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5 Ways Airports Use Social Media Marketing

Airport social media accounts have to be as versatile as the facility itself. An airport is a retail complex, transportation hub, employment center and construction site all in one. Thus, it needs a platform capable of engaging consumers in a variety of ways, whether it’s updating travelers in real time with flight delays or surprising a couple celebrating their anniversary with flowers upon arriving at the gate.

A report by management consulting firm LeighFisher says that social media isn’t just about information: it’s about enhancing the airport experience in a way that grows revenue and builds passenger loyalty.

Airports use social media for five primary purposes:

  • Alerts
  • Announcements
  • Brand-building
  • Interactions
  • Driving Revenue

Alerts

Is my flight delayed? That’s the question that many people have as they prepare to head to the airport. People do not like to be surprised, and it wasn’t that long ago that people would call airports and airlines for status updates. About a decade ago, all of that information went online, so people could search for flight times and delays from their computer at home. The advent of social media means that information can be readily accessed from a flier’s smartphone, either through an app or social media.

Airports usually won’t announce every flight delay or cancellation on social media, although that information is still available through the web or airport-specific apps. However, it has become increasingly common for airports to use social media to let fliers know about major obstacles, such as those caused by traffic, weather and construction. According to a 2014 survey from SITA, 31% of respondents said they regularly used social media for real-time flight information services at airports. 30% would “definitely expect” support from social media when things go wrong, while 38% said it would be “nice to have.”

Alerts, because they require some amount of immediacy, are usually handled through Twitter.

Announcements

Not all news requires fliers to pay attention right away. Announcements can include information about new retailers and shops, hiring fairs, expansion plans, new features and new services. Airports can use nearly every social media channel to get the word out, and these updates are typically planned on a calendar as part of a strategy.

For example, Melbourne International Airport’s Facebook page uses a cute teddy bear named MelBear to make retail and other travel announcements for their airport:

Brand Building

Social media can also be used to help airports build an emotional connection to fliers, employees and other stakeholders. These posts, which can be communicated on nearly every channel, are crafted to make the airport seem like a fun place to be. It provides imagery so that people associate positive things with the airport experience.

Marketing experts should expect to use a lot of photographs that show the beautiful aspects of air travel, such as planes taking off and landing, or beautiful sunsets over rows of planes. Interior shots usually portray the airport as convenient and uncrowded. Photos that show the airport staff involved in community projects should also be featured.

A post shared by Hartsfield-Jackson AIA (@atlairport) on

Driving Revenue

Airports get a significant amount of their revenue from retail and concession sales, and these areas of revenue are projected to rise through 2020. Using social media, airports can announce and promote dining and retail deals and offers. For example, Changi Airport in Singapore used YouTube to promote a shopping promotion by posting a video of a flash mob. With over 400,000 views, the video definitely brought awareness to the promotion.

Changi Airport regularly posts videos on YouTube for their over 12,000 subscribers on a variety of topics, including their dining experiences, travel tips and some of their coolest areas in the airport, like this rooftop pool:

According to the 2016 Airport IT Trends Survey by SITA, airports will be focusing on monetizing their social media strategies in the next three years by offering airport services (84%) and retail promotions (78%). Aéroports de Paris does this by promoting exclusive offers in their duty-free shops on Twitter to their 44,000+ followers:

Social Media in Action

Here are the Twitter accounts for the 10 busiest airports in the United States.

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: @ATLairport
  • Los Angeles International Airport: @flyLAXairport
  • O’Hare International Airport (Chicago): @fly2ohare
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport: @DFWAirport
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York): @JFKairport
  • Denver International Airport: @DENairport
  • San Francisco International Airport: @flySFO
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport: @CLTAirport
  • McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas): @LASairport
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: @PHXSkyHarbor
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