new normal: 6 survival strategies for the hospitality sector 13 May - 5 min read
Having worked in the railway sector and now in aviation, social media certainly has a critical role to play in transport. Travellers are using social media more and more to contact their airline, train operator, airport or train station – and businesses have to be in a position to react timely.
I started my ‘transport’ social media career at Network Rail, who manage the railway infrastructure for the entire country – which is approximately 20,000 miles worth of track that includes 20m lineside neighbours and the biggest / key stations in the UK. Essentially I managed the social media presence for the entire country – 4 million passengers (at the time) used the railways daily.
There was always one part of the country that needed social media care and attention, which meant there was never a quiet moment. The growth in terms of following was huge – in less than three years, we grew from 4k to 100k followers and our social queries grew from a couple in a day (in the first few months of launch) to 3k a month – all which required replies. A dedicated person was only brought in once queries started to reach the 200 mark a month.
More recently at London City Airport (LCY), the landscape is slightly different, with new challenges and opportunities. Less people use an airport daily, but the care and attention across our social media platforms is the same. We have the aim of being a customer service tool, a news and information portal and to protect and enhance LCY’s reputation by generating content that is engaging to our audience.
London City Airport saw approximately 4.5m passengers pass through the airport in 2016, with operating hours starting at 0630 till approximately 2130, our social channels have to be active throughout the day too. Our audiences can differ from passengers, to aviation enthusiasts, to the local community and we try and tailor content to each of them. All in all, we are communicating to roughly 240k users across our social media channels.
Our customer service offering has been taken to the next level recently with the launch of our automated twitter and facebook service. It means passengers can sign up to automated updates via social media, including when check-in has opened and other useful information about their journey, such as updated flight times and gate number.
More recently, we have introduced customer service hosts within the terminal who assist passengers with information. This helps our social media function thanks to the direct line of communication we have with our hosts, meaning we can get in touch with them if we receive a post from a passenger and it can be resolved directly in the terminal. Usually passengers are simply after up to date information and our hosts are able to share this with them face-to-face.
Timely responses are key with passengers catching flights – it’s the same with commuters who are catching trains. The challenge can sometimes come when communicating with different parts of the airport, which include both airlines and concessions, but generally, you get the sense of a family feel to the airport so our response times are quite good. The automated service has really helped with this, as passengers need flight information right away.
The pro-active content helps support the commercial growth of the airport by maintaining and enhancing its online reputation, we also support our concessions within the airport by amplifying their messages – as well as carrying out our own campaigns. We try and engage our aviation fans because they are always enthusiastic and have a big appetite for content – we love giving them their fix.
Engagement rates are considered important and we have targets internally which help us evaluate what has worked/hasn’t worked, the best time of day to post specific content to a specific audience and it also helps explain our strategy internally when necessary.
We have made a considerable effort to do more ‘live’ videos but keep them for milestones to keep them fresh and wanting our audience wanting more – they always give us the best returns in terms of reach and engagement.
The future of social media in aviation and transport generally will only increase – no longer do users want to check boards at stations or airports, but want information to their device via an app, social media or an automated service – and this will go further. 24/7 services on social media are now the norm rather than ‘nice to haves’. As a minimum, cover your operating hours and make the majority of social media managers, community managers as well – certainly for those in an operational environment – and this won’t change.
Social media is huge and we haven’t even talked about paid social media activity – the big brands have certainly taken that to a new level and will continue to invest heavily – and why wouldn’t you, you can target the exact audience you want and need to target. It’s genius. you don’t even need to be highly-active on a social channel to put some money behind a campaign.
In general, social media is ‘flying’ – more and more people are pursuing careers in the industry – and the beauty of the industry is that it never stands still. As a social media professional, you must keep on top of trends, channels and be in a position to react to change because the industry moves very fast. The customer service aspect of social is now fully-integrated and is seen as a genuine tool for contact, especially in transport due to its real-time nature. Watch this space for more developments because there will certainly be plenty.
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