Social Media Strategy Review: The Aviation Sector

Aviation

Unlike other service sectors like Telecom and BFSI, the Indian aviation sector has been very low-key on social media. This is surprising given that in other markets, aviation brands like KLM, JetBlue, AirFrance and Turkish Airlines are often held up as excellent examples of brands that are doing social media right.

The aviation sector in India consists of a good mix of native and foreign brands (which operate out of India).

A glancing look at the sector’s performance will tell you that even after several years, many of the brands are still trying to find their feet with regards to strategy, posts and customer support. They are focusing more on promoting themselves and not indulging in conversations – signs of brands which are still in the exploratory stages of their social media journey and not ones that have made it a priority.

Let’s dive deep and explore more about their social media strategies. I have chosen the following 10 airlines based on a slew of factors such as: community size, activity level on social media, prominence amongst the consumer base, media mentions etc.

  1. Jet Airways
  2. Spicejet
  3. Indigo
  4. Go Air
  5. Air India
  6. Lufthansa India
  7. Air Asia India
  8. KLM India
  9. Malaysia Airlines India
  10. Air New Zealand

I observed their social media activities for a period of 30 days from June 18th to July 17th.

Community Building

As you can see in the chart below, international airline companies like Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines and Air New Zealand, which all have quite new profiles, are getting very aggressive on Facebook in order to build their communities and catch up with the established, local airlines. Speaking of domestic airlines, they have all had an online presence for a while and it seems all are content with the size of their community with no real growth spikes indicating an advertising campaign.

aviation sector community building
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

Malaysia Airlines, in particular, ramped up its fan acquisition and grew its community by 88% in the period assessed (although admittedly from a low basepoint). Taking a closer look at its fan growth, it does look like it ran some Facebook ads between July 1st and 5th.

social media strategy aviation sector community building
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

While I was expecting Jet Airways to have the biggest community (more than twice its nearest competitor), I am a little disappointed with Indigo. For an airline that claims to be India’s favourite, has a reputation for providing good service and noted for being punctual, shouldn’t their Facebook community be a reflection of this?

The situation is sadly bleak for airlines on Twitter though. Only 4 of the above 10 brands appear to have an official presence on Twitter. Again, given that airlines around the world are revolutionizing customer support and building out social support centres, brands in India are sticking to what is safe and not prepared to risk be innovative. Or is it that they fear by having a presence on Twitter, they will be open to a lot more negativity and customer backlash?

social media strategy aviation sector twitter followers
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

If you are in service industry, you just can’t afford to ignore Twitter. Whether you are there or not, people will complain about you. (Indigo, which is now active on Twitter, didn’t have a social media presence during the period studied.)

Content Strategy

I went through a good number of past Facebook posts from all the airlines analyzed in this report and found that many of the airlines are simply using their Facebook page to promote their offers. While it is a good way to drive traffic to your portal, what I really want them to do is to look beyond self-promotion.

You can easily sell your offers by promoting your posts (person clicks the link, buys a ticket on your website and hey presto, you’ve a ‘proven’ ROI), but are you building a brand for yourself? What will people think when they see yet another special offer in their timeline for a route that doesn’t appeal to them?

If you have spent money in building a decent sized community around yourself, how about making them fall in love with your brand? Vodafone Zoozoos is an excellent example of a brand that has created an almost cult like following with its cool updates. For airlines, how about creating a community of loyalists instead of mere ‘likers’ who are always on the lookout for an offer or only liked your page to post a complaint?

The majority of airlines are predominantly talking about themselves while the content that fetches them the most fan engagement is when they talk about aviation in general.

The one airline that stands out for me in terms of creating an engaging content strategy is Jet Airways; it seems to be doing a great job of getting fans to interact with its posts. Its content strategy is like a benchmark that I would want others to follow, infact, I think even brands from other sectors can learn a lot from Jet.

Jet’s content strategy is brilliantly simple. It shares fantastic fan-sourced images which is delighting everyone and creates a true feel good factor towards the brand. Somewhat to my surprise, the airline that is the butt of many evil jokes, Air India is doing fairly decent with its content. Have they outsourced it to an agency that gets social media?

Brands like Air Asia, Indigo and Spicejet simply pale in front Jet’s content. I was surprised to see Air Asia doing so badly with its content, but perhaps it’s because it’s one of the newest entries to the Indian airline market.

When it comes to a content strategy on social media, I am not saying that a brand shouldn’t post offers and deals, but you must also make efforts to make people love your brand on social media. You want them to express their love for you in public.

social media strategy aviation sector content strategy
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

The chart above shows how many times the airlines posted during the analyzed period. In previous sector reviews, I’ve mentioned that brands should be posting at least twice a day, but airlines is one sector where I don’t expect them to post frequently unlike an F&B brand. Once a day should be good and anything more than that will be great if the content is that good. Also, according to the stats that I sourced from Unmetric, the maximum engagement happens on Sundays, but that is the day when the brands are least active.

social media strategy aivation sector posts and engagement
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

It’s sad, however, that many of these airlines don’t allow their fans to comment on their wall. Why would you do that when you are in the business of providing a service? You must listen to your customers and by stifling their voice, you’re only hampering your own business. I guess the only thing these brands have got going for them is that most of them have got their fingers in their ears so the consumers are equally hard pressed to air their grievances.

