Justin B Meyers, manager of air service development, Kansas City Aviation Department, blogs about the power of social media as a tool for airports. In a world where brands are constantly seeking new ways to listen to and engage in online conversations, airports have it easy.
Across all social channels, consumers are talking about travel with frequency and passion. They’re researching reviews and crowdsourcing ideas during the planning process.
They’re boasting with photos while away and recounting adventures when they return. Luckily for airports, it seems the most frequent travel conversation takes place when travellers are sitting in an airport waiting to embark on a journey or arriving home after several days away.
Location-based apps like foursquare and Facebook have helped drive the trend of travel check-ins, all while providing airports with a steady stream for listening and engagement.
Earlier this year I flew to Los Angeles. En route I tweeted my check-ins at MCI (or KCI locally) and LAX airports. I was the 491,323rd foursquare check-in at Los Angeles International Airport, where, according to foursquare tips, 228 people have hopped off a plane “with my dream and a cardigan”.
That total check-in number exceeds the population of several small counties. Nearly 500,000 people have identified themselves to LAX as active customers. What incredible information!
Just last month, Kansas City Airport had its 100,000th Facebook check-in. While clearly not one of Kansas City’s most iconic landmarks, more than 75,000 foursquare check-ins have taken place at the airport since the application launched in 2009. That’s more than Arrowhead Stadium, Kauffman Stadium, the Country Club Plaza, the Sprint Center and the Kansas City Power & Light entertainment district combined.
Unlike most large organisations representing themselves in social channels, airports have very little product to sell. Certainly there are some purchases made in airports, such as food, parking and the occasional gift item, but the majority of travel purchases are made well before a suitcase is packed. Customers have booked their flights, hotels, cruises and rental cars directly or through a travel agent and have given very little advance thought to the airport experience. Although it is not the airport’s job to sell these things, it is our responsibility to make travel as seamless as possible.
Kansas City International Airport’s strategy in social media is simple: 1. Listen 2. Be helpful.
Since 2009, the airport has been actively listening and seeking to offer midwestern hospitality to locals and visitors. As our airline partners have increased their social presence, we’ve enjoyed connecting our tweeting fliers with airlines like @AmericanAir, @SouthwestAir and @United. When flight-related issues arise we have been able to help customers find resolution through referrals to excellent customer service accounts like @DeltaAssist and @FrontierCare. We also attempt to connect our customers with other airports in their itinerary, especially when a long layover is in store. @Atlanta_Airport, @DFWairport and @DTWeetin have been great allies.
We follow hashtags for conventions taking place in Kansas City and seek to assist arriving passengers in finding taxis, rental car shuttles and other ground transportation. The recent Major League Soccer SuperDraft is an example of that engagement, where we had the opportunity to participate in conversations with players and staff from MLS clubs across North America.
Listening to the travel conversation has helped us identify some of our most frequent fliers and get to know them personally. Perhaps the simplest thing we do, a “Welcome home” tweet to Kansas City-based road warriors like @JasonCupp, @ZenaWeist and @BrianMcSpadden, is also the most impactful thing we do.
“Clearly @KCIairport have done a great job making Twitter very personal. If I’m here & don’t tweet it feels like I’m ignoring a friend.” - @benasmith http://twitter.com/#!/benasmith/status/85453833148448768
It seems as though building meaningful and loyal relationships is the natural outflow of listening and being helpful. What’s not to love about that?
This article features in Routes News 2012 Issue 2