The Use of Geolocalized Social Networks Information to Guide and Enhance the Design of Local Cultural and Tourist Policies

The Use of Geolocalized Social Networks Information to Guide and Enhance the Design of Local Cultural and Tourist Policies

Víctor Temprano-García (University of Valladolid, Spain) and Rebeca San José-Cabezudo (University of Valladolid, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8939-6.ch018


In recent years we have witnessed the upsurge in the use of social networks by companies and individuals, the latter being the real protagonists of its development. The diverse execution formats and the multiplicative effects on the reach and influence on equals have changed how organizations communicate with their users, but they have also become a valuable source of information. This chapter aims to understand the behavior of residents and tourists of a city to provide local decision makers insights and pioneer tools to help them design more effective action policies, which may have a positive impact on their cities. The methodological design used is based on the observation and collection of geolocalized data, provided spontaneously by residents and visitors to a town in a real context. Based on the analysis of the photographs that the subjects share about the city and the interactions that take place between the members of the social networks under study, the authors reach the main implications for decision makers to successfully design their policies.
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More than 3,300 million people, some 46% of the world’s population, are connected to the Internet, a figure which increases to around 88% in North America and some 73% in Europe (Internet World Stats, 2015). The number of mobile device users is also growing fast. Globally, there are 3,790 billion mobile phone users, which meant 51% world mobile device penetration by January 2016 (Kemp, 2016). In Spain, according to the latest data published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) for 2015, 78.7% of households in Spain had access to the internet, with the main type of Internet connection being through broadband established using a handheld device (smartphone or tablet). The mobile phone penetration rate in Spanish households was also reported to be 97%. According to the latest study published by the AIMC (AIMC, 2016), mobile phones are used by 93.9% of internet users to access the Internet, ahead of laptop computers (used by 76%) and desktop computers (71.4%). Moreover, 77.2% of users access social networks every day.

Social networks are still primarily used for friendship purposes (the option is chosen by 75.6% of users) and to keep up to date with current events (53.4%), family relations (49.2%), sharing hobbies (42.2%) and work relations (38.9%). Of the various social networks, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are, in that order, the most widely used (IAB, 2015).

Both the high penetration rates as well as the use of the Internet and the social networks, coupled with user willingness to create and share content, means that a huge amount of information is generated, in a wide variety of formats (written messages or texts, photographs, videos, etc.) and at breakneck speed. For example, according to an infographic published by the firm DOMO (James, 2012), by the time the Internet had reached 2,100 billion users, every minute over 680,000 items were shared, 100,000 tweets were sent, 48 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube and 3,125 new photographs were sent to Flickr, amongst the many other contents generated in other social networks and spaces on the Internet. The vast amount of information available coupled with the extraordinary speed at which is generated in a variety of formats (texts, photographs, videos, etc.). This fact provides the “seed” for the so-called Big Data, which has aroused so much interest today amongst scholars and practitioners. According to Gandomi and Haider (2015), Volume, Variety, and Velocity (or the 3Vs) has emerged as a common framework to describe big data (Chen et al., 2012; Kwon et al., 2014)

In this new landscape, organizations face the challenge of harnessing, storing and analyzing all this information for decision-making purposes and generating greater value for all stakeholders. Although the situation could be applied to any other organization, our specific interest lies in ascertaining how local authorities can make the most of the potential offered by these new technologies and, particularly, social networks, in order to extract and examine the information generated by users with a view to devising more effective strategies and policies. More specifically, our goal is to analyze the information of tourist interest generated both by residents and visitors to the city of Valladolid (Spain). Over the last few years, scholars and professionals alike have shown great interest in the impact of social networks on the tourist industry. This interest is, particularly, on tourist behavior, due to the importance of the communities of travelers emerged on the Internet (e.g., TripAdvisor)(Miguéns et al., 2008), or how the information generated in social networks might have on the choice of tourist destinations (Di Pietro et al., 2010). In this research, we adopt a different approach and focus on examining the information from social networks which is used by public authorities to design more efficient tourist strategies and policies.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ethnography: This is an anthropological method used in sociology, cultural studies, consumer research, and a variety of other social science fields to study people and cultures.

Near Field Communication (NFC): Short-range wireless technology that allows you to connect two devices when sending (reading) and receiving (writing) a signal in both directions.

Netnography: The use of ethnography on the internet.

Valladolid: Medium-sized and Spanish industrial city of 300,000 inhabitants located in the region of Castile-Leon (Northwest of Spain).

Flickr: Online photo-sharing service, which allows users to share their photos with the online community worldwide.

Application Programming Interface (API): Set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications used to communicate with an operating system, databases, or communications protocols.

Reputational Capital: An asset that can be managed and accumulated and traded in for trust, the legitimization of a position of power and social recognition.

Google Photos: Launched on May 28, 2015, is a Google’s smart home for photo-sharing and storage service.

3Vs: Acronym of volume, variety, and velocity, this term deals with how to optimize big data.

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