How to Approach Your Airport’s Social Media Strategy and Policy

If mobile represents the future of communications, then there’s no better place to offer the latest mobile and social media technologies than — airports.

I recently completed a comprehensive social media analysis and social media plan for a major international airport, and, while I won’t go into details in this post (contact me if you want to talk further), a few nuggets from our research offer a glimpse into the trends in social media for top airports in the U.S. and what airport managers should be doing to meet the needs of these on-the-go travelers.

Our team reviewed airport industry social media research, including a survey by Airports Council International, and spoke with representatives from travel apps and interviewed marketing, technology and operations personnel at airports of all sizes. We saw examples of “best practices” in airport social media. We also learned “what not to do.” Here is some of what we learned:

Be Aware: You need to know what people are saying about your airport on social media to take advantage of the benefits of an airport social media program. Establishing a listening and monitoring program is a good way to start and a way to convince skeptical management to get a program going. People are tweeting in your terminal right now. Do you have any idea what they’re saying and what you can learn from it?

Airport Leadership is Key: Management buy-in is crucial, as is ensuring employees are aware of your social media policy so they can support the program. We came across one airport that says it wants employees to contribute to airport social media messaging through social media, but when they sign in to those social networking sites, a red warning page pops up!

Bigger than Marketing: For many of the airport representatives we met with, social media is managed by the marketing department, but our research showed there’s much potential to realize the value beyond marketing, in areas such as operations, retail, procurement and fire/rescue, where your airport crisis communications plan must integrate social media monitoring and response. Customer service interactions and alerts from emergency services are just as important as marketing-oriented posts on Facebook.

Connect the Silos: Each department has its role, but the public sees the airport as a single entity, and social media can be that unifying source. Best practices call for cross-organization cooperation, appointing social media advocates from each department and ongoing training to keep personnel on top of the ever-changing social media.

With mobile communications firmly in place and an increasingly savvy customer base of travelers, it’s time to do what the best airports in social media are doing and establish an airport social media program to meet their needs and protect your reputation.

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