A Guide to How the Most Innovative Airlines are Using Social Media in Marketing Communications

It is a blast that almost everybody is talking about social media nowadays, stressing one particular point of how it enables companies to effortlessly interact with customers. The process is both reciprocal and direct in many ways, and provides serious advantages over the traditional marketing communication tools but I am not destined to talk about the pros & cons of social media as a marketing tool. I am more interested in seeing, how the most innovative airlines in the industry are using social media within their marketing programs, and how creative they are in reaching customers.

Below is a short list of airlines, which are widely known for their innovative corporoate cultures. I will briefly share what each of those airlines is doing to move one step further via social media services.

1. Air New Zealand

We are all aware that ANZ is on the rise in term of innovation and creativity. But what about social media?

Does the above picture say anything to you? If not. You should be aware that once it meant a lot to a lot of passengers, who hoped that, the ‘ANZ Airpoints Fairy’ on Twitter granted their wishes, such as free tickets, free lounge passes, extra frequent-flier points and so on. The fairy received huge attention from passengers and once again proved that ANZ is a fun airline to fly with.

ANZ also rewards members through Foursquare, granting free passes to lounges in different terminals and airports.

2. Lufthansa

The German conglomerate that recently won the Skyrax Best Transatlantic Airline of 2011 award has been using social media services in such fashionable manners over the recent past. Lufthansa was indeed the first European Airline to team-up with Foursquare, rewarding users who checked-in at different Lufthansa venues at the 2010 Munich Oktoberfest with a EUR20 flight voucher and special badges.

The “MySkyStatus” service lets users to share their journeys and current locations with their friends, circles and followers. The application takes actual flight data from the customer and shares this real-time information via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

Lufthansa was also among the first to launch innovative mobile applications, such as the Lufthansa Navigator, a mobile-based social network exclusively for Miles & More members.

3. Delta

Delta has redesigned its web page to provide an improved online experience to customers. Delta also started using the real-time travel assistance service via Twitter. Customers receive immediate feedback and support as soon as they mention @deltaassist regarding a live problem they are currently facing and provide information.

Delta is also the first airline to allow passengers booking tickets entirely through Facebook.

4. KLM

KLM probably holds the most aggressive and innovative social media strategy among other airlines. A dedicated team of 20 employees works to make sure that KLM exploits the resources of social media more effectively than any competing airline.

Another merit of the KLM program is that they managed to merge social media with real life experiences. You are pretty unlucky if haven’t met the ‘KLM Surprise Team’ yet. This team randomly surprises passengers at the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, who check-in virtually at KLM spots on Foursquare. The team goes one step further with the gift, personalizing it, by using the information available on the social profile.

KLM is constantly asking customers for new ideas in campaigns as ‘Battle of Concepts,’ ‘Creative Challenge,’ and ‘Young Designers Competition.’ The young designers competition involves university students to face challenges as designing a passenger friendly airport to creating new check-in and sales procedures.

5. Virgin America

Virgin America is –without surprise- among the innovators in social media practices. The airline is very prone to experiencing new social media techniques and is adept at executing innovation. The airline used Loopt Star – a location based rewards network- to promote its new service to Mexico. The airline sold two tickets for the price of one to passengers that checked-in virtually to SFO or LAX airports or two taco trucks in San Francisco and LA. Virgin America also awards frequent-flier points to passengers to ‘check-in’ using its mobile service.

Another airline showing great capability and innovation with social media services is Turkish Airlines (THY). The fact that I am currently working for Turkish Airlines makes it almost mandatory for me to handle this topic in much detail in a separate post. I want to write that in the recent future since this is a very fun topic to talk, listen, read and write about.

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