Social media marketing is basically defined as the process of gaining attention from internet users by way of social media sites. It is a term that is often used to describe different activities that take place in social sites. For example, in Face book, users are allowed to participate in activities such as sharing photographs, and applying in social functions. Twitter, on the other hand, allows its users to share updates. Social media sites contribute towards building connections that will ultimately support search engine optimization efforts. Airlines form some of the subjects that people enjoy communicating about in social media sites. When customers of airlines get good services from particular airlines, they are likely to mention it to others in their chosen social media forums. Conversely, they will also grumble about airlines that offer slovenly service. Almost all industries in the 21st century, including the airline industry, regularly use social media sites to communicate with customers and also for advertising purposes. This is because the social media sites facilitate for interactive communications. Different varieties of social media functions that are used in such interactions between airlines and their customers include social networks, online wikis, blogs, internet forums, micro-blogging, and social bookmarking (Van Meer, 2012).
History of Airline use of Social Media Sites
The first airlines to use social media sites were the American Airlines and Air France (Utz, 2009). To this day, these carriers have the most well-liked Face book pages. The pages permit their devoted customers to even pick flights and finish ticketing transactions without needing to go to the geographical headquarters of these airlines to finish the process of booking flights. Advertising through social media sites is a procedure that was started even before this, however. In 1997, ‘Six Degrees’ was initiated as the first contemporary social network. It permitted its users to fashion personal profiles and reach out to other users whom they could designate as friends (Towner and Dulio, 2012). In 1999, Live Journal was initiated. This particular networking site functioned around the process of continuously updating personal as well as other blogs. The early 2000s saw considerable developments in networking between social media users (Zangi, 2012). The hardest thing to do when airlines are trying to sell services is to find customers who have an inclination for whatever services they are offering. The advantage of social media marketing is that it solves this concern instantly (Warr, 2008).
Evaluating Social Media marketing in the Airline industry
Airlines can become more competitive by using social media sites to avail important information about airline operations on time. When different departments that make up airlines such as the maintenance staff are equipped with information, they will be in a position to make the most of resources to ensure profitability. However, it is important for airlines to use other media for placing advertisements rather than on social sites such as Twitter if such advertisements need disclosures. This is because social platforms do not provide enough space for the disclaimers, when they are included, to be clearly identifiable. On other elements of the mass media such as television, advertisement disclosures that are included are usually obvious and noticeable. In addition, social sites usually use ‘pop-ups’ for the portrayal of disclaimers. These are inadequate in fulfilling the mandate of the FTC that disclaimers be evident because many people simply block any potential pop-ups without even waiting to see what they say (.com Disclosures 2013)
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Social Media
When airlines establish social media sites, they do so in order to allow their customers to reach them more easily and also to reach a wider audience with their brand’s relevance (Smith, 2005). By using social media marketing, airlines portray themselves as being cosmopolitan and prestigious, which results in an increase to their consumer base (Rahal, 2010). Social networking sites permit airlines to improve productivity and communication by broadcasting information among various societal groups efficiently (Wu, 2005).
There are many ways through which the airline industry can benefit by using social media sites. The main advantage in using these sites is that they are fast in conveying needed information. Whether responding to the queries of customers, solving airline problems, or communicating with maintenance crews, the use of social media sites will always bring benefits to the user company. These sites also increase engagement between customers and the airline because there are more facilities such as comments, and ‘likes’ that allow customers to comment on their views of an airline. In addition, the fact that replies to queries are instantaneous allows customers and airline representatives to be able to discuss many different subjects without being concerned about time constraints. Social media sites can also assist an airline in increasing communication with customers and thereby building a good profile. The airlines can do this by marking down the times when they engage with the largest numbers of customers and using such times to communicate about the airline’s new strategies among other things (Czyszczo? and Zgrzywa, 2012).
Social media advertising has a number of disadvantages that most organisations tend to ignore when they launch their marketing efforts. For instance, it can make an airline vulnerable to hackers who may launch virus attacks or spam in it. There is also an increased chance of many consumers falling prey to online scams that resemble their airline’s marketing efforts. Given that social media sites are favoured by many because of the anonymity they offer, it is probable that disgruntled employees or dissatisfied customers will attack the airline’s reputation on its social media site (Shaw, 2011). In addition, if the airline’s workers utilise its site to view distasteful material, there may be legal consequences. Having social media sites can result in a reduction in productivity; particularly when the airline’s workers spend all their time, or most of it, in updating their profiles or sharing information with other users.
