Selling to the new generation of passenger requires airlines to create a very strong online and social media presence. This cannot be done overnight. There is a big commitment involved here, and the Internet doesn’t sleep. Once you decide to go in, you’ve got to be in it for the long haul, and you should take risks, former commercial director at British Airways, Carl Michael recently told airline and #PaxEx industry attendees of the Hamburg Aviation Conference.
“This is a 24-hour job. You start it, and it doesn’t really end anywhere,” said Michael, who currently serves as executive chairman for Generator Hostels – a growing chain of modern European hostel accommodations, which are popular with the ‘millennial’ (18 to 30 year-old) crowd and currently operate in eight major European cities.
Since launching a full-on social media assault over the last 18 months, GeneratorHostels.com has seen a 51% increase in social media referrals, the average duration of visitor’s stay on the site is up by 26% and web bookings are up 46%. Now that is what I call proof in the pudding.
Michael urges airlines to take risks. Focus on the ‘flavor’ of your brand, or how it makes people feel about themselves, rather than playing the ‘price and features’ game. And, for heaven’s sakes, hang in there.
Let’s look at some more of Michael’s tips for airlines looking to access the ‘millennial traveler’ via digital media:
- Hire a social marketing team: One person alone simply cannot manage a several different social media touch-points for a large, multi-national organization like an airline (or hostel chain). Humans need to sleep, but social media does not. You need to stay connected to your customers at all hours. If they are asking you a question via twitter at 8pm Friday and don’t get a response until 9am on the following Monday, that’s bad. But answer within the hour in a personable and non-corporate voice? That’s a win. Generator Hostels has a content marketing team of three dedicated individuals who are constantly working its social media network to keep conversations going and respond quickly to customer queries or complaints.
- Find a balance between user-generated vs. branded content for your websites and social media pages: We’ve already established that coming across as a corporate enterprise is basically a millennial repellant, but going too far the other way can also be bad for your image. It is wonderful to have enthusiastic customers who want to talk about your brand and share their photos on your page, but you should be showing your users exactly how to produce the kind of content you want. It’s okay to throw some professional photos, or your own blogs, into the mix; from these examples, users will better understand the ‘flavor’ you’re aiming for and some will begin to mimic it. Be sure to then build strong relationships with the better bloggers and photographers in your social media circles, and they will become authentic champions of your brand.
- Take some risks: Generator’s content marketing team recently held something they called the “Generator Takeover”, which gave the company’s Facebook community total access to the account for 24 hours. Michael admitted to the Hamburg Aviation Conference attendees that he was simply horrified by the concept at first. However, in the end, it helped the Generator Facebook page get 2500 new ‘likes’ in 14 days and increased the number of people ‘talking about’ them by more than 100%. Try doing something a little crazy to get people talking.
- Don’t give up: Michaels says you shouldn’t be put off if you don’t have droves of ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ in the first weeks or even months. There is a rather non-linear relationship between frequency of content postings and the number of new leads it will generate. “Focus on your content,” he suggests. “Content will eventually generate activity and activity will eventually generate sales.”
See for yourself what’s going on at GeneratorHostels.com. The pages are incredibly successful in making this seem like the hip place to stay and hang out when travelling. There is so much going on that you could imagine spending a good chunk of time perusing the photos, videos and articles. Can you tell the difference between Generator-produced content and user-generated content?
Since launching a full-on social media assault over the last 18 months, GeneratorHostels.com has seen a 51% increase in social media referrals, the average duration of visitor’s stay on the site is up by 26% and web bookings are up %46. Now that is what I call proof in the pudding!
Carl Michael’s full presentation – and other presentations from the Hamburg Aviation Conference – can be found here.