Social media is now driving core business goals

Social media use is changing. A study by airline marketing consultancy Simplifying has found that social media is no longer being used as simply a marketing tool but to drive core business goals.

The Airlines Social Media Outlook Survey, which analysed airlines' strategies around social media since 2010, found that social has taken a slightly different route.

Today the top priority for social media usage is customer service (edging past brand awareness), according to 88.5% of airline executives – showing an innovation in thinking by the airlines.

Driving loyalty and ancillary revenues, and its usage in crisis management, rounded up airlines' top five priorities for social media platforms.

When it comes to the most successful way to achieve business goals through social media, dedicated teams came out on top. They received a 100% satisfaction score. Yet just a quarter of those surveyed said they use this type of staffing structure.

On the other hand the most common team structure, distributed, recorded a less than perfect 59% satisfaction score. Interestingly, this is the structure used by 63% of the respondents.

Also successful were the campaigns handled by outside agencies – these achieved a satisfaction rating of 75%.

There also appears to be a gap between the priorities, preferred team structure and the optimism of the senior level and middle level management, the report noted.

This could mean that opportunities are being lost, with senior management perhaps not in sync with the potential of social media, nor its changing requirements.

Moving on to social media budgets, Simplifying found that the large majority – 71% – of airlines expect social budgets in 2015-16 to either increase or stay the same.

Half of these expect budgets to be increased for advertising, another 25% expect it to go towards acquiring new tools, and 25% said the funding will help expand their teams.

Meanwhile the success of campaigns appears to vary regionally. In Europe, for example, the biggest challenge is a lack of software tools.

However in the Middle East, an inflexible team structure is hampering marketers' efforts. And for those in the APAC region (Asia Pacific) a lack of support from senior management, and lack of training, impacted the effectiveness of social for 57% and 52% of the respondents, respectively.

Priorities, too, differ regionally. For example in the EU, driving loyalty using social media was a priority for 55% of airlines, whereas the proportion stands at 88.5% in the Middle East.