Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Airlines leverage on social media sites

As travellers become more Internet and social media-savvy, airlines have started to leverage on social media sites for branding, promotion and marketing.

Airlines including Malaysia Airlines (MAS), AirAsia Bhd, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Delta Air Lines are using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and even blogs to market themselves and engage with the public. Some airlines turn their Facebook page into a fan page whereby they can connect with their fans on the Internet. Some promote their business, products, and new offerings on Twitter to reach out to more people.

MAS senior general manager, commercial strategy, Dr Amin Khan said the carrier had a two-pronged approach for its Facebook and Twitter accounts. “For Malaysia Airlines Travel on Facebook, @MAS Twitter account and blogger engagements, our primary objective is to inspire travel by engaging and building a connection with our fans and followers.

Our efforts here are focused on engaging our younger audience and customers, around 20 to 35 years old. This includes promoting our fares and deals, destinations, travel stories and competitions,” he told StarBiz.

Amin said MAS started its social media outreach including the Malaysia Airlines Travel on Facebook in March 2009. “To date, we have more than 125,000 fans on Malaysia Airlines Travel on Facebook and some 16,500 followers on @MAS Twitter account.”

He added that the MH Deals by Malaysia Airlines on Facebook, which started in January, had 37,000 fans and it had 3,500 followers on @MHdeals Twitter account. “We also have 11,500 fans on MH Students Facebook pages. A majority of them are students who are currently studying in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and India.”

MAS has managed to generate great interest with its lunch hour sales on Facebook. “The idea for the lunch hour sale came from our Facebook fans. We are constantly engaging with them to get their feedback on what they would like to see. We are also planning other promotions according to ticket availability and seasonality,” Amin said.

A quick search on Twitter revealed that AirAsia has one of the most followers on its Twitter account with some 50,086 followers. The budget carrier had previously operated under AirAsiaDotCom on Twitter. However, last Friday it announced to its followers that it had managed to secure back its @AirAsia twitter handler.

AirAsia has 478,708 fans on its main Facebook site. On top of the country specific sites that AirAsia has on Facebook and Twitter, it has a dedicated AirAsia YouTube channel, AirAsia Blog: Just Plane Thoughts and Flickr account as its official gallery of AirAsia pictures.

Media specialists see social media as a great platform to get the online community involved, to motivate them to travel, get them to spread the word on which airline to use.

“Most of these airlines make use of Twitter to introduce new events, offer a limited number of air tickets at discounted prices, etc,” a media specialist said. She added that airlines were beginning to use social media productively. “Facebook is an excellent way to engage customers. And both MAS and AirAsia are doing it well.”

She said both carriers managed to encourage their customers to engage with one another. “They made it easy to access the airlines and build relationships. Potential customers can also ask questions and get help. If their customers are happy, it means returning customers to the carrier.”

She said it was good to note that AirAsia had managed to put links on its websites to generate interest on its Twitter and Facebook pages and vice-versa. “It (AirAsia) manages to interact well on Facebook. Every news item it posts seems to get feedbacks and there are heaps of praises from fans.”

Last month, US-based Delta Air Lines had introduced the Delta Ticket Window, a Facebook application that allows its fans to find, book and share flights via the “Book a Trip” tab on its Facebook Page. The carrier believes it can capitalise on a captive audience given that Facebook is the most trafficked website on its inflight WiFi service. It is a cutting edge offering for the airline which is unparallelled by other airlines.

Asked if MAS would start offering such service, Amin said its offerings would tie in closely with its digital strategy. “For example, we are revamping our MASTraveller portal as part of our strategy to inspire travel. In line with this, our Facebook and Twitter accounts will be promoting destinations and encouraging user-generated content.”

“We also have a social media feature on MHmobile. After a customer books his ticket on flymas.mobi, he will be able to share his itinerary on his own Facebook page, Tripit or Dopplr. This ensures that all his friends are aware of his travel plans, and he is also able to make other travel arrangements such as hotel bookings and car rentals via Tripit or Dopplr,” Amin said.

Amin said all its channels were focused on attracting consumers to its main website, www.malaysiaairlines.com. MAS employee bloggers also share their experiences on its official blog. The carrier has a team managing the Facebook pages and Twitter accounts beside traditional media and other digital initiatives such as the website, applications for our mobile site, flymas.mobi, mobile gadgets and others.

Source : STAR

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