Are location-based services a blessing for the airline brand?

If you’re already up and running on Twitter, Facebook or other social media tools, a great way to augment your social media efforts is by tapping on one of the hottest trends around, location based services (“LBS”). Location based social networking is something VERY well suited for airlines. Just like “Tweets” was the buzzword of 2009, by the end of 2010, I expect “Mayor” to be the buzzword. And, these services are made to work well in the travel industry.

Popular Location Based Services

If you’re unfamiliar with LBS, here are a few that are popular, including a couple of travel specific ones:

Foursquare Foursquare is a location based game/application, where users “check-in” at places around the city.  They get points for check-ins, adding new locations, and extra points for multiple check-ins in one day.  Check-ins can be automatically shared on Twitter and Facebook.  They can also become “Mayor” of a location if they have been there the most out of all Foursquare users.  Friends have access to see where you are, and where you’ve been, which can facilitate social gatherings that might have not otherwise happened.

Some companies are starting to use this application to target users by location.  For example, something like this may pop up on your screen: “Since you’re right around the corner from CVS, stop by and get 10% off”.  It’s  a great way for companies to get a relevant message out.  In general, it’s also a great way to increase awareness… the  more people check-in to the location, the more other people see it. Other similar sites include GoWalla and MyTown.

TripIt TripIt gives users a way to track their travel itineraries  — including hotels, airlines, and more — and share them with their friends.  The application allows you to check-in online, and share detail on social networking sites, such as LinkedIn.  Users also see a history of their activity and statistics about their travel.  You can also add a trip that you are planning, but you haven’t booked yet.

Dopplr Dopplr is similar to TripIt, in that it allows you to share your travel plans with other people. You can also find travel tips and advice from other travelers.

Leverage LBS as an Airline or Airport

Encourage Check-Ins

One way for airlines and airports to be “active” with services such as Foursquare, is to encourage travelers to check-in at their airline, airport, or even gate.  The benefit of this is that travelers can connect with each other, and you stay more top of mind, and get a free awareness boost, when they post their check-ins using social networking sites.  Or, if a flight is delayed, it will go much faster, if they find a friend to meet up with at the airport.

You could also tie this in with your frequent flyer program. If they check-in and publicize on Twitter or Facebook, they get 5,000 additional frequent flyer miles.

FourSquare

Reward Travelers

You could also run promotions to encourage check ins, with a giveaway for those who have checked in or for the first to check in.  Mayors are also a great source of loyal customers.  Why not make these people feel special by upgrading them to first class, giving them priority boarding, or announcing their name on the flight? For example, “We are proud to have with us today, the mayor of American Airlines.  That means he has checking-in using Foursquare more than any other traveler.  He was upgraded to first class for being such a special customer.”

Unmet Need

When travelers add trips to TripIt and Dopplr without flight information, what a great way to target them at their point of need, and offer them a flight that may fit what they are looking for.  In addition, if they have a flight booked, but no hotel or rental car, you can suggest your travel partners to them.  You can form a partnership with TripIt or Doppler, to be able to communicate with customers, so you can say something like “We see you are planning a trip from Paris to Istanbul.  We have many flights between those two cities.  Click here to search for a flight.”

Leverage  Frequent Flyer Program

A month ago, Tasti D-Lite began a program that tied their frequent buyer car in with social networking.  Whenever points are earned or redeemed, their system automatically sends out an update to social networking sites, including Twitter and Foursquare.  Why not add this to your frequent flyer program, including their frequent flyer balance?  Imagine, if every time someone uses his SAS Eurobonus card, a tweet or a Facebook status update goes out to his friends that “I just earned 5,000 miles flying from Oslo to Bangkok” or “I just got free petrol for 3,000 miles through EuroBonus”. This action will drive awareness, keep you top of mind, and get people talking.

Advertising

Some of these LBS applications, also allow advertising. It could be a very targeted ad, on TripIt or Dopplr.

What do you think?  Can  you see yourself implementing any of these ideas?  Do you have any other ideas? Let’s hear it in comments and over on Twitter (@simpliflying)

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Showing 8 comments
  • alexeicherenkov
    Reply

    Our service, Toozla, is specially designed for travelers. It works everywhere if you have mobile internet and GPS signal (thanks to SkyHookWireless – even if you have WiFi points around, i.e. indoor).
    While Foursquare was developed as game, the idea of Toozla is exactly as described in this article: user receives valuable content for free, and some commercials. Within airport, it's useful navigation system, outside it's city audio guide.
    This approach significantly extends the advertisers possibilities: as location is identified with 20m precision, they can catch potential user when he pass by his POS.
    Details at http://www.toozla.com

    • Shashank Nigam
      Reply

      Alex, Toozla looks great and very apt for frequent travelers like
      myself. Do you know of any airlines using this app in a systematic way
      yet?

      • alexeicherenkov
        Reply

        Hi Shashank,
        We started marketing of Toozla just in October. No any airline alliances yet ;-(
        We mainly work with DMO and extend our technological features (now work on audio-guides based on Wikipedia).

        • Rachel Levy
          Reply

          Thanks for your comments Alex… VERY interesting idea. We may get in touch
          to discuss!

          -Rachel Levy-

          • alexeicherenkov

            Hi Rachel, Hi Shashank.
            Just want to inform you about our recent achievement: our audio guide includes up to 170.000 articles from Wikipedia now. So we get coverage for the whole world.

            Regards,
            Alexei

      • Bedding Sets For Sale
        Reply

        Hope this app will be available in our country.

  • M.A
    Reply

    Wow, there's so many ways that social media and location based services allow companies to increase the awareness of their brand to consumers. In this case, very useful for airline branding.

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