Even though India is the world’s fastest-growing domestic market in aviation, it is not yet known for airlines that are superstars in engaging or offering customer service via social media. Or at least, until now. Last year, SpiceJet, a leading domestic low-cost carrier in India, launched the Bombardier Q400 in a market that’s traditionally sceptical and scared of flying turboprops (popularly classified as the “planes with fans outside”). What’s more, they chose the untested waters of social media for propelling their route-launch and tasted tremendous success, achieving over 88% load-factor in the first two weeks itself. Moreover, they also earned countless new fans, followers and increasing engagement manifold on their social media channels. So how did they achieve this? We reached out to Pooja and she was gracious enough to give us more details about SpiceJet’s initiatives, the story of its rise in social media, its plans for the future and advice for those looking to taste similar success on social media. It’s worth noting, however, that SpiceJet has a great history of meticulous brand execution, unique positioning and clear brand strategy that have been previously covered by SimpliFlying.
The road to superstardom
Pooja admits that one of the challenges on social media was the specific nature of the target audience. She believes the Indian audiences interacting with brands through social media are extremely enthusiastic. However, at times, there could be a bit more mature behavior while interacting. There are times when the audience can get extremely personal which makes the interaction more challenging. Also, most fans interacting with brands through social outlets belong to a younger demographic and it appears that they are largely interested in freebies and deals. They also seem to be less open to dialogue and resolution as compared to their western counterparts.
At SpiceJet, while digital marketing was active, the preparation to plan and embrace social media was started by commissioning ORM activities. The ORM presented the team with an idea of what the customers thought about SpiceJet’s product and services. This insight led into developing the overall strategy for SpiceJet’s social media. At the time of launching their social media initiatives, Facebook and YouTube were big in terms of the user base. They chose to target Facebook since Indian audiences were spending more hours on it as opposed to YouTube. Though Twitter arrived soon after, it still didn’t have the required user-base numbers (in terms of an Indian audience) required to reach out and engage a mass audience. Hence, Facebook became the de-facto primary channel as it provided lot of flexibility with scope for customization and custom interactions.
Internally, SpiceJet put together a cross functional team that manages various channels across social media and includes members from different departments such as Marketing, Corporate Communication, Human Resources, Customer Services working together with their digital agency. The Marketing team defines the objectives, defining a role for the each member of the team and ensuring brand synergies.
Given that measurement is crucial to evaluation the success of social media strategies, SpiceJet has adopted several metrics to measure various parameters. In Pooja’s words, they “use an internal rating grid system for each of the parameters which is qualified on a monthly basis. Some of the core parameters measured are levels of engagement, happiness quotient, and of course translation into sales. There are custom scripts running that provides insight on traffic coming from social media and the resulting sale. Social Media is a significant contributor to direct bookings on the brand site.”
The Bombardier Q400 launch initiative
As part of its expansion plan, SpiceJet inducted a fleet of Bombardier Q400 aircraft. The fleet expansion was targeted to cater to short-haul regional sectors. The entire promotional campaign on social media spanned over 2 months. The launch was touted as the most sensational and effective launch campaign as observed by industry and marketing experts. Testimony to this is the fact that the launch delivered 88% load factor within first two weeks of operations. Here’s how SpiceJet achieved success:
Name the Plane Contest
SpiceJet has a naming convention for its aircraft – named after spices. In order to create a brand connect, fans on Facebook were invited to recommend names for the Q400 aircraft that were being deployed. This activity received over 100,000 impressions in a matter of few days and an an equally overwhelming response with hundreds of name suggestions. Apart from having the opportunity to name the aircraft, the winner was also invited to ‘Cut the Ribbon’ of the inaugural flight.
Q400 | Feature Orientation and Destination Awareness
Once the ‘Name the Plane’ activity concluded, the follow-up activity was designed to introduce Q400‘s salient features along with making the audience aware of the Q400 destinations. This was done through the aid of an app and a contest. The community was sensitised of the features through questions posted daily.
The respondents with the right answer were provided with a numeric digit – which eventually at the end of the contest helped the fans crack the launch destination. The numeric digits / keys acted as the clue which revealed the Pin / Zip Code of the launch city when put together in the correct sequence.
This contest received close to 350,000 post impressions, along with 29% increase in the number of fans and 33% increase in post feedback.
The making of Q400 contest | Post Launch
Once the operations commenced, fans were presented with a poser – a random array of visuals which captured the different progressions of the aircraft assembly. Fans were encouraged to sequence the visuals in the right progression.
The contest received about 400 entries with over 375,000 post impressions. There was 42% increase in the number of fans and 46% increase in post feedback.
This activity was followed by releasing the official video of ‘The Making of Q400’.
The brand’s bottom-line was impacted positively with a load factor of 88%. The Social Media campaign for the Bombardier Q400 Launch was picked up by the media (Huffington Post and AFAQs), demonstrating the impact of the idea and execution. In addition, the campaign also made it to the second position in the “Top 11 marketing and social media innovations by airlines in 2011” published by Simpliflying.
Looking at the future and the success formula revealed
Pooja says SpiceJet’s biggest bet for 2012 is to strengthen and expand customer support on social media. SpiceJet has been carefully studying the patterns of customer interactions and has found social media to be a critical channel for redressals along with being a guiding light for customers through booking and travel planning. Internally, SpiceJet chalks out plans for each quarter in advance. This provides the required flexibility to accommodate both platform changes as well as aligning to objectives & goals.
Tips for those looking to taste success? Pooja says the following are essential:
- Channel Selection – there exists a plethora of options, but it is always critical to select channels that are apt for your business model and geography. Also, the ability to sustain something you start is crucial.
- Being transparent and honest – Address any customer issues openly in the respective forums and your audience will appreciate it a lot.
- A well-defined objective, planned in advance, is critical.
- Content Strategy is Key – Avoid the temptation of using these channels as a corporate communication tool. Pooja recommends having a unique content strategy for each of the channels you wish to engage.
Pooja signs off by saying that ‘consolidation’ will play a big role in the near future. There are new technologies emerging everyday: With internet connected televisions becoming popular, building social experiences leveraging Twitter, Facebook and Youtube on mobiles and tablets around video content will become preeminent. At SpiceJet, they’re “waiting and watching” and expect the coming phase to be a huge leap that will support their expansion plans.
Let us take this opportunity to congratulate Pooja and SpiceJet once again. We look forward to many more exciting initiatives from them in the months to come!
Disclosure: SimpliFlying worked with Bombardier on the social media strategy for this project, which was fabulously implemented by the talented Marketing team at SpiceJet and their agency – iVista Solutions.
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