Social Media Doesn’t Matter

I was recently asked about how travel providers, airlines in particular, interact online and how they should improve their social media strategies. And I shook my head a bit, because I think that was the exact wrong question.

Social media doesn’t matter. Or at least the way most companies and travel providers in particular ask the question it doesn’t matter.

Companies are too often obsessed with social media awards or metrics like how fast they answer tweets. In fact some tweets should go unanswered. If someone with 30 followers is trolling you don’t swing at a pitch in the dirt. You’re better off not responding, even though your average response time metric will fall.

Airlines in particular first need to ask themselves what business they are in. And they need to do their business well rather than managing their social media per se.

What actually matters is:

  1. to find out where your customers are and interact with them in they way they find most convenient, and

  2. to do so authentically.

They key to good online presence is to say what you think honestly. You get killed by spin or what comes off as disingenuous. That’s when you become a meme. And you develop a negative association with your brand. Not because you didn’t have a social media strategy but because you BS’d your customers.

A devaluation is not an enhancement and you didn’t do it because your members asked for their points to be worth less. Say cash prices are going up and you had to increase points prices too (if that fits the facts).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Yes, authenticity is everything. Once you learn to fake that, you’ve got it made!

    I think there’s a flaw in your process analysis of not responding to a tweet. In fact, one of the valid dispositions for a tweet should be to ignore it and it’s quite reasonable to include the time taken to make that decision along with time-to-respond for other tweets. Without a positive disposition of the tweet, even to the ignore bucket, it will repeatedly have to be seen and dismissed by other operators.

  2. Absolutely correct sir!

    I don’t know of anyone who has bought a product or service because of social media. It’s a fad. Just look at MySpace. Or AOL Instant Messenger. Back in the day some companies had AIM bots. Not anymore.

    What really irks me is when companies provide better customer service over social media than their traditional support (phone/email) . Social media isn’t professional and won’t likely ever be. There needs to be a line between personal and business at the professional level.

    Also bothersome is Marriott’s current obsession with 20-30 year olds. Millennial are not going to stay at full service hotels and are more apt to go for airbnb or couch surf. They don’t have money to spend frivolously.

  3. @Alex, I have to disagree with you about the 20-30 year olds — consulting firms, law firms and big corporate are filled with travel purcahsers on expense accounts in that demographic. Like it or not, they are heavily influenced by social media.

  4. As someone who sells social media monitoring software to companies (including airlines), I couldn’t agree more.

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