You might have done a double- take when you read this blog title. When the thought first popped into my head, I gave my brain a double-think. However, 6 hours in the air gave me some time to examine the notion. Often, airlines take a lot of slack from well, everyone, when it comes to the services they provide and guidelines they adhere to. But if we strip away from the obvious complaints about the airline industry and get into some of the real core practices that guide their everyday interactions with customers, there is definitely a top 5 list. I'm not looking to get into a debate about the TSA and body scans and such, but really getting down to the basics. Airlines and social media have more in common than you might think. Here are 5 of those commonalities:
1) Prepare your passengers: Just like other modes of transportation, there's no guarantee you'll arrive at your destination; anything could happen. Think about the different types of transportation you take: cars, subways, planes, trains, buses. Planes are the only one on that list that acknowledges that something can go wrong. I've been driving for 10 years and I still don't know if I'm supposed to pump the break or not during a spin-out. When it comes to safety, airlines are transparent (I fly Delta a lot - this is my absolute favorite safety video). The lesson here - when it comes to your brand's interactions, you should be transparent, too.
2) Provide entertainment: When you're 30,000 feet in the air, you're rather limited for your sources of in-flight entertainment. For example, you can't exactly lace up your running shoes and go for a jog. Even still, airlines have come leaps and bounds over the years in terms of the options they provide their passengers to help pass the time. Whether you're a fan of in-flight trivia, music, TV shows, movies or surfing the web; most airlines these days have at least one of those options available to fliers. Airlines recognize that when their passengers are enjoying themselves during their flight, they'll have a better experience with the brand overall. When it comes to updating your Facebook page and Twitter account, creating a video strategy, or finding ways to engage your audience, make sure you think about the things that will make their experience amazing - and fun.
3) Frequent updates are needed: I'll admit it. One of my least favorite parts of flying is when I'm in the middle of my entertainment method of choice (often reading or listening to music) and the captain comes on to let us know there's some turbulence or that we've caught a wind pushing us into our destination 10 minutes ahead of time. At the same time, though, I appreciate those interruptions because they let me know the captain hasn't forgotten that he's not just flying that plane to get us from point A to point B; but rather, he's on the plane because of the passengers. We have to remember our brand exists because of the consumer, and with social media, we have to engage the audience and keep them connected.
4) Be consistent: Whether you love or hate the fact that Delta has generic peanuts, pretzels and cookies versus JetBlue's selection of brand name treats, if you're a frequent visitor, you know what to expect. You might also really want to fly with your full size shampoo, butcher's knife and ninja star - but you can't. Whether you go to an airport in New York City or Mobile, Alabama - the rules are going to be the same. You'll read them on the airline website, hear it from the flight attendant, and listen to it on the phone. There is consistency in the message, consistency in the interaction and consistency in the expectation. Make sure your customers always know what to expect from you. Of course there are going to be delays along the way that you can't avoid, but remain consistent where you can - and it will go a long way.
5) When it doubt... bring snacks: It's not all fun and games all the time. And when it's not, it doesn't hurt to throw in some extra pretzels.
What other industries do you think social media often takes cues from? Do you think airlines are a stretch (and I've just been flying too much)? Let us know in the comments!