Major airlines have increasingly adopted social media to keep up with younger, higher-income, and more tech-savvy consumers, who are the most frequent users of sites such as YouTube and Facebook, and the earliest adopters of new mobile location–based concepts. Some of the most cutting-edge innovations in social media marketing have emerged from the smaller carriers that struggle most to be noticed.
Here are some of the most-innovative social media marketing campaigns in the airline industry:
Virgin Atlantic keeps its Facebook page fun and entertaining. Last week, Virgin partnered with Facebook to launch its very first global social media marathon involving Virgin groups in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, engaging with millions of fans worldwide. As part of the marathon initiative, Virgin launched a Facebook app called ‘First Times,’ which highlights Facebook “firsts” with friends, such as one’s first post, first tagged photo, first event, among many others. The friend a user selected for their “firsts” will then be notified and a collage of information created via the app will be dropped in to the creator’s “Virgin First Times” photo album and the friend’s Facebook wall. Virgin offered various prizes to fans through Facebook on every hour of the social marathon, ranging from flights and getaways to various Virgin merchandise.
Southwest’s strategy is to use social media to listen to its customers and then interact in a way that’s personal. Southwest instructs team members who post on Facebook to sign their names, effectively putting a real face on the brand. The airline encourages localization, with 20 different Facebook pages covering specific Southwest airport operations groups. Southwest also reaches out specifically to opinion leaders, including travel bloggers, brand fanatics, and avid travelers. To involve its own employees in the social media experience, Southwest sponsors an internal social media club. It also organized a social media conference in January 2011 that offered training on content creation for contributors throughout the organization.
In January 2011, Airlinetrends.com highlighted the creative use of social media by Air New Zealand, which allows users to upload their own videos to the airline’s YouTube channel, and then shows selected videos on flights. The company also leverages social location service FourSquare, offering passes to its elite lounge to users who become the “mayor” to certain airports and terminals.
The approach of larger major airlines toward social media has been more conventional, which is in line with what major corporations in other industries have done (eg, Facebook fan pages). However, in 2010, Delta became the first airline to allow travelers to book tickets entirely through Facebook. Without ever leaving the Facebook site, users can simply select “Book a trip” from a menu of options on Delta’s Facebook fan page. From there, they are redirected to Delta’s Facebook application, creating a seamless experience for users who consider Facebook a home base for web surfing.
The sky is the limit for innovation in the airline industry. Most recently, Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport announced that they will now allow passenger check in via Skype video call. It is exciting to see how far the airline brands will fly in the social media space.