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The essence of social media marketing for airlines - Airline Business

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Being present on a social network is not the same as having a social media strategy for airlines today. Marco Serusi of SimpliFlying writes for Airline Business magazine.

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The essence of social media marketing for airlines - Airline Business

  1. 1. | Airline Business | 47 with the customers. At the other extreme, price-focused companies that perceive their products as commodities havebetterresultswithmassmarketing. To illustrate this divide, we compare Ryanair and Southwest Airlines. At first look they seem to be competing on price, since both are low-cost carriers, but a closer analysis reveals several differences. Ryanair, often described as an “ultra-low-cost airline”, uses a mass marketing approach. Obsessed with cost reduction, Ryanair perceives its product as an absolute commodity, where the price is the only determi- nant for purchase. VALUE-FOR-MONEY Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, leverages social marketing to deliver its value-for-money proposition. While Southwest strives to keep prices low, it also offers excellent customer service and promotes a happy internal culture; giving back to the community. Customers are more likely to develop a long-term preference and emotional attachment to Southwest. On the other hand, Ryanair customers are only loyal to the lowest available prices. While the financial successes of ultra-low-cost airlines demonstrate there is room for at least one price- focused competitor per market, these successes are based on shaky ground. Passengers will trade up whenever there are better service-based alterna- tives within their budget. Aviation is and will always remain a service industry. The bulk of the air- line industry should avoid going down Ryanair’s path of commoditisation. Remember, being on social net- working sites is not the same as having a coherent social mar- keting strategy. ■ Many marketers and consultants have been talking about the bene- fits of social marketing for airlines. Yet today it seems that organicreachmaysoonbeathingofthe past,asairlinesnowhavetopayinorder to reach fans on social media. So what happened? Was it a passing fad, or are wetalkingabouttwodifferentthings?As itturnsout,theansweristhelatter. While organic reach is indeed fad- ing away, this has had little impact on social marketing strategies. The real problem lies in not understanding the meaning of social marketing – what it is, why it matters and when it is appro- priate for airlines to leverage it. In today’s context, the term “social network” is widely used to describe thingslikeFacebookorInstagram,caus- ing its real meaning to be largely lost. Allow me to explain. A social con- nection is a link between individuals. This can be a direct link between friends, or an indirect link – the indi- vidual is a friend of a friend. CONNECTION A social network is the sum of connec- tions between individuals, whereby each is a node that can be connected through direct or indirect social con- nections. At birth this network is lim- ited to a child’s immediate family. The network then gradually expands, get- ting more complex with time. In marketing, social networks are important because they represent the structure of society and the natural grid along which all information is shared. SowhatdowecallFacebook?Itisnot a social network. The correct technical term should be “social networking ser- vice”, or SNS. Facebook is a service or toolthathelpsusersmaintainorexpand their social connections. The word “social” in social marketing refers to the conceptofsocialnetworks,notSNS. The core of a social marketing strat- egy lies in leveraging the social network MAKING SOCIAL CHANGE FORUM FEEDBACK Understanding the nature and power of online networking sites is key to attracting and retaining customers while projecting – and protecting – a brand’s reputation, says SimpliFlying marketing consultant Marco Serusi “Being on social networking sites is not the same as having a coherent marketing strategy” MARCO SERUSI Marketing consultant, SimpliFlying SimpliFlying May 2015 interviews Look through our archive of almost four years of CEO cover interviews online at: to spread a message. Although SNS are heavily used, they are merely tools. Unfortunately, this distinction is often missed. A number of well-mean- ing publications and experts put out large amounts of material that con- fuses the tools with the strategy. Many marketers end up basing their strategies on incorrect interpretations, and now face difficulties dealing with the plethora of changes in SNS. Social marketing is vastly different from mass marketing. Social marketing takes into account the social network and attempts to create messages that will flow through it. Reception of mes- sages is better because human beings treat information coming from within their social network as more reliable. Mass marketing focuses on pushing messages directly to individuals, with little regard for its subsequent distribu- tion. Not only does it require greater investment in delivery, but reception among consumers is also lower. Interestingly, these two marketing approaches also reflect a brand’s posi- tioning of its products. Brands based on sustained product differentiation suc- ceed with social marketing; focusing on building long-term, loyal relationships Marco Serusi is a marketing consultant at SimpliFlying,one of the largest airline marketing strategy firms: