What sets British Airways aside from competitors on social media?

British Airways has got a pretty impressive social media presence, boasting more than 2.5 million fans on Facebook, almost one million followers on Twitter and nearly 500k followers on Instagram.

A quick scan of all three accounts reveal a mixture of brand-specific content – such as photos of its planes – and location images, making the most of the fact that it flies to all four corners of the earth.

Also, as a means to make its business appear more authentic, it incorporates user-generated content into its social media strategy – for instance, asking customers to send in their photos, based on a specific theme, using the #FlyBA hashtag.

In a further attempt to engage customers, it might ask its followers to recommend a holiday destination or where they plan on spending their Christmas this year.

It will also look to direct customers to different areas of its website with helpful location content, with the warning that the page "may cause unavoidable destination envy".

Meanwhile, the company's Twitter account also doubles up as a customer service portal, which remains active 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to assist customers.

Anyway, we're not here to document all the things that are part of British Airways' social media strategy, otherwise we'd be here all day. However, we'd like to draw your attention to what the airline believes sets it apart from the competition on social media: its willingness to take risks.

'You have to hold your nerve'

Amanda Phillips, the airline's head of omnichannel content and marketing operations, warns travel brands that if they stick too rigidly to brand guidelines when sending out communications of social channels, they face customers scrolling past their content in their news feeds.

Speaking at an event for Effectiveness Week, Phillips said: "You have to be nimble, flexible and contextual and you have to hold your nerve – especially when your press office is telling you off for a tweet."

Be prepared for internal disputes

Philips revealed how she recently had to endure such internal opposition during a British Airways social media marketing campaign, which involved the airline offering Twitter users in the US the opportunity to take advantage of the plummeting value of the pound in the aftermath of Brexit.

The offer was called opportunistic by some Twitter users, while it was also discussed as a story on 11 broadcast news stations in the US. However, Phillips believes the widespread coverage proved the worth of the campaign.

"We had news presenters standing and pointing at a screen which showed our homepage, advocating that customers go [visit] and buy from our sale," she recalled.

"I would have had to have spent tens of millions of dollars to get that kind of coverage [using other means]."

Phillips' perspective is an interesting one, which requires a deft touch to execute. One thing's for sure, though: risks should only be taken on solid foundations, as British Airways' social media strategy proves. Go ahead and download our social media marketing guide for travel websites to ensure your social strategy has the backbone required to support risks.To find out more, contact us .