Emerald, Google Scholar, Science Direct, and Elsevier and reference list from key studies used to locate information relevant to the study. This process led us to create questions for the interview, then through a deep interview with marketing expert and those people who are using digital marketing channels, a model can be introduced. The second phase will be quantitative, and in this part, the research model will be tested with statistic population. The quantitative data will be collected through a questionnaire. At the end all data will be analyzed and the result will be revealed.

Research design/methods

In this research, literature study will help me for proposing a theoretical framework, model and hypothesis. In this phase, a deep interview will be used and for analyzing the result, the coding method will conduct and then a model will produce. After that, field study will be applied and for testing hypothesis by questionnaire data will be collecting. For conducting this research, all three players of the voluntourism should participate including volunteering organizations, volunteer tourists and host communities. In the first phase interview will be used as a tool for collecting qualitative data and the second phase uses a questionnaire for collecting quantitative data. In this research at least two NGO or volunteering organization should participate, preferably those who have been using different channels for marketing, one destination that characterize the host community and finally the volunteer tourists will be chosen among those who are skilled ranged from 25-30 years old. The size of the statistic population will be determined by Krejcie Morgan table.

Significance of research

Living in a peaceful, calm and lawful world such as so-called Aristotelian Utopia is everyone desire, this will not happen unless every single person regardless of gender or skin colour cooperates together and help each other for reaching to this goal. In this regard people have been using different methods. One of these methods is volunteering activity to help others including individuals and country to overcome their difficulties. Voluntourism also can help the host community to develop in many sectors such as education, infrastructure, health, etc. This is a unique topic in the tourism industry to study the social identity theory of voluntourism through different channels and understand how it would be helpful for those who concern about their world.


1- Bakker, M, 2008, volunteer tourism-international, travel and tourism analyst, 16

2- Bhiri, T, Lunga, W & Musarurwa, C, 2014, the effectiveness of community volunteers’ participation for the sustainability of NGO’s poverty reduction projects in Zimbabwe, global journal of management and social science, 2(2), 25-246

3- Bone, J, Bone, K, 2017, Voluntourism as cartography of self: A Deleuzian analysis of a postgraduate visit to India, Tourist Studies, 18(2), 177-193

4- Buchmayer, K, 2017, Voluntourism discourse: A case study of ME to We, master thesis, University of Ottawa

5- Easton, N, Wise, N, 2015, online portrayals of volunteer tourism in Nepal, worldwide hospitality and tourism themes, 7(2), 141-158

6- Fortin, D, Chen, N(Chris),(2017), emerging issued in digital marketing, Journal of Consumer Marketing, 34, 469-471

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