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
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.
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.”
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.
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)