Airlines need to focus on improving their CX using social media. Source: Shutterstock

How airlines in APAC are navigating social media turbulence

WHAT happens onboard no longer stays onboard – or so major airlines getting caught in social media firestorms are discovering.

In the last two years, the variety and volume of incidents making headlines have put the airline industry under the spotlight more than ever before. Airlines that have faced social media controversy know first-hand its impact on their offline reputations.

Much of this can be attributed to the widespread use of social media, which has made it

remarkably easy for customers to vent and speak directly to brands when something goes wrong.

Those working in social media management for an airline are required to be fully prepared for crisis management.

Put your seatbelt on and always be prepared

Dealing with a social media blowout can have much wider implications on brand reputation, affecting everyone from the CEO down.

According to the World Economic Forum, brand reputation represents 40 percent of a company’s market capitalization, and reputation risk now ranks as the number one strategic concern among executives.

Admittedly, social can contribute to reputation risk, but if used correctly it can strengthen reputation, increase the value of your brand, and protect against potential risks.

Indeed, being proactive and responsive builds trust and makes people feel more connected with brands.

Our research found brands that engage with Instagram followers every 24 to 48 hours are perceived 20 percent more positively than those that don’t.

One brand that’s moving social to the center of its brand strategy is Hong Kong Airlines.

The company has recently begun using social listening tools to navigate potential crises and to engage with customers.

In fact, an investment in the right social media tools helped the airline discover a YouTube review in which a customer talked about a pleasant flying experience – but noted that his in-flight screen didn’t work.

Despite an otherwise enjoyable flight, he mentioned he wouldn’t fly with Hong Kong Airlines anymore.

The airline responded immediately reaching out to the poster, apologizing and requesting more information to escalate the issue to the relevant team.

Although the department in charge had already fixed the issue, the team went back to the poster with an update and thanked him for helping the airline do better.

While the video stays and people can see it, they also know that Hong Kong Airlines is a brand that listens, reacts, responds and communicates in a tailored way to solve a specific customer’s problem

This customer care is a large part of brand protection at Hong Kong Airlines.

Common complaints in the airline industry revolve around cancellations, delays, weather issues, and baggage trouble – and so the brand’s mission is to soon provide 24-7 customer care, stepping up from the current 9-5 support.

Take flight with better social storytelling

Brands can gain a reputational edge through proactive storytelling –  using social media to drive an emotional connection with consumers, leading to purchase.

Today, 71 percent of consumers make purchasing decisions based on what they discover on social – and for 18-26 year-olds, that number rises to 75 percent. When the experience is over, consumers share their opinions on social, continuing the cycle.

Air New Zealand has been doing a stellar job of using social media to stand out from the crowd. Over the years, the airline has innovatively tapped into rapidly changing social technologies to get closer to customers.

In February, the company launched a campaign on its Facebook and Twitter pages called #EmojiJourney, encouraging people to reply with the three emojis that would best describe their ideal New Zealand vacation.

After someone leaves a comment, a link automatically takes them to a personalized map of New Zealand through which users can learn more about destinations and activities in areas that interest them.

It’s through efforts such as this that Air New Zealand consistently wins awards and accolades for its social media campaigns.

Social media has changed what reputation means to businesses.

But with this shift comes a great many opportunities to innovate and improve business outcomes. Every comment, review, and query is a fresh customer connection that’s ripe for the picking.

Contributed by subject matter expert Upali Dasgupta, Regional Marketing Lead, Hootsuite APAC.