Airlines are big companies. They have thousands of members of staff and even more ‘touch points’ when it comes to customer communications and service around the globe. The last thing they need is to be on social media, right?

Wrong. And in fact, some of the biggest airlines in the world are leading brands in their own right on social media. They work really hard to develop high quality campaigns and a strong presence on social media, and it results in excellent outcomes.

In this post, we’re going to look at the top 7 airlines in the world (as decided by The World Airline Awards 2015), and see what it is they do to make social media a huge marketing machine.

This includes the opening up of Instagram ads powered by Facebook, the revamped explore tab and a more powerful search which provide brands an opportunity to reach a new audience with a reactive content strategy.

theme So sit back, relax, and please do not leave your seat until you are told it is safe to do so.

Qatar Airways: News and events on social and even upselling

These guys have a strong presence on Twitter, and they seem to have based it entirely on the model of offering news and information about the company and how it is doing. This obviously works well. Their engagement on Twitter is pretty constant, with retweets in the area of 25-30 per post. Their key work happens in engagement with customers. Since people are only too happy to tweet their experiences on board the airline, Qatar is quick to reply. A recent tweet and conversation here shows how they are adept at responding to queries, and turning them into, effectively, ‘upsells’.

On Facebook, Qatar is all about the experience again. They don’t try anything funny or humorous (that’s not them) and there are no ‘viral’ aspects that they push. Instead, they focus on showing videos of movies playing on their flights, press conference stuff and the partnerships they have with various events.

Special offers make their customers happy, and with a great photo, the airline gains nearly 1800 likes on an air miles offer with a gorgeous image.

With their Instagram account, the airline knows that good imagery counts. This post gained the biggest engagement for some time, with over 10,000 likes. It’s simply a high quality, interesting photo.

qatar airways Singapore Airlines: Twitter as a strong tool for branding

This company have an excellent Twitter account, full of gorgeous photos that all have the Singapore Airlines logo in the bottom right hand corner. The account is heavy on the branding. Singapore Airlines have a reputation for affordable luxury, and this shows through the images of gorgeous interiors of the planes alongside the rather delicious-looking food that the airline serves up.

They’re not afraid to risk it on social either. As a stab at engagement and interaction, this isn’t too shabby. It didn’t work out as well as they probably hoped, but we applaud the quality of the image and the attempt to get some real interaction.

singapore airlines
Cathay Pacific: Utilising social listening to understand their customers better

Social listening is one of the key areas that companies can excel in if they make the effort. Cathay Pacific are making the effort. You’ll notice on their Twitter account that there is a significant number of retweets. Now and then you will have a retweet that is a result of genuine interest. But Cathay raise the bar (and show companies how to do it) by indulging in some social listening and finding out what people are saying about them. Then they retweet the good stuff. Its shows they like their customers and that they are using social media effectively. Here is an example:

We can’t fault their Instagram account either. Full of great imagery, they also take one of the key rules of social engagement on board, and recently showed this by publishing a great Father’s Day image. Not only that, they made everyone feel warm inside by asking customers where did their father first take them on a trip, in an attempt at interaction. That’s two birds and one stone, we think. pacific

cathay pacific Turkish Airlines: Using hashtags to build relevance and authenticity

These guys take it to a whole new level on Twitter, and their social media managers must be feeling pretty proud of themselves. The usual plush photos abound, but what this company can teach all businesses is the interaction element. One key aspect of this (that is criminally underused by many businesses) is the utilisation of the hashtag.

Hashtags are overused, arguably, by your average Twitter veteran. But Turkish Airlines are doing what is still ‘ahead of the curve’ for many businesses. Take the example below, where they use a hashtag that has genuine relevance to gain more engagement. Watch that key phrase ‘genuine relevance’. It makes all the difference with hashtags. And all credit to Turkish Airlines for knowing this.

Oh, and they ask a question too. That’s good Twitter marketing right there.

turkish airlines Emirates: Using a ‘theme’ on Instagram

These guys have got Instagram down to a fine art. And they have taken one of the key ‘best practice’ aspects and made it a mainstay of their Instagram presence. Basically, they take a lot of photos. And we mean a lot. But they then do what every business should be doing on Instagram and they ‘theme’ the photos.

The theme of the Emirates Instagram page is, unsurprisingly, focused on the fact they fly pretty much everywhere. So they have people in different locations holding up an Emirates flag. Or gorgeous photos that transport the viewer into a dream holiday they want to have.

Simple, right? But it is incredibly effective. It almost doesn’t matter how much engagement they have, because this content is long term and evergreen. Anyone who visits this page cannot fail to be charmed by the themed aspect, and it certainly wins our hearts. And believe it or not, it is probably an excellent marketing tool, too.

Etihad Airways: Taking audience interaction to the next level, and then some

It is easy to get everything wrong on Twitter. There are enough opportunities to do so. But Etihad have taken a slightly light-hearted approach. They show that they genuinely care about their customer base having fun, getting caught up in the buzz of the airline and, crucially, clear audience interaction.

It doesn’t always work and some could accuse them of slight overkill. But they do it well. Check out the Twitter stream for the airline and you will see many opportunities to answer questions, guess locations, and generally be part of the conversation with Etihad. Take the below example as a case in point. We think they have embraced the idea of having an audience that interacts with you. And it works really well.

etihad ANA All Nippon Airways: Being quirky on Instagram pays off

All Nippon have created an Instagram account that most companies would be glad to have. It is full of pictures that are, well, slightly more unusual than others. Making sure that the Instagram account has ‘different and unusual’ as its theme has stood them in good stead. While they may not have the biggest engagement every time, they have a healthy follower base, and a clear focus on delivering high quality, striking imagery.

This will pay off in the long run, because followers will associate the brand with the Instagram approach, and it will create even more engagement.

nippon The takeaways from these airlines

Airlines have a unique position in that they have excellent branding opportunities simply due to the fact that what they do is inherently ‘sexy’. But they could still mess it up on social.

Thankfully, these guys don’t. And what they do gives every business a few lessons in social media management. Here they are:

  • Offer current news and event information. This keeps everything up to date and shows your audience that you have a lot going on. You can even use it to sell like Qatar Airways does.
  • Make your social media a branding tool. Singapore Airlines have a very strong brand and a level of affordable luxury that makes them even more marketable. They use their social media to push the brand.
  • Use ‘social listening’ like Cathay Pacific does. This airline knows that people talk about them. Sometimes it’s even good talk. So they retweet the good stuff and show they listen, and that they have fans.
  • Use hashtags like they are supposed to be used. Turkish Airlines use hashtags on Twitter to stay relevant. And this is how it is meant to be. Hashtags need to fit into the general conversation and not seem forced or opportunistic. Turkish Airlines does this very well.
  • Emirates used a theme on Instagram. Having a theme makes the whole Instagram experience more fluid and less forced.
  • Use Audience interaction. If it works for Etihad (and they do it a lot) it can work for you and your business. Get people involved and do it frequently It creates fans and spreads the word.
  • If you can, be quirky. If you can’t be quirky like ANA, just be yourself every now and then. ANA are genuine and this is obvious through their Instagram.

Want more great ideas and guidance on how to best manage your social accounts? How about a management tool that gives you complete control over your social profiles? Contact us here at to find a unique system that makes your social experience even better.

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