Airlines may choose to simply forbid all computer activity among its workers that is not work-related, but this might not bring the expected results (Vasigh, Fleming and Tacker, 2008). Another disadvantage has to do with the inability to take back any information once it is posted. Even the most well-meaning or cautious workers can disclose classified information to complete strangers. In addition, workers may be unaware of how their activities online can compromise airline security. Airline executives may be unaware that just because a worker has a personal profile in multiple social media platforms, does not necessarily mean that they know how to identify sites that pose security risks.
Marketing Through One or More Social Media Platforms
Good multiple-site marketing calls for an airline to combine analytics for a single airline across different platforms and multiple channels of the media. It is vital for the airline to be able to evaluate its usefulness on all fronts of its advertising campaign (Kotler, Adam, Denize and Armstrong, 2009). This is the type of marketing intelligence that can actually make or break all its digital marketing efforts. Using multiple media functions to reach customers has been known to suddenly increase the customer bases of most airlines while providing the airlines with more visibility (Shearman, 2011). Many business organizations are transformed when they start using social media platforms to reach to their existing customers while seeking to attract new ones. It is no wonder that so many businesses across many organizations scramble to maintain a considerable following on social media sites.
Social media is an effectual and cheaper technique for generating public relations. Institutions with active social media sites no longer require expensive advertisements or media contacts in radio, newspapers, or the TV (Hvass and Munar, 2012). By just participating in social media, airlines can boost business exposure and form relationships with their niche markets.
Moreover, sometimes financial profit may come at the expense of other things (Wood and Smith, 2005). Multiple media functions like live-casting, mobile marketing, and file sharing, can greatly increase an airline’s visibility and generates its brand awareness in a very distinctive and powerful way. Moreover, there are factors that can hurt the marketing efforts of airlines involved in marketing through multiple social media platforms (Hameed, 2011). Where the social media is concerned, the sheer number of followers usually matters more than the quality of the said followers. Many times, airlines find that they are more concerned about the number of ‘Likes’ they receive; when, in truth, they should be more concerned with how often users are being turned into being purchasers of the airline’s services (Cohen and Shade, 2008).
Many times, airline marketers who use multiple social media platforms are less focused in generating emotional language as well as more interactions and comments (Mitchell and Ybarra, 2009). Ironically, social media sites can actually reduce an airline’s tendency to communicate on a deep level with their clients because the airline’s marketers may imagine that a Twitter or Face book exchange will take the place of a genuine and personal conversation (Bovd and Ellison, 2007). For example, an airline marketer chatting with a customer on the phone has the opportunity to inquire about how the customer perceives the service on offer and how the customer feels it can be improved (Ibis Associates, 2012). If the marketer hears senses an unarticulated concern, he or she will dig deeper and ask the customer more comprehensive questions about the service on offer.
Evaluating Social Media marketing in the Airline industry
Social media sites can help an airline to establish credibility with potential customers while giving itself visibility. It is also important for airlines to know what people are saying about the services they offer. This will help the airlines to be able to make necessary changes in order to retain customers while yet attracting the undecided customer population. Airlines can positively benefit from positive online chatter about their operations and can even use what the customers say in online discussions. In the case of publicity, even negative opinions expressed about a company give it visibility and so can be regarded as being somewhat constructive. The most unfortunate position for an airline is for it not to inspire any kind of chatter- whether positive or negative. Airlines can actually use the things that people say about them online and pay tribute to their own brand through them. This information may simply be information that is being mentioned on social sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Face book. People with personal websites can also mention the different advantages of using airlines or speak about their experiences in flying with a particular airline. Also, web users can also discuss the merits of an airline through tweets or offer back links to an airline’s website in their personal blogs.
This shows that it is not enough for airlines to presume that merely having social media profiles or websites is not sufficient in creating traffic. Airlines have to follow the comments and remarks about their services on different social sites, websites, and blogs. These ‘monitoring operations’ can be conducted through different ways. Airlines can install Google Alerts that allow them to be able to track their own social media presence in the general cyberspace. Google Alerts will also keep an airline informed about its popularity either through an RSS Feed, or a Google Alerts system.
