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What’s Behind the Tweets: A look at social comparison theory, social media, and adventure tourism

This study explores Twitter messages (tweets) surrounding Gauley season, a five-weekend whitewater rafting season taking place each Fall on the Gauley river in West Virginia. Social comparison orientation (SCO) is a part of social comparison theory research and  one is predisposed with. The higher the level, the more likely to be concerned with portrayal of self-image and use arrogance to counteract any feelings of anxiety (Gibbons & Buunk, 1999). Because times of uncertainty, such as taking part in an adventure activity for the first time, can trigger characteristics of high SCO (Buunk & Gibbons, 2007), this research looks at social comparison theory as framework to why individuals construct the messages they do when discussing participation in a commercial adventure activity. Results indicate social comparison theory does play a role in creating one’s social identity and provides insight to those in the industry as to how successfully utilize electronic word of mouth (eWOM).

Advertising Adventure Tourism: The role of social comparison theory and successful advertising images

Presented at the Travel and Tourism Research Association International Conference in Bruges, Belgium – June 2014.

This research explored successful advertising images used in communication efforts for an adventure tourism activity using social comparison theory as a theoretical framework. Similar to the study above, social comparison theory was looked at to explain the cognitive processes that take place when consumers are considering taking part in an adventure activity for the first time. This research however, examined intensity levels present in images and how they affect consumer’s attitude toward the activity, attitude toward the image, and purchase intentions. Social comparison theory was explored in regard to affects on self-esteem about one’s abilities to take part in the activity. Results indicate intensity level does not play a role in affecting consumers’ attitude toward the activity, attitude toward the image or purchase intention, however, social comparison theory does hold explanatory powers in what attracts someone to a certain image. This begins to explain to those in the industry how to successfully appeal to a wider, changing customer base.

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