One of the most critical pieces of knowledge in marketing today is understanding that you — the airport — no longer own your brand, your message, or your corporate story. The internet, and especially social media, equips anyone and everyone to not only engage with your brand, but also to represent it.
If this fact strikes fear to the depths of your heart, you’re not alone. In fact, many brands avoided social media in the early days (and some still do today) in part because it just seemed too big, too uncontrollable. Interestingly, whether your airport’s brand is present in the social sphere or not doesn’t change the fact that your customers — your passengers — are talking about you.
This shift inherently changes your role.
Whether you’re an airport director, marketing professional, or customer service team member, your new job description includes this role: Brand Ambassador Equipper. What I mean is that you are now responsible for not only interacting with your brand’s friends and foes online, but also for equipping your biggest fans with the resources they need to tell the world how great you are. Call them brand ambassadors, advocates, champions, evangelists — whatever term you use, make sure you’re doing what you can to engage and equip your unofficial spokespersons.
Here are five keys to creating some of the best online ambassadors you could ever want:
1. Identify social media superstars in your region who already have a large following, and/or who are well-known among your target audiences. For example, maybe there’s a heavy-hitting Twitter user in your community who has 40 times as many followers as you do, or perhaps there’s a mommy-blogger who is popular with the 25+ female audience. Build relationships with these people. And yes, it is all about the relationship, not just a one-sided message blast from you to them. Find out what matters to them, how they are connected to your airport, and invite them to tell the story that most connects with their own audiences.
2. Identify those people in your own social media channels who self-identify as a huge fan of your airport. Give them information. Think of your online brand ambassadors as airport greeters, but without the uniforms, and without the confines of the terminal building. They already love your airport enough to tell other people about it, but do they have all the information they need? For your online ambassadors, equip them with infographics, photos, stories and fun facts.
3. Give your ambassadors access to you. Social media is great, and the key is “social.” If you’re going to have a Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest page, YouTube channel or a presence on any other platform, make sure you’re actually engaging with your friends, followers and fans. You wouldn’t ignore people at a party if they ask you questions or comment on your snazzy-looking shoes. You’d respond and volley. The same rules apply online.
4. Give them credit. Publicly recognizing people who know their stuff is a great way to build your relationship with your brand advocates. This can be done through re-blogging or re-posting their content, recognizing them on your channels in other ways, sending a simple thank-you note or swag bag, or buying them a coffee the next time they fly through your airport. The point is to show appreciation for their support. It’s not hard, and it definitely pays.
5. Ask for their input. People who are passionate about something are usually more than happy to share their opinions about it. Thinking about adding new seating to your terminal? Invite a small group of your advocates to the airport to conduct “user testing” of sample seats. Curious whether you should start using Pinterest or Instagram? Create a short survey online and push it to your ambassadors. Taking these small steps will not only give you a new perspective on the topic at hand, but will also make your biggest fans feel appreciated and important.
There are plenty of other ways to engage your brand evangelists — these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Get creative and make the most of these relationships. A little effort goes a long way with your loyal fans!
Looking for more ideas on how to engage your online audiences? The Quotient Group offers consulting services for brainstorming, planning and executing clever marketing and communications strategies and tactics and we’d love to help you do something amazing in your community! Contact us for a quick chat and an estimate!