Airlines and airports in social media should think about scalability of efforts, not just buzz!

By Shashank Nigam

Recently, the Eurpoean airline Jet2 shut down its Twitter account. Possibly because they couldn’t scale up their efforts. Well, at least Jet2 officially shut it down.

Many other airlines and airports that caught the wave of excitement about social media last year and started Twitter and Facebook accounts didn’t have a strategy behind scaling their efforts. They simply went with the flow, and either ran out of resources, or couldn’t convince senior management of the value in their efforts to the overall brand. Examples include Middle East majors like Emirates (last tweet in Jan, 2010) and Qatar Airways (last Tweet in Feb, 2009). So, what does this reflect?

Don’t let the tail wag the dog!

Airlines and airports that are already into social media should look to build a sustainable engagement strategy, as well a resource strategy. It shouldn’t become a case of the follower numbers exploding due to a viral video or giveaway, and the Marketing team having to double the team’s size all of a sudden.

Rather, by planning ahead and tying social media efforts closely to overall brand goals and setting up KPIs, airlines and airports will not allow the tail to wag the dog – it’s a situation nobody wants to be in.

Some questions to think about scalability…

  • Should an airline (or any business) set some boundaries for their involvement in social media, or will their customers continuously expand the scope of the conversation?
  • Who manages that scope – the customers or the airline?
  • And what happens if the customers want to go beyond the scope that the airline wants? (Scope can mean volume, expectations for responsiveness, content of the conversation, etc.)

Even if you don’t have answers to these questions right now, it’s important to think about them and prepare ahead of time. Look at how Jetblue has a 12-person team dealing with customer service and marketing issues on Twitter (surely a well thought-out plan). Look at how Delta Airlines has set up a social media lab to slowly but surely scale up their efforts.

You don’t want to start digging the well when you’re thirsty right?

What do you think? How should airlines tackle scalability? Any good examples you can share?

P.S: I will be answering these questions and more in my upcoming webinar on social media ROI for airlines. Register now! http://bit.ly/airlineroi

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  • From what I have observed so far social media in the aviation domain is region centred with more of it in North America and Europe. That is not to say that social media in the MENA region is less developed than other regions, witness uprisings in Tunis and Egypt driven by social media. For airlines in the region traditional media has been more effective probably due to low internet penetration.
    Having said that major carriers in the same alliance differ on how they view customer support and social media. Two examples that happened with me; (1) AA, I had a problem accessing my reservation and I sent an email from their AAdvantage website, my problem was resolved in less than 30 minutes and when I went to AA Facebook page and said thank you, I had a comment similarly I had a baggage problem in JFK which was resolved by a Check in agent who went out of her way to help me and I again said Thanks on FB, I had a response. (2) This January I could not complete my Advanced Passenger Information on the Executive Club website. I sent an email and got an automatic acknowledgement, 45 days later I still do not have no response. At the same time I also tweeted it and wrote it on their FB page and no response.

    It is great to have a FB page or a twitter account the question is what do you want it for. If an airline or airport wants to use social media they need to define why and what they want, where are they driving all this traffic. Once this is defined you require people empowered and motivated to engage their customers and take them to wherever they need to.

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