Going undercover: Online domestic tourism marketing communication in closed and open Facebook groups

Osnat Roth-Cohen, Tamar Lahav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Due to the importance of social media for domestic tourism consumers, small-medium enterprises (SMEs) include online marketing using Facebook in their strategic communication efforts. Using unique tactics to embed unidentified messages, they exploit open and closed Facebook groups under the disguise of organic users. This study evaluates the entrance of small domestic tourism business owners into Israeli Facebook groups, analyzing their consumer engagement tactics using virtual ethnography (netnography) as a research method. Netnography is a qualitative approach to data collection in virtual communities. In this research, the procedure was multistep: observation, qualitative data collection of closed and open tourism Facebook groups, and analysis and presentation of results as well as their implications. Key findings indicate that SME marketing efforts mimic organic user activities, exploiting virtual characteristics on Facebook groups (e.g. a sense of community, belonging, and trust). Another notable phenomenon is the undisclosed marketing communication tool kit employed to transmit message. It includes tactics such as separation of private and business profiles, exploitation of family relations, and repeat recommendations. This research adds to the understanding of online tourism marketing in virtual communities by analyzing the messaging optimization tool kit for targeting Facebook-using audiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-362
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Vacation Marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • Disclosed/undisclosed messages
  • Facebook
  • SMEs
  • marketing communication
  • netnography
  • tourism


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