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Archive for April, 2011

Funny thing, this social media stuff. It doesn’t take long to go from a newbie to potential how-to case study. Just ask the good folks manning the keyboard at Lambert St. Louis International Airport.

STL joined Twitter earlier this month, and as recently as yesterday was slowly growing its following, helped in part by the typical welcomes from fellow airport tweeters.

Last night at about 9PM, things changed–and @flystl foreshadowed it with an informative tweet about severe weather warnings.

At 12:47AM, word came through via Twitter that the airport was closed.

The rest is well-known–a tornado was confirmed, and one report had more than 2,700 buildings in the city damaged. The airport’s @flystl feed has been one of the primary sources for getting information out about the airport’s status, press conference information, flight information from airlines, and the like. As of this post, @flystl has pushed out 40 tweets since its inception–about half of them have come since the storm hit. Followers stood at about 180 this morning (reciting this from memory, as I checked out the page first-thing but–my reporter skills apparently long gone–failed to actually take notes) to about 851 as I type this; the count will probably hit 1,000 by the time I actually publish the post.

Twitter has been an integral part of STL’s communications strategy–but only one part. The airport’s website was updated quickly and regularly (and included a reference to pushing information out via Twitter), its Facebook page featured updates (including photos and video), and press releases started going out early this morning.

From afar, it looks like Team STL is doing a tremendous job communicating key information via various channels. Let’s hope the recovery effort goes well enough so they can get back to pushing out the more everyday stuff real soon.

Meantime, here’s a pretty solid post from Edelman’s Dave Fleet on tweeting during a crisis. Lots of informative stuff related to customer service via social media on his blog, in fact.

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Akron/Canton Airport (CAK) surpassed 25,000 Facebook fans today, and the airport’s SVP of Fun Kristie Van Auken thanked the fans in her unique, upbeat style with–what else?–a Facebook video.

CAK’s push to 25,000 netted some 7,500 fans in the last three months–pretty impressive for any organization.

It will be interesting to watch how CAK leverages its huge Facebook community. Some folks in the airport social media world question the value of big Facebook fan page numbers. CAK has been–and will continue to be–the preeminent case study for how interaction with a sizable Facebook community can play a role in an airport’s marketing communications strategy.

Meanwhile, today’s announcement by Virgin America leaves little doubt as to its confidence in Facebook as a marketing tactic. Leveraging user-generated content to spotlight and highlight a brand has been done before–and done well–on Facebook. Add the element of judging the top entries to drive even more traffic, and it sounds like Virgin America has a pretty good little campaign on its hands.

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San Diego International Airport (SAN) has deployed a mobile-optimized version of its website, boosting an already formidable digital communications arsenal. Read a .PDF version of the press release here.

SAN was an early blog adopter; its Ambassablog might well be the best at giving travelers multiple behind-the-scenes perspectives of the airport’s operation. (Great platform, too!)

SAN’s Facebook page also stands out, both for its own content and for pulling in several of its social spaces like Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. Add in a traffic-alerts-via-text feature and it’s pretty clear that the folks at SAN are both serious about digital and seriously good at it.

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Perhaps the coolest part of my job as de facto social media community manager for the world’s greatest airport association is following what airports are doing on their chosen social media platforms. One trend I’ve noticed of late: airports are broadening the ways they use Facebook and Twitter, and deepening the connections with their user communities as a result.

Good example: Twice in the past week, at least two airports used Facebook to post details of capital improvement programs.

As anybody in the airport biz knows, expansions are a big deal. Proponents get excited about new, more spacious terminals and the like; opponents express concerns about things like costs and added congestion.

The point is, there’s never a shortage of local discussion when it comes to deploying construction equipment at the friendly neighborhood airport. The 21st century being what it is, Facebook is a logic place to find discussions on just about anything. So kudos to McAllen Miller International (MFE) and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International (MSY) for including Facebook in their capital improvement plan communications outreach efforts.

MFE posted both a link to a local article on its new capital improvement plan as well as renderings of the plan itself. McAllen’s new plan is a scaled-back version of one kicked around just a year ago, so the airport knew there would be some discussion. Its Facebook fans didn’t disappoint, weighing in with some pointed questions and helpful suggestions on how to best use the added gate space. (Seems there are more than a few budding air service development execs among MFE’s 2,000-plus Facebook followers.)

MFE's capital improvement program

MSY posted photos of several in-progress projects, including a terminal expansion (shown below, photo courtesy of MSY and AeroPhoto) a consolidated rental car facility, and a new ARFF (on-airport firefighting) station. This is a great way of both keeping the projects in perspective for the public and showing actual progress.

MSY concourse D expansion (photo by AeroPhoto)

To many passengers, the inconveniences that major, in-progress airport project brings–blocked access road lanes, walled-off corridors, and the like–often outweigh the big-picture benefits. By sharing a few construction shots on Facebook, MSY clearly demonstrates to an engaged group of followers the significant progress being made on several beneficial, future-shaping projects.

Pushing out flight status information, airline fare specials, and general good will are all valuable and productive uses of airport social media platforms. MFE and MSY offer stellar examples of how these platforms can be more tightly integrated into an airport’s fundamental communications outreach efforts.

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Quick, raise your hands: what’s worse than a long, quiet, post-less stretch on a blog?

How about ending that stretch with a sales pitch?

Guilty as charged.

I’m at the helm of another AAAE webinar that’s in the general vicinity of this blog’s content, so I’m using this blog to plug it.

The elevator pitch: AAAE Media Training 101 For Airport Executives is for all the non-PR folks at airports (and other organizations) that work with reporters. It will give you the basics on how to get the most out of day-to-day media opportunities, whether the reporter called you or you are reaching out to generate some good-news press for something you’ve done.

The presenter, Jennifer White Gradnigo, has developed a day-long version of this training and presented it to  corporate clients. She’s agreed to boil it down to just the basics, webinar-style, so AAAE can offer up something useful and relevant  that doesn’t require a big bite out of  your calendar or travel budget.

Jennifer is a former VP at Porter Novelli (B-I-G PR firm). She also earned the Bronze Star for her communications-related work in Iraq as an Army reservist. She’s dealt with the media on behalf of clients and country, and been paid to teach others how to deal with the media. I’m pretty sure this webinar will be a good investment for any of you who ever find yourself on the question-answering end of an exchange with a member of Estate No. 4.

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