[Interview] How London Gatwick Airport uses social media to connect with passengers at the airport

You don’t need to be a fan or a follower to benefit from social media at Gatwick Airport

How many industries have their customers passing through their facilities – some for up to several hours – multiple times a year?  Airports more than most businesses, hold a unique opportunity to engage the offline passenger with the online social media experience. According to Mandie Armstrong, Digital Communications Manager at Gatwick Airport, “this is a unique opportunity to connect people to your brand for two-way conversation, whether they’re on social media yet or not”.

It’s all about customer experience for Gatwick

Already the winner of our Best Airport in Social Media award in 2011, and a runner up in 2012, when asked about the social media strategy at Gatwick, Mandie refreshingly replied – “actually it’s really simple – it’s directly linked to the overall business ambitions and strategy of the airport. And 3 of the 6 overall business goals are directly linked to social media”.

Engaging instantly and directly with their customers in a way and time that is convenient for them (the customer), has allowed Gatwick to communicate the new ‘brand Gatwick’, with an intentional and distinct tone of voice.

Speaking exclusively to SimpliFlying during our recent ACI Europe Digital Marketing workshop, Mandie spoke of how social media is intrinsically linked to their overall business goals. Actually, 3 of the 6 overall business goals are directly linked to social media as Gatwick aims to deliver the best possible PAX experience, driving efforts to assist it’s airlines to grow whilst protecting and enhancing its reputation, to compete and grow and become ‘London’s airport of choice!’

Driven by instinct, supported by execution

For the vast majority of airports Social media tends to be driven by instinct and by what tends to ‘feel right’. But with a better planning process and a strategy aligned towards business goals, the quality of customer engagement using social media can be immediately elevated and the opportunities are sky-high.

Having dedicated full time staff and using external support to ensure that they are always up to speed with the ever changing marketplace, has delivered much success. With 7 awards for social media excellence, Mandie and the team at Gatwick have done a brilliant job.  Gatwick’s social feeds are live on their website, highly visible on FIDS throughout the airport and driving offline marketing campaigns throughout the terminal. So the online drives that are seeing great results are also being delivered to the offline passenger travelling through the airport.

Gatwick is becoming an expert on linking something that’s psychically taking place in the airport to activities on social media, using various channels.  Partnering with the new Jamie Oliver restaurant saw both passengers and potential passengers (through roving ‘Social Reporter’ filming live) captivated with live cooking events and even hooked the attention of the naked chef Jamie himself, as Jamie Oliver offered his continued support and RT’s -  nice one @JamieOliver (I’m a big fan!).

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Online activities are supporting commercial activities to promote new facilities and energise non-aeronautical revenues.  2-way conversations with the ever ‘Connected Traveler’, extending customer service support has the full backing of the wider Gatwick business. Even in the last few months, there has been notable internal change in attitude to social media – particularly in crisis situations.

During the recent heavy snow fall, handling agents worked closely with their communications team. The Twitter conversations provided information before the terminal teams were aware. Issues were addressed straight away and social advocacy from the 57k followers went up a notch, instead of a surge of complaints it was ‘well done @Gatwick_Airport team’.

Mandie’s  advice for airports new to social media is, “Don’t be afraid. Social media is about being innovative and trying new things”. She added, “The new Gatwick brand is now 3 years old, so still a really young brand. Digital media has been the best way of telling our passengers about the changing faces and values of Gatwick Airport”.

Check out the video interview to hear more about their multi-platform efforts from Gatwick’s award winning digital communications manager. 

David McMullen

David McMullen

VP, Airports at SimpliFlying
David McMullen leads global airport engagement projects for SimpliFlying as VP, Airports. Following 5 successful years leading the award winning Routesonline platform, working with airports of all sizes in route development strategy and marketing communications, he joined SimpliFlying at the beginning of 2013. Assisting hundreds of airports to develop their online presence, David's career has taken him all over the world and he has been lucky enough to meet some of the most amazing people and work in some of the most inspiring places. He has a real enthusiasm for social networking/social media, plus all things digital. His passion for sport, travel and learning about new cultures has enabled him to practice snowboarding throughout Europe and qualify as an advanced scuba diver on the Great Barrier Reef. You can connect with David on Twitter, @SimpliMcMullen, or on LinkedIn.
David McMullen

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