The internet is all about cats… or at least that’s what some people seem to think. In the past year we have seen the re-emergence of theories claiming that the internet and the social networking revolution of recent years was just a bubble of little importance fuelled by the novelty of these new media. Thankfully however, both empirical data and direct observation of consumer behaviour have proven that this “social revolution” is here to stay.

The reason behind the success of social networks however may not be the one that most people expect. While it is true that they are innovative communication channels, the real key to their success lies not in the technology but in the human nature. 

Social Animals

As Aristotle first stated, humans are social animals. As such we instinctively seek to interact with others. Our way of living, technologies, social structures and cities are all built around this concept, and the need to interact is so deeply rooted into our nature that it makes it almost impossible for us to live happily in isolation. Social media has not changed this but simply taps into this basic need and makes it easier for us to fulfil it. 

Understanding this is crucial for a successful marketing strategy since it shifts the focus from a platform and technology related approach to a social and relationship-based one. 

A shift in focus

Specific communication platforms like Facebook or Twitter may or may not be around in 5 years’ time but social networks, intended as connections between individuals, will remain and adapt to whatever communication system the technology will provide. For marketers this means that long term strategies should be based around the creation of relationships between their brands and their customers, optimizing tactics based on the specifics of each communication channel that is used. 

In aviation marketing what we have seen as a consequence of this “social media revolution” is the emergence of the connected traveller. Thanks to the increasing availability of internet both on the ground and in the air, travellers have not only started using social networks to communicate with family and friends but also with any brand or organization they come in contact with. 

This has important implications since travellers will not only be sharing in real time everything that happens to them (good and bad) but will also start to unconsciously perceive brands as part of the wider social world in which they live. Or in other words, brands will be increasingly perceived as just another social animal. 

As a consequence brands that interact with these connected travellers and are helpful will be perceived as friends, and some may even become best friends, while brands that refuse to join the conversation will be regarded as anti-social and will be marginalized. 

Building Affinity

To survive and successfully market to connected travellers, brands should strive to create a two way communication with their customers. While it may not be as easy as it sounds, in the presentation we looked at three ways in which the process of building these relationships can be started. (If you look carefully you will realize they are not very different from what you would do when trying to make friends with someone.) 

First of all, brands should try to make things easy for their travellers by solving a problem or just helping them find something they are looking for. Being responsive is almost a requirement for any social interaction and key in any social media strategy. Making people feel special is also a guaranteed booster for any type of relationship and in this case can be anything from a personalized gift to a simple personal reply to a comment or status update. 

Below you will find the full Prezi that I presented in Dublin at the Datalex  Travel Retail Experience conference. Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me at marco@simpliflying.com


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