Many different types of businesses are setting up shop on Facebook these days but airlines have a marketing model especially suited for the type of fan interaction that Facebook can provide — cheap air fares. We’ve taken a look at airlines along with other travel companies previously but this time around we thought we’d focus on airlines exclusively to see how they’re exploiting Facebook to promote their flights and promotions.
Most companies stopped short of actually selling tickets right on Facebook. Selling merchandise via stores right on Facebook is a trend we at Inside Facebook have seen growing across industries — from cosmetics to clothing — but airlines for whatever reason have created Facebook applications that take users right up until the point of purchase, then prompt them to head over to the companies’ web sites. It’s not clear why.
Yet, a few of these companies had excellent Facebook integrations that stopped just short of purchasing — perhaps that last step is not too far off?
For the purposes of this story we looked at a few domestic airlines: Southwest with 781,700 fans, Jet Blue with 132,500 fans, Virgin America with 54,400 fans and American Airlines with 51,700 fans. We also reviewed some foreign carriers: easy Jet with 25,300 fans, Singapore Airlines with more than 49,000 fans, Philippine Airlines with 45,500 fans, Turkey’s Onur Air with 72,300 fans, Germany’s Lufthansa with 27,000 fans, airBaltic with 30,700 fans and Air Asia with 208,400 fans. Generally most of these companies based their communications on the Wall in the form of updates or links, a few used notes, some talked back via comments on photos/discussion threads/Wall posts, most uploaded photos and some uploaded videos.
Of the foreign airlines, easy Jet and Air Asia seemed to have the best Facebook integrations, both in the form of applications. Easy Jet’s Holiday Planner app (located on a tab of the same name) requires users to become a fan before use. The app basically allows you to create a trip, name it, pick from among easy Jet’s destinations, select a date and budget, then invite your friends via Facebook — stopping just short of purchasing on the social network. Others can also vote on this trip. Purchasing requires visiting easy Jet’s web site. Air Asia incorporated notes and contest tabs with its application located on the tab by the same name, Airstrology. The fun app presents the user with “Madam Araisia” who says “let my cards see which magical part of India your heart lies in” as part of the company’s promotion of five new Indian destinations.
With the exception of Singapore Airlines and Philippine Airlines, the foreign carriers said they offered Facebook fans special deals on their Pages. Singapore announced new routes and promoted their services on their Pages while Philippine Airlines asked fans to encourage friends to become fans to hear about the company’s deals, but neither had Facebook fan-specific promotions; the promotions they did post linked to their respective web sites. Onur Air, Lufthansa and airBaltic on the other hand, promoted Facebook fan-specific deals on their Pages. Onur Air did this with its notes. Lufthansa did so with a status update, as did airBaltic. The latter also included a neat Where We Fly? app on its Page allowing users to click on a city and see connections to airBaltic destinations. Deals posted on these Pages included winning flight miles or discounted rates on airfares.
Of the U.S. carriers, Southwest Airlines seems to have come out on top for a reason. This company’s Facebook Page posts status updates with special fare deals and promotes its content on Facebook with a different strategy than it does on its web site. The landing tab for Southwest gives an overview of the Page’s content and includes: virtual gifts (post cards from Southwest destinations), a poll, a link to the company’s Twitter account and YouTube channel, a chance to sign up for weekly fare emails. It asks users to become fans, to help give them updates. Southwest responds to questions and comments from fans, hypes many of its good points such as the Bags Fly Free tab and incorporates seasonal promotions such as March Madness with the More LUV tab.
But, there’s no trip planner on the Page and most posted links are to YouTube or the company’s web site. Interestingly, U.S. companies didn’t seem to offer Facebook-specific deals past promotions or contests like their international counterparts.
Virgin America offered little more than company news and information in status updates and Jet Blue announced similar information, such as new flights and destinations in status updates and links on the Wall.
American Airlines probably had the best app of the bunch with its Travel Bag on the tab of the same name (seen at the beginning of the post), which includes an interactive map and rate finder that allows users to find a flight — and then go to the web site for a purchase. Another app allows users to find out whether their American Airlines flight will include wi-fi. Otherwise, the Page also included informative Wall activity, and Twitter and YouTube information for the company.
What we saw overall with airlines was that several have the capability to be selling tickets directly on Facebook, but for whatever reason, they all stop short and re-direct to their web sites. There’s a lot more room for airlines to grow on Facebook — many still don’t even list where they fly or what their rates are directly on their Pages and most don’t even integrate apps into their Facebook Pages.
For more on using Pages for marketing and sales, be sure to check out our Facebook Marketing Bible.