Data processed from July 1st to August 30 - Courtesy of
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While this year's peak summer season is officially over for the airline industry, CMOs are busy at work reflecting on their marketing campaigns and adjusting their strategies going forward. An area of focus this year continues to be in development of consumer engagement and loyalty across branded social media channels. For a long time, Branding pass has been following the social marketing strategies of Swiss and Air France -- the David(1) and Goliath of European legacy carriers. In this post, we will review both of their performances this summer on Instagram with a high-level analysis of each carrier.
According to a recent study by Forrester published in Adweek, "Instagram user interactions with brands is 400% higher than on Facebook and Twitter". The image-centric social network "is delivering 58 times more engagements than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter". Such figures are simply staggering, and airline and airport CMOs should be exploring this channel as a potential centerpiece for their social strategy. Here are some more amazing facts about Instagram:
- 400M monthly actives*.
- 75% live outside of the U.S.
- 100M users in Europe and Asia.
- Every minute of a day, Instagram users post 216,000 new photos*.
There is no doubt that engagement is high on Instagram for many brands. In the US, an eMarketer forecast stated that Instagram surpassed Twitter to become the second largest social network (after Facebook, naturally). Guess who is the only major airline associated to test Instagram's new ad platform? (If you are a frequent Branding pass content reader, you already know it's Air New Zealand - @flyairnz).
While consumers become more and more receptive to branded content in their social media streams, not all content performs equally. This is is why it is important to continue to focus on content quality. As Instagram users scroll through their stream of images, it’s vital to produce eye-catching and relevant content - especially as a post ages and is pushed down further into a feed.
Here is the measurement criteria we used in our analysis of Swiss and Air France:
Our measurement plan.
- Which campaign types drive the most audience growth?
- Which content types drive the most audience growth?
- Which marketing campaign capture the audience?
- How are the brand values featured?
- What is Swiss' or Air France's willingness to take risks?
- How both national carriers differentiate from each other?
- Who are their Instagram influencers?
- Which kind of brand advocates and influencers should they seek out in the future?
- Who is relevant to their brand’s Instagram growth?
A Peak Season Campaign through Infographics
Jason Umino of Umino Digital - our favorite freelance Social Media Strategist - took a look at our analysis:
"Both Air France and Swiss have vastly different content strategies across their respective social channels, however, Swiss seems to be much more active in the [Instagram] space and it is also apparent that they have more diversity in their posts (e.g., different locations like San Francisco, Chicago, Zurich and their more intimate look at their core business practices). Air France does, however, gain a high engagement-per-post, even though they did not post as frequently. This could be due to their larger audience and reach rather than the engaging nature of their posts".
Why Embrace Instagram?
Airlines (or Airports) should use Instagram for a wide variety of reasons.
- Through branded hashtags, Instagram allows customers to help narrate a brand's story.
- Instagram is an excellent tool for keeping customers in the loop about company news and business operations. Using its most loyal followers (or customers) as brand advocates should be a top goal for any CMO in the aviation industry.
As highlighted several times by Skift Reports(3)(4) and Simpliflying(4), customers are potentially a travel company's best advocates to push forward its brand values.
- Companies may showcase photos of employees to provide followers an intimate behind-the-scenes peek at the company while also celebrating and involving your staff in its marketing strategy. We feel that this should be a particular near-term goal for Air France given its recent trouble with unions and long-lasting strikes.
- It affords a great opportunity to provide a sneak preview of your products and services. This summer, it appeared that Air France lagged behind in this department, especially compared to the diversity that Swiss had in engaging with 'fun':
Protip #1 ► Posts with people and faces help to add personality to any brand, and may even increase user engagement.
Dan Zarella studied some 1.5 million images in 2014, and using a face detection algorithm, he found that posting a photo with a human face increased the number of likes per followers than those without by 35% on average! Swiss actively feature its staff to add a human face to its brand:
Protip #2 ► Filters and imagery matter. Normal Filter was shown to be the most converted filter... but brighter photos tend to get more likes.
Normal, Willow, Valencia and Sierra are the top four performing filters.
Air France frequently used 'Normal' while at the same time Swiss used a diversity of different filters (Normal, Xpro-II, Earlybird). It appears that higher luminosity or brighter pictures made a higher impact in likes per post and Swiss won in this department as well.
Protip #3 ► Post consistently while diversifying content.
Swiss' Social Media Department seemed to understand the unique nature of Instagram, consistently promoting its network of destinations AND simultaneously authentic and genuine branded content. Meanwhile, we found that Air France did not quite hit the mark in this department with most of its content showcasing its own aircraft.
Once again, we highlight the importance of any airport or airline to explore the possibility of including Instagram as a centerpiece to a B2C marketing strategy. But it is not always a numbers game. Like in many other social networks, the most successful strategy is to be authentic (such as Swiss). As we've seen this past summer with these two peak-season campaigns, Instagram can clearly communicate brand values to a wide and engaged audience.
What are your thoughts? We invite you to share your opinion so please leave a comment or contact us directly. As always, feel free to share this post with your friends and colleagues!
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