Looking for an intriguing social media experiment to watch in the coming months? Keep an eye on this effort being launched by Estonian Air.
In a nutshell, the tiny carrier (its site lists a six-aircraft fleet and less than two dozen schedule service destinations) is launching a “social loyalty” program that rewards its Facebook friends and Twitter followers for doing lots of things besides actually buying tickets and using the airline.
Airline reward programs that go beyond an airline’s services are hardly new–how many of us have airline-branded credit cards that reward miles? What’s different about Estonian Air is that it promises to reward advocacy.
As anyone who has studied social media marketing even a bit can tell you, its real power over traditional and other digital strategies is the organic sharing that goes on within communities. Put simply, nothing sells you like the recommendation of someone you trust. Some even consider the phenomenon, dubbed engagement, as one of the four pillars of the new-generation marketing mix.
Here’s the rub, though: engagement works in part because it is organic. Quoting Ogilvy:
The key ingredients are emotion and passion. As a marketing leader of the future, you must know how to find the energy and passion in what you are selling.
Typically, that means getting your customers so stoked that they rave about their dealings with you and your product–to their friends, on their walls, on your wall, anywhere they feel like. And if your friends with someone like that, you may feel inclined to check out what all the fuss is about.
Now, suppose for a second that your friend was being rewarded for his evangelism. Would that change the way you viewed his views? More importantly, if the evangelism is based on the evangelist’s potential gain, rather than an actual positive experience, does it really qualify as evangelism at all? Or is it just a new twist on old-fashioned outbound, push advertising?
There’s lots to like about Estonian’s effort. For one, just the fact that the carrier is doing it will generate some positive attention in places that have otherwise ignored the carrier. (Like on this here blog, for instance.) There’s also more to the program than pushing the carrier’s latest deals.
But the program’s core seems to depend on evangelists connecting with their spheres of influence in very calculated, premeditated ways.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of the factors that make up a stellar, evangelism-driven social media marketing program, “calculated” and “premeditated” aren’t high on the list.