Another method for tracking chatter is by visiting different sites in order to discover what customers are saying about an airline’s services. Establishing criteria on what information an airline is looking for will allow it to be able to locate all the mentions that in some way discuss its brand. All these efforts require the expertise of someone who is skilled in online communication skills. Such a person is able to establish connections with others online users and then use those connections to spur interest and start discussions about an airline’s services or even shortcomings. In all such operations, an individual who is skilled in online communication will hold the attention of users by discussing the airline’s solution to present problems, or even offering incentives that attract interest (Stavrakantonakis, Elena Gagiu, Kasper, Toma, and Thalhammer 2012).
The Impact of Social Media Marketing On the Business Advertisement
Social media platforms are well-situated, and can easily be accessed; hence they have transformed the way people communicate among themselves as well as with organisations. Essentially, social media has grown to be so omnipresent that Face book, when it was first traded on the NASDAQ, was said to have the largest Internet IPO ever (Dewdney and Ride, 2006). Analyzing the effect of social media on advertising is vital as marketing is an important mainstay in the general business strategy of airlines. It is in airlines’ marketing plans that details like marketing mix decisions, marketing objectives and decision making variables used in advertising such as positioning, segmentation, and targeting are found.
Additionally, modern airline companies also have social media policies that are driven by their objective marketing strategy. A good social media policy generates a platform to start and act on discussions that are centred on important customer concerns (Crosno, Freling and Skinner, 2009). An airline’s existence on social media sites should have comprehensible objectives like deepening relationships with customers, creating visibility, and improving credibility. This will generate awareness and interest about the value proposition. Even though social media use is a particularly fashionable and exciting phenomenon in the present market, the most important factor that has to be considered is the effect it has on an airline. Unfortunately, many airlines jump into the social media bandwagon without making sure that their efforts harmonise with the general marketing policy as well as corporate objectives. This is an oversight that will result in failure as it does not include a targeted effort.
A Social Network Paradigm for Developing a Conceptual Framework for CRM
Social media has had a deep effect on advertising in its capacity to affect the behaviour of customers. Airlines have to understand the needs of the consumers and also be able to predict their future preferences. Today, there is increased competition within the airline industry that makes it very challenging to sustain profits. Some of the ways in which airlines can combat this reality is by improving customer relationships and cutting costs. In the present airline industry, customers can gain access to the different services provided by different airlines and have the option of selecting their preferred carrier. With so much information in the hands of the customers, one of the ways to rend to their preferences is to assist them to obtain for themselves the self service that they desire. Most airlines today provide information about departure and arrival dates for travelers in their websites.
Communicating with customers through email can popularize a company with its targeted clients. Moreover, it is integrated social CRMs that are most effective in forming long standing relationships with consumers. When airlines communicate regularly with their customers online, they are actually enacting social CRM. Catering to the needs of customers is particularly important since they are the ones that spread news about their preferences to other web users. For instance, a customer who enjoys the services that are offered by a particular airline and communicates with its representatives on a common basis, can actually open a fan page for his or her favorite airline on any or all social media sites. Any other people who are impressed with the work or writings of this customer will then sign on the customer’s website as fans and promptly discuss the different aspects of the airline that they enjoy best- thus giving more visibility to the airline.
This means that a business does not only depend on its personal website to tell users about new offerings, but can actually have its work done for it by enthusiastic followers who run fan pages in its name. Not only do customers participate in developing sites such as these, but they also improve them. For instance, clients can communicate with airline representatives on social media sites to discuss ways in which they feel that future services can be marketed in a better way (Mosadegh and Behboud 2011).
Social networking as well as other activities on social media sites has completely altered the present business landscape, both for organisations that use social media sites, as well as for those organisations that don’t. By definition, social media is where users share content with an extensive audience, with focus being on the content, whereas social networking is more concerned with groups that have shared interests and the conversations they regularly have with one another. Face book, which operates on both sides of this definition, has 600,000 regular members worldwide and encourages organisations to make use of its platform to reach their customers.
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