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     Social media is changing the way how information is being disseminated and consumed. Look no further than your Facebook or Google+ updates, your twitter feeds or the other social media tools out there that you are part of.


     Chances are you have at least one, or multiple social presence, and depending on the interests that you have and the people that you’re LinkedIn to, you will consume a lot of up-to-date information and updates than you could have ever done thru traditional news channels.


     Well, no Industry is immune from this trend, and I wanted to share the Aviation Industry’s perspective.


     In Aviation, taking an example of flight delays, (extreme case: Icelandic volcanic eruption, and how travelers turned to Facebook and twitter); Social does have a great impact on updating large number of travelers on what is really going and what to expect. No more waiting on authoritative news from the main stream media, and no more waiting on a press release … from a travelers point of view, get the right twitter account of the aviation company in question (or Facebook, or Google+), whichever you prefer, or whichever the company’s social media outlet uses, and chances are you can get the latest update without a single phone call…


     There is a “social media revolution” that’s happening out there (check Wael Ghonim, a Google executive’s interview with The Economist, and his impact on the Arab Spring in Egypt),  … this at a geopolitical scale.

     Aviation companies need to take heed of the power of social media. As a marketing exec, Wael definitely had the know-how on what works and does not work in Social Media … with a learning curve that comes with a change in “industry”… from “ a marketing exec in IT” to a “regime change” … (yet again an extreme case scenario).


     A single advocate or a “badvocate” such as Wael in this specific case of “regime change” with a powerful “Klout” score (Klout is one way of measuring one’s social media reach and influence) and large number of followers can have a series viral effect on a cause (or a marketing campaign …) that one is pursuing.

     Now getting back to Aviation …

     Recently a great panel of executive in the Aviation Industry (Practitioners, an Analyst and a social media company out of China) came together in the industry’s 68th annual IATA AGM (Annual General Meeting) and had an informative and insightful panel discussion on “Social Media & Air Transport”, its merits and pitfalls, as well as what great “social media” embracing companies are doing. It’s truly an hour well spent watching.

     Topics ranging from disruption of flights from natural causes mentioned earlier, to a pioneering way of “Meet & Seat” started as a pilot program by Air France/KLM, to blog centric dissemination of information by jetBlue, to PR topics that can go quickly get viral and affect the brand of the operator, were discussed in this insightful session of 1 hour moderated by Anita Mediratta of Cachet Consulting.

     The message that the panelist gave was clear… Social media is here and is here to stay. In the words of Airfrance/KLM’s SVP for E-commerce, Martijin van der Zee, “Social is neither marketing, service, interaction nor communication… it’s a “glue” to engage us to customers … ”

     Perhaps Azran Osman-Rani, AirAsia X’s CEO comments: “5 years from now, not only will social be persistent but one would even have to have a Klout score of minimum 40” reflects the trends that are happening in Social Media. Case in point: Cathay Pacific … Cathay introduced a means by which a Klout score of above 40 gets you in their SFO business lounge. Techcrunch story here.


     These trends send clear messages to the IT industry to provide robust systems to help companies provide social media tools and especially tools which are not stand alone but in conjunction with the company’s internal customer relationship management systems that help the Social Media team and everyone in the organization in understanding the complete picture of the travelerAND engage, be it for queries, support questions or just info update on flight delays, … these interactions go a long way in the brand value of the Company.

    

     SAP’s Social on Demand, an innovative cloud solution that has such capability in addition to integration to a social media listening tool, SAP Social Media Analytics by NetBase, in essence helps both to understand the brand of the company as perceived by the traveler, as well as to engage in real-time with the traveler, and be on top of what is happening out there in the sphere of Social Media channels.


     A demo, comes a long way in getting the feel, and here is one that SAP’s Social on Demand solution can deliver for a company, this demo being done for a Bike company and how it interacts with its customers.

     Such tools help Aviation companies to listen and engage by adding context to Social Media – by bringing all information that they have available within the company’s customer relationship management systems and giving the customer facing teams that support the traveler a complete picture … and create a delighted customer that will be a brand ambassador.

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