The 2011 AAAE Annual Conference (our 83rd) ended a week ago. I moderated a panel during the last group of concurrent breakouts, and–based on feedback from attendees–we did pretty okay. Thanks to Elizabeth Cecconi, Justin Meyer, Al Snedeker and Genna Keller for bringing their expertise–and nary a single PowerPoint–and taking an hour-plus of questions from the 60-odd attendees who hung around.
First, I was very pleased with the audience–we had nearly 100% airport folk in the session, which warmed my airport executive membership-driven heart. We had airport directors and PR/marketing types. We had newbies and social media rock stars with thousands of followers (like this one, better known as the Twitter voice of this airport).
A few notes from the session:
- One airport director explained that his organization was just starting to ramp up its social media efforts, shifting from listening mode to engagement mode. Bravo on both counts–but mostly on the former. Listening is the first (and most important) step in an effective sustainable social media strategy. If you’re not listening, how do you really know what your customers want? Here’s a Hubspot blog post on simple social media monitoring tools.
- Legal issues are still an issue when it comes to social media strategies. The panel disagreed, and while I’m no lawyer, I know of at least one city-owned airport that won’t get into the social media game out of fears that it can’t meet legal burdens of its state sunshine law. Other airports are showing that such issues can be overcome, but not by ignoring that they exist.
- Everyone with a social media program (or at least every airport) could use a full-timer dedicated to the community management role. Few can afford the luxury–and that’s okay. Consensus on the panel and in the room is that engaging some of the time (so long as it’s on a consistent basis) is better than not engaging at all.
- Doubters can be convinced. ATL’s head of public affairs, Myrna White, shared how her confidence in social media grew steadily as her team progressed with baby steps, starting with YouTube and moving into the more engaging platforms. Another airport’s PR leader shared how his team went behind senior staff to bootstrap a social media presence after the big wigs declined to bless the effort. After a few wins and general positive momentum, the rebels went back to their skeptical leaders with some hard evidence that their idea was not only good, but were already paying dividends. The leaders changed their tune, and airport plans an official launch of its social media efforts later this year.
Thanks to all who attended–and especially the aforementioned panelists. Hope to see everyone this October 23-25 at the AAAE Airport Social Media Summit in Akron, Ohio. One of these days, I’ll get around to posting some details about this very real event, which (of course) already has its own hashtag — #CAKSoMe.