Southwest Airlines is one of the biggest airlines in the world. They transport over 200 million passengers per year and have over 600 flights per day across their system. They are based in Dallas, TX, and have over 45 million social media followers on social media platforms like Twitter.
MarketingCharts, a marketing research firm, compared social media activity across 40 airlines and found Southwest Airlines to have the highest social media activity out of any airline in the study. They are also one of the most followed airlines on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
The purpose of this study was to see how social media is being used by airlines to gain insight into how to market their services to consumers. Here are some of the key findings:
1. Social Media Is The New Traditional Advertising
This was one of the most surprising findings of the study. Traditionally, airlines have used print media and TV commercials to gain brand awareness and attract potential bookings. However, social media was the only channel where the airlines saw an increase in engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The volume of tweets about the airline industry increased by 92% in March 2020 and 64% in April 2020 when compared to the same months in 2019. The amount of tweets per day about the airline industry was also found to have increased by 46% in March 2020 and 77% in April 2020.
The amount of content shared on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook about the airline industry increased by 137% in March 2020 and 126% in April 2020 when compared to the same months in 2019.
2. Consumers Are Spending More Time On Social Media Platforms
Along with a rise in engaging with airlines on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, the research found that consumers are now spending more time on these platforms overall. In fact, the average user spends about 4 hours per day on social media platforms of all kinds, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
The time spent on social media platforms by consumers has increased by 38% in the past year alone and is projected to reach 5 hours per day by next year.
This is significant, as social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are growing and being accessed on mobile phones, which means that consumers can access them anywhere and at any time. This can be incredibly valuable for airlines looking to engage with their customers and potential passengers.
3. Consumers Are More Aware Of The Airlines’ Social Media Presence
The research found that consumers are becoming more aware of an airline’s social media presence and how they can use it to gain more information about a particular airline. A previous study found that 29% of consumers had used social media to research an airline or travel product, and 15% of those had found the information helpful.
In 2020, 66% of consumers reported that they had used social media to learn about an airline’s services and products. This is higher than any other channel the research found, which included traditional advertising on TV and the internet.
The Rise Of Influencer Marketing
The rise of influencer marketing is also contributing to the increase in interest in airlines on social media platforms. Influencer marketing can take many forms, from sponsoring content to using reputable influencers to help promote an airline’s brand.
In 2020, airlines are identifying and utilizing influencers to gain exposure and to attract people to their brands. For example, Delta partnered with influencers to promote their new Delta SkyMiles credit card.
The research found that 79% of consumers would be more likely to buy an airline’s product or service after seeing an influencer mention it. This is compared to just 28% who would be more likely to buy an airline’s product or service after seeing a TV ad.
Emerging Marketing Channels
The rise of digital marketing alongside the fall of traditional advertising means that airlines have a wide variety of options for how they can engage with consumers. They can use different channels and tactics to attract people to their brands.
This is also beneficial, as it means that airlines don’t necessarily need to use the same marketing tactics and can find success using a combination of methods.
The purpose of this study was to see how social media is being used by airlines to gain insight into how to market their services to consumers. Overall, social media is emerging as a significant marketing channel and will probably rise as a replacement for TV commercials and print ads in the future.
This study was conducted in March 2020 and sample sizes were 400 respondents across the US. The margin of error is 5%.