On Twitter at least, Jet Airways and Spicejet are busy addressing customer issues while KLM India and Go Air seem to be sleeping.

social media strategy aviation sector tweets
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

While KLM India is not doing anything to strike up a conversation with people and get noticed, Go Air is simply not bothered about addressing customer issues. I don’t see what the delay is for both these airlines to not be taking Twitter seriously. As you can see from Jet Airways, clearly there are people that need to be replied to and engaged, so “lack of traction” isn’t a valid excuse.

Community Engagement

As expected, Jet Airways trumps everyone by a fair margin when it comes to engaging its community. It got the maximum number of likes, comments and shares per post throughout the analysed duration. Even Lufthansa is doing a fairly good job of engaging people but it needs more conversational updates to increase their Engagement Scores and move from a Like to more meaningful Comments and Shares.

social media strategy aviation sector engagement score
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

You can observe that Malaysia Airlines are managing to engage a good number of people even though they have a very small community. We’ve often seen that smaller pages are able to reach more people, but with the high level of engagement shown in this chart, I suspect that a number of their posts have been promoted to fans and friends of fans.

One of Malaysia Airlines’ posts which received a huge response in the period studied is shown below. Considering that the page had less than 10,000 Likes at the time of this analysis, I doubt they got nearly 90% of the fans to Like the update without some paid promotion.

social media strategy malasiya airlines facebook post

Disclaimer: Owing to Facebook’s API limitations, it is difficult for any tool to differentiate between organic and paid engagement. Some brands in the chart above might be using promoted posts to get more engagement.

Also, a lot of airlines have several custom apps but none of them seem to be engaging the users. On an average a brand has 5 apps installed but only Lufthansa seems to be doing a good job at engaging its community with its apps.

social media strategy aviation sector average likes
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

On Twitter, the engagement for Jet Airways and Spicejet is mostly in the form of customer service. Almost 90% of their communication is focussed towards resolving complaints and enquiries.

Customer Service

I was laughing hard when I came across the Facebook page of Indigo because it mentions plain and square that it won’t answer customer queries on Facebook. Instead, it wants people to visit its website or call a helpline. I guess if you put your fingers in your ears and shout LALALA, all your customer problems might go away.

Social media strategy indigo airlines facebook

Even KLM India has specified that it won’t address customer issues before 9 AM and post 4 PM.

Why can’t they understand that people don’t care about customer care timings? People simply don’t bother what time it is; if they have an issue, they will come and post on your wall. What about all the late night and early morning flights when the influential business people are travelling? Do the airlines think that ignoring them will help their brand? If you have blocked the wall of your brand page, they won’t hesitate in voicing their complaint on the comment section of your ‘offer’ update.

You can’t bend social media according to your rules. It is called ‘social’ media for a reason.

Also, it’s a shame that very few brands are allowing people to communicate with them through wall posts. But even when they do, the response speed is quite slow. At times it takes them more than a day to address an issue which is possibly less helpful than not responding at all.

On Twitter, Spicejet is doing a superb job at acknowledging (resolving might take more time) customer issues within 45 minutes (average rate of response) of receiving a complaint. Jet Airways, though slow, is very warm with its communication.

social media strategy aviation twitter replies
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

Sentiment

It’s difficult to gauge the sentiment of people on Facebook for these airlines as most have blocked wall posts. But you can see from the following graph that Lufthansa is generating more positive vibes. I do see many positive comments on Jet Airways’ Facebook page but can’t gauge the sentiment as even their wall is blocked.

social media strategy aviation sector sentiments
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

The sentiment on Twitter has been analyzed by examining all tweets that a brand replies to. In this case, we can only gauge the sentiment for Jet Airways and Spicejet since only these are two have an active presence on Twitter and have made it a key part of their strategy to reach out to customers..

social media strategy aviation sector sentiments
Source: Unmetric – A Social Media Analytics Tool

More than 40% of tweets answered by Spicejet in the 30 day period are negative in nature, while Jet’s tends to reply to a lot of happy consumers.

Conclusion

In a word. Wow. And not in a good way. I am completely disappointed with the efforts of most of these airlines when it comes to communication and customer service efforts. They can do so much more given the huge scope of social media and so many service based companies in other sectors and regions directly attribute a rise in sales to their efforts to reach out and resolve problems via social media. I would love it if they can incorporate the following changes in their social media strategy:

  1. Be more open and customer centric. Adopt Twitter.
  2. Go beyond self-promotion and aim to build a loyal following
  3. Come up with interesting and engaging campaigns

Hope they will take notice and improve in the coming months and years

Analytics Support: Unmetric

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