Why Should I Friend you on Facebook or Twitter, United?
As airlines continue to grow into the social media age, there seems to be a common, clumsy mistake that will likely become a major point of contention in this space: a call to action without a communicated incentive.
Halfway through my flight from Washington (IAD) to Seattle last week, I received a special surprise along with my ginger ale…a napkin that doubled as the most useless piece of marketing communication I’d ever received:
Umm…well, I don’t really need any more friends, thanks.
It must have been my lucky day, because after I spilled my drink and grabbed my napkin to clean up, I found the second most useless piece of marketing communication I’d ever received on the back!
Why? Are you going to help me play the stock market?
Innocent though it may be, this United napkin is a classic example of communication without a point. Without making any effort to communicate a single benefit the passenger will receive in exchange for following the call to action, it goes beyond my reason why any passenger would rush to turn on their smart phones upon landing and become a UA Facebook fan, or start tweeting UA (which, I might add, they may not even be able to find since this doesn’t specify United’s Twitter handle). To that last point, could you imagine the potential PR disaster that could happen if a passenger tried to “stay in touch” on Twitter, and ended up communicating with a United detractor (or someone who was simply unresponsive) instead?
While UA has @UnitedAirlines, think of how many alternatives are out there (@United, @UnitedAir, @UAOfficial, etc.) that United has NO control over. At least this napkin may have added a few followers to Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand’s Twitter stream (which, for the record, is the first handle that shows up when you search for “United” in Twitter). This is like putting a photo of a telephone on a poster, with the phrase “call me” next to it, and nothing else. You wouldn’t sit next to the phone expecting it to ring, would you?
145 million impressions gone to waste?
Keep in mind, United flew 145 million passengers last year. That’s nearly 400,000 impressions these simple napkins can make every single day. If you had a simple message to convey to that many people, wouldn’t you go to painstaking lengths to make sure you got the message spot-on right?
There are two simple lessons this awful napkin brings to light:
If you are going to make a call to action, 1) at least make an attempt to communicate a user benefit for answering that call, and 2) make sure to provide clear instructions of exactly how to follow the call to action.
Hope to see United (if not other airlines), buck up! What do you think?
Steven Klimek is an airline strategist who has previously held commercial and marketing positions with Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and ATPCO. He will be a regular contributor to Simpliflying, and can be found online at http://airticulate.com or on twitter at @AIRticulate.