Data issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA reported there are more than 19,700 airports in the United States. According to the 2011-2015 National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems from which this data was found, there are 5,170 airports open to the public and just 503 that provide commercial service. And of those U.S. commercial airports, only a little over 50, or 9 percent have a notable presence on Twitter.
You might wonder how many more networks does an airport have to participate in to have a meaningful share of voice? From websites, blog sites, FaceBook, and Twitter, it’s difficult to keep up with rapidly growing community-driven resources, and even more challenging to determine what is essential and critical for airport marketing in today’s competitive world.
Personally, I think Twitter can be an excellent marketing resource for airports if used appropriately. I have seen other organizations utilizing Twitter that experience real-time issues that may have the potential to impact hundreds and thousands of people. On the positive side, tweeting is a tool that can be used to drive traffic back to your website, blogs, newsletters, schedules, and other communication channels that are most important for your airport.
Humanize The Travel Experience
Twitter is an interactive program — it connects the airport to the larger community, including employees, travelers, vendors, airlines, car rental companies, restaurants, and local attractions, among others. Not only can you send “tweets,” which are microblog/messages of 140 characters or less, but you can monitor talk of the airport too. Similarly, travelers are encouraged to participate by voicing their thoughts and opinions by tweeting, often as a response to a thread or open-ended question tweeted by the airport.
The immediacy of Twitter makes it an effective communication tool for an airport. Sometimes, a tweet can serve as an early warning system and may expose a situation that could have serious consequences. For example, if there is severe weather in the region, the airport can tweet to inform travelers who are followers to call their airline to check on the status of their flights.
Used effectively, tweets provide useful information and relevant updates that can help travelers better manage the travel experience at your airport.
Airports that use Twitter allow for it to become the “hub” of customer interaction. At a time when much is automated, airports using Twitter are able to interact with travelers to reinforce that their comments and concerns are being heard. In essence, it humanizes the traveling experience — building connections, establishing relationships with travelers that increase positive impressions, competitive advantages, and return visits.
It’s interesting to note that airports using Twitter include the large international airports as well as smaller regional ones. Most have a reasonable number of followers and many of the airports tweet informative information for followers on a consistent basis.
It’s in an airport’s best interest to effectively manage Twitter dialogues, since travelers often share their experience through direct tweets, re-tweets, or “hashtags.”
Enhance The Effort
Twitter can also be used as a platform for sharing other types of social media, including adding Pinterest and Instagram accounts into tweets. These newer trending forms of social media are more visually appealing and designed to enhance the current Twitter experience. Instagram, a free app available for iPhone and Android smart phones, allows users to post pictures on a single feed for other app-users or Twitter followers.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) recently announced a new Instagram account in a tweet, describing it as a “photo diary on all LAX happenings.” Users will be able to stay connected with LAX not only through Twitter updates, but now through Instagram as well.
A few airports have found a niche in keeping their travelers engaged through Pinterest, which acts as “a virtual pin board” to post or “repin” images found elsewhere on the Web. San Diego Airport uses Pinterest to “repin” travel-related images for followers to view, some of which include: “Travel Books and Inspiration,” “Places We Wish We Flew To,” “Travel Tips,” and “Travel in Style” to name a few. Incorporating visual diaries like Instagram or Pinterest are on the increase.
When considering whether your airport wants or should have a Twitter account or a more indepth social media presence, it’s useful to audit how other airports are using Twitter and other social media. But due diligence is essential and clear goals on what you want your Twitter account and tweets to accomplish should be established.
Just as with any marketing effort, a well-developed strategy is essential to manage the effort and the investment. Sometimes that can be done internally, but other times it may be best to hire professionals to help with setup and management.
It is clear that as consumer requirements for real-time information seeking continues to increase, successful airports can look at how best to meet their expanding communication needs and take advantage of the new opportunities.
About the author
Agnes Huff, PhD, has more than 25 years of experience providing specialized strategic public relations, marketing, crisis management, and business consulting to a diverse group of clients in the aviation industry. In 1995, she founded Agnes Huff Communications Group (AHCG), an integrated marketing and PR consulting firm headquartered in Los Angeles. Clients include national and international airports and airlines, government entities, travel and tourism organizations, and transportation companies, among other high-profile industry clients.She welcomes feedback and will respond to comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on AHCG is available at www.ahuffgroup.com.