The Impact of Social Media in the Travel Marketing Industry: Part Two

Posted on April 18th 2014

The Impact of Social Media in the Travel Marketing Industry: Part Two

About a month ago I scribed a piece entitled The Impact Of Social Media In The Travel Marketing Industry. The piece touched on some statistics re: the prevailing use of social media among travelers and on one campaign in particular from Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.

Naturally me being me, and always wanting to learn more, I set out to see what else was cooking in the world of travel marketing and its use of social media.

Virgin America launches first in-flight social network

That was the headline of an article on boston.com a few months back.

'Wow, the first in-flight social network' I thought to myself. This sounds cool and I need to investigate, which I did.

What I found was this new social media network, which began rolling out on all domestic Virgin America flights toward the end of February, and will allow passengers to connect via their LinkedIn connections with passengers on their specific flight, guests on other Virgin America flights in the air, or fellow travelers at their destination.

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In a shining example of a brand actually listening to its customers, Luanne Calvert, Virgin America's Chief Marketing Officer, said the genesis of this idea came from passengers themselves.

"When we surveyed our business travelers, we were surprised to learn that the ability to connect with other Virgin America travelers in-flight or en route to a destination was a frequent request," said Calvert. " The best business connections often happen unexpectedly, and we've heard many stories of partnerships and start-up ideas being born on our flights."

Back to the Future

Way back in 2012 I wrote a piece KLM: A Company That 'Gets' Social Media, which shed some light on a new KLM program called “Meet & Seat" which allows passengers to link their social media profiles (Facebook and LinkedIn) to their check-in information and choose a seating partner according to their profile.

For that particular piece I had the chance to speak with Martijn van der Zee, senior VP E-Commerce for Air France-KLM.

I recently reached back out to Martijn to see what new programs KLM has cooking when it comes to social media. Not surprisingly after speaking with him again, I am even more firmly convinced that KLM absolutely "gets it" when it comes to social media.

Three of the latest programs he told me about were:

  • Payment via Facebook and Twitter. Their most recent announcement, this service or feature allows passengers to book or rebook a flight, make a seat reservation, or to arrange extra baggage all through either Facebook or Twitter via one of the 130 KLM social media agents.
  • @KLM_LocalEyes. This is a new twitter account to inspire travellers with insider tips from local KLM employees. Says van der Zee "Through @KLM_LocalEyes, they can now access first-hand and up to date knowledge of local KLM employees around the world."
  • KLM Wannagives. Launched in December, 2013, this allows someone to send a gift to a passenger, hand-delivered by the crew, while they are in-flight. Gifts range from a glass of champagne, an extra comfortable seat, a bottle of perfume or bonbons and more.

For more information on these programs visit klm.com.

Last but certainly not least

There are two "things" I want to share with everyone from my conversation with Martijn van der Zee  for the simple reason every brand, company, C-level, VP and on and on can learn from it.

The first is an anecdote he told me re: when KLM first dove into the social media waters.

"It was 2010," he started off. "We had only a simple Twitter and Facebook account. There was this moment where one of my employees entered my room and said: 'we can either pretend the questions aren’t there or we can start answering them. But be aware: if we start answering, we can never go back.' And so we did and we never stopped."

Lesson #1: Once you enter the world of social media you cannot exit. Short of your company going out of business, you must stay active and respond and engage and not just when things are going well, either. You cannot just answer the easy questions and ignore the hard ones. There is no pile of sand big enough on this planet or any other for you to bury your head in.

The second "thing" I want to share from my chat with van der Zee is this line "We believe we are a guest at somebody else’s party."

The line came from part of a larger discussion in which he also said "Social is not a marketing tool as others. Social talks back. We believe we are a guest at somebody else’s party. Adjust yourself, don’t start spamming others with your own messages. The nice thing about social media is that it is very honest. You know when you do well and you sure know when you don’t (do well.) The customer is our judge everyday and that’s what makes it exciting and challenging at the same time."

Lesson #2: You, Mr. and Mrs. Brand, are not in control. You are, as van der Zee so eloquently puts it, a guest at somebody else's party. The consumer is throwing this party. Yes you may be invited but you are surely not exempt from being shown the door at any moment.

Sources: boston.com, virginamerica.comklm.com, Google Images

steve olenski

Steve Olenski

A regular contributor to Forbes, among other publications, Steve was named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred. He is a also a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing and co-author of the book StumbleUpon For Dummies. Follow him on Twitter@steveolenski or at the nearest coffee shop.The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle Marketing Cloud.

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Comments

Kimberly Coleman
Posted on April 21st 2014 at 10:20PM

Hi Steve,

Your blogs are spot on regarding social media and the travel industry.  Social travel sites such as AFAR and TripAdvisor were key to my last vacation.  As marketers [and fellow travelers] we need to remind ourselves and each other that guidebooks, while a decent starting point, all too often represent only those who pay to be listed and the point of travel is to experience for oneself.  

The smallest B&B can generate a lot of good PR from word-of-mouth advertising.  For example, I found a small B&B in Bruges, Belgium thanks to travelers and locals who responded to my post on AFAR.com.  I was so impressed that I wrote a review on Trip Advisor and AFAR.  A few days later, the innkeeper e-mailed me and thanked me for the review citing several bookings who indicated my review solidifed their decision.  

All the best.

Kimberly