Singapore Airlines has created probably the most well recognized airline brand in the world. The Singapore Girl has done great wonders for the airline and the nation over the years. Even ardent competitors like the CEO of AirAsia, Tony Fernandes, openly claim to be learning from the airline.
But the recent tough times have hit the airline hard, just like other premium carriers like Cathay Pacific. Singapore Airlines has decided to cut over 200 flights and is experiencing low load-factors in its premium classes – where it makes most of its money. So the big looming question is what should the airline do now? Change strategy? Probably not. How about using social media to soften the impact, by engaging the customers and employees real-time? Why not?
You can run, but you can’t hide
In my conversations with folks over at Singapore Airlines (quite a few of them!), I’ve sensed educated-nonchalance when it comes to adopting social media to pursue its business goals in this downturn. Not only are they hardly present on social media outlets, the airline seems unconvinced about the importance of a two-way conversation. SIA doesn’t have a blog, Twitter account, Facebook page or even social-media-friendly press releases (I had to download a 4mb image to try to put in this article, and I didn’t). From a brand that has done an excellent job of top-down positioning, where it tells its customers what it’s about, it’s fair to expect careful treading of new waters. But getting into social media for an airline brand is not about why, but about how. And it has to be now.
Why time is running out for Singapore Airlines?
Cranky Flier blog’s Brent Snyder published an intriguing article on the importance of social media for airlines yesterday, and here’s what he had to say,
“For all those airlines who still don’t think embracing new media is a good thing, well, there’s not much I can say to you except you should pull your heads out of your a***s”
I couldn’t agree more.
One of the arguments I often hear from executives at premium airlines is “I’m not targeting the teens on Facebook” or “my customers are not on Twitter”. What’s wrong with those comments? They concentrate on the tool, not the strategic goal. Getting into social media doesn’t have to start with a Twitter account or a Facebook page. It needs to start with determining what’s the opportunity to achieve strategic goals – like engaging the customer or enhancing existing touchpoints with social media. Then figuring out what tool to use.
What if we start with the goal of providing value adding service to SIA’s premium customers?
It is indeed not very realistic to expect SIA’s high-paying customers to be on Twitter or Facebook. But a mojority of them carry iPhones and Blackberries. How about creating simple apps for these devices that allow them to perform common tasks like check-in, date change, seat-change or booking of a flight using miles? And this idea is not very far-fetched, since SIA’s competition like Cathay Pacific has done a great job with CX Mobile (their iPhone app). Others like British Airways, Qantas, LuxAir and Lufthansa also have similar initiatives.
If SIA waits too long, there’s a chance its competitiors might start taking away market share, due to superior engagement outside the aircraft. And that can be damaging.
I believe that if SIA decides to go ahead with a social media strategy, it has the potential to surpass all of its competition, because it has a genie – the Singapore Girl! How? Go figure =)
What do you think? Is there a place (or need) for a premium brand like SIA to be on social media? If so, what’s the best way? Let’s discuss.
By the way, Tweepitition is still running and are still 3 more autographed copies of the book to on SIA be given away, and a 4GB Apple iPod. You too can be a winner, just by re-tweeting a comment from SimpliFlying or leaving a comment on this site. Learn more here.