When discussing organizations that are strong or weak in social media I always find it interesting to compare case studies for companies in the same business. As a result, I have chosen a company that is one of my favourite ways to travel, Porter Airlines, and one of their primary competitors, Air Canada.
Both Porter Airlines and Air Canada have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. On the surface it would appear that their social media strategies are equal in all ways. When their customers resort to social media with a complaint both airlines follow up by asking the customer to move the discussion to a private message. This helps reduce the number of negative comments found on either airlines Facebook pages or Twitter sites.
So why is Porter Airlines’ social media primarily filled with positive comments, discussions and feedback while Air Canada’s has fewer positive comments, fewer discussions and more negative feedback? I believe it is because a good social media presence is not just about your social media strategy – it’s about consistent, positive customer service no matter how your customer is interacting with your company.
When Porter Airlines launched in 2006 with their slogan ‘flying refined’ they set the tone and consumers’ expectations for years to come. A customer of Porter Airlines expects fast, pleasant customer service, amenities no longer found on other airlines and, in general, more than they had expected from a Canadian airline in a long time. So when Porter Airlines launched their social media presence on Facebook and Twitter they had a lot to live up to. As a Porter customer, I expected the same interaction on Facebook and Twitter as I was accustomed to receiving in person. And I got it.
Key elements that make Porter’s social media strategy work:
- Most importantly: they work hard to ensure that their customers have a positive customer experience from beginning to end, no matter how they are interacting with the airline
- They actively seek out customers online and begin providing a positive customer experience before they have even purchased a ticket
- They engage their customers in conversation and build online relationships with them by posting questions, asking them what they want to see, as well as responding to questions quickly and effectively. In addition, as they expand their service across Canada and the US, they seek feedback from their customers and engage them in their plans. For example: Porter has built a strong online campaign to encourage their customers to discuss, sign petitions, and support their application to expand Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport.
- Their bio section provides customers with their 1-800 customer service line if they have any complaints or challenges when interacting with the airline.
- They offer rewards to their followers through discount codes and first access to Porter news and promotions.
Although Spafax was recently nominated for the Facebook Games/Contests category in the new PR News Social Media Icon Awards I would argue that a four week contest and high number of followers does not always equal a well-developed social media strategy. In particular, I believe Air Canada needs a social media strategy that focuses on developing conversations and relationship with their customers rather than simply pushing out content. Based on the successful model developed by Porter Airlines, Air Canada could improve in several areas:
- In all interactions with customers, demonstrate a commitment to a consistent positive customer experience and then use social media to share those experiences with other customers. As a result of many customers previous negative experiences Air Canada has a long road to improve public perception. Sharing these positive experiences may begin to improve their overall company image.
- Rather than just pushing out content, engage current and future customers in conversations through social media.
- Include their customer service line and contact information in the ‘about’ section of their social media sites. This seems like a small thing but it makes the company appear open and available for customer feedback.
Cowan-Dewar, Jules. Social Media Execution: Porter Airlines & Twitter, http://catalyst.ca/social-media-execution-porter-airlines-twitter/
Faber, Les. Canadian Companies Using Social Media: Porter Airlines http://www.webfuel.ca/canada-social-media-porter-airlines/
Girard, Raymond. Spafax nominated for prestigious social media award for Air Canada Facebook game that attracted over 350,000 entries in four weeks. http://www.spafax.com/spafax-nominated-for-prestigious-social-media-award-for-air-canada-facebook-game-that-attracted-over-350000-entries-in-four-weeks/
Adams, Jessy. Sprinklr Signs Agreement with Air Canada for Social@Scale ™ Platform. http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1204473/sprinklr-signs-agreement-with-air-canada-for-social-scale-tm-platform
MacArthur, Amber. Five Social Media Lessons for Air Canada. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/digital-culture/amber-mac/5-social-media-lessons-for-air-canada/article1376119/
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