Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Social media becomes critical for airlines

By Priyanka Joshi, Business Standard, Mumbai, February 28, 2012 

Around 56 per cent of conversations by Indians online involve the airline industry, with Facebook and Twitter emerging as the most interactive and consumer friendly platforms.

When frequent traveller Swamy R was told by Air India staff at the New Delhi airport that his flight would take off three hours late due to "unforeseen delays in the incoming aircraft," he (like many other fellow travellers) posted his views about the airline on the micro-blogging site Twitter and updated his Facebook status accordingly.
Most co-flyers, recalls Swamy, openly shared their frustrations and woes on the social network of their choice. "I did a quick location-based check of tweets generated due to delay of the flight at the Delhi airport and it was clear that several stranded passengers tweeted their opinions vocally on Twitter," he said.
Such has been the impact of social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and user blogs that both domestic and international airlines now maintain an active presence on the social web and strive to address user issues actively. In fact, a recent survey by MindShift interactive that tracked over 11,000 conversations across all the social media platforms reveals that 49 per cent of user views were aired on Twitter, followed by Facebook at 33 per cent and Forums & Blogs at nine per cent.
Zafar Rais, founder & CEO of MindShift Interactive, a digital outreach firm, predicts, "The airlines present on social media are beginning to understand their consumers better while those airlines that have low or no presence will start investing and integrating social media strategies to communicate better and faster with their consumers." According to MindShift, Jet Airways had the biggest footprint in social media, followed by SpiceJet and Kingfisher. "Air India and GoAir are at the bottom, showing their need to get onto the bandwagon and make their presence felt," points Rais.
Around 56 per cent of conversations by Indians online involve the airline industry, with Facebook and Twitter emerging as the most interactive and consumer friendly platforms. According to industry data, Twitter has nearly five million Indian users and Facebook has about 40 million Indians.
The report underlines that for the airline industry, Twitter plays a vital role in customer relations and engagement while their customers are at the airport as well as while offering specific deals to targeted users. Similarly, platforms like YouTube play a role in showing consumers an experience visually, prior to experiencing it live, satisfying an important channel of decision making.
Another reason why airlines are watching the social media closely is the fact that 75 per cent of frequent flyers would fly an airline if it is recommended by a friend, rather than flying the cheapest one, as per MindShift data.
Frequent flyers such as Nirupam Deolali agree. A Pune-based corporate legal advisor, Deolali says, "My friends, especially those who travel with families for leisure or those on last minute assignments, often rely on me for recommendations since I fly regularly for work. So, I began actively sharing my feedback on airlines on my Facebook and Twitter pages."
YouTube, however, is the least leveraged social media platform by airlines. "While looking at conversations for each sector on each platform, we can see that more than 90 per cent of the online conversations are on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter due to engaging activities and quick response," says Rais.
In 2012, Mindshift estimates that airlines will further explore social media by first understanding the needs of the consumer and accordingly create strategies to reach out and engage with them.
"Implementing social advocacy, CRM and creating positive experiences will be seen predominantly within this sector. Another element will be integration of social media with other marketing activities," says Rais. Data suggests that 40 per cent of airlines are expanding their social media team, bringing in employees from marketing, customer service, e-commerce, corporate communications and other departments.
* India's travel category garnered the second largest share (42 per cent) of total Internet visitors in Asia, with 17.8 million average monthly unique visitors in the 1st quarter of 2011.
* Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the most popular and effective social media networks for marketing within the tourism and hospitality industry
* Men dominate the social conversations at 79 per cent, with women holding a 21 per cent share of social voice. This is an indication that men are actively involved in making travel decisions and reviewers of the experience.
* Air India boasts of being the most talked about brand on social media with 50 per cent share and yet it has just about 340 followers on Twitter with about 5 tweets till date
* SpiceJet had the highest Positive: Negative (4:1) Conversation Ratio
* With over 3,18,000 fans, Jet Airways leads the way on Facebook
* With over 14,200 followers, Kingfisher dominates on Twitter amongst Indian airlines
SOURCE: MindShift

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