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The essence of social media marketing for airlines - Airline Business
flightglobal.com/airlines | Airline Business | 47
with the customers. At the other
extreme, price-focused companies that
perceive their products as commodities
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.
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
to reach fans on social media. So what
happened? Was it a passing fad, or are
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
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.
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.
a social network. The correct technical
term should be “social networking ser-
vice”, or SNS. Facebook is a service or
their social connections. The word
“social” in social marketing refers to the
The core of a social marketing strat-
egy lies in leveraging the social network
MAKING SOCIAL CHANGE
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
Look through our
archive of almost
four years of CEO
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: email@example.com