Airports are really interesting as far as brands are concerned. They’re both local and international, public and private spaces, tied to a specific city yet also separate brands in their own right. Given all that, how do you establish and maintain a consistent voice that is uniquely Boston Logan’s?
It’s been a challenge for us; we first got into the social media space in early 2009, and before we jumped in, we were thinking exactly that – how do we establish a voice? But it’s happened fairly organically. We have a team of people here who work on social media, but we all have other full-time jobs and responsibilities outside of social media.
We’ve been committed to being transparent with our customers and providing them with basic information about the airport, but are also injecting some personality. We’ve tried not to take ourselves too seriously, but also maintain a consistent message which we’re putting out through other channels – through our traditional PR channels, and through our advertising campaigns.
For example, our CEO will tell you that safety and security are our number one priority – we keep messages like this in mind while we’re communicating, but also try to inject a bit of humour and keep things light. Our followers seem to respond pretty positively.
How would you describe that voice?
We’re a Boston airport, so we have a lot of hometown pride, as most Bostonians do. We have a bit of edge to us too – maybe some of us have no problem telling a follower that we don’t want to see them wearing their Yankees hat at the airport! Our voice is reflective of Boston, and of the fact that we love travel and aviation. I think these things come through in our personality.
Airports don’t sell tickets like airlines do, so what exactly is your mandate, and how do you measure success or return on engagement with what you do on social media?
Mostly, we’re trying to get our message out. Our mandate is not necessarily simply selling tickets, it’s also giving our customers reasons to choose us over some of the other regional airports. We have a lot going on: Between all the new low-cost carriers and our fare sales that we promote, we’ve been able to be very competitive.
Social media has changed the way our customers look at the airport. We try to increase awareness about what our airlines are doing, by providing information about new routes and sales, but we also promote our concessions. Obviously any increase in popularity or passenger numbers of the airport comes back to MassPort who operate the airport.
They use traditional metrics, like any other company, to measure these things, but we also have to measure success in a lot of different ways – we consider the positive response we receive on Twitter and Facebook, for example. It’s not as simple as “we’re an airport, we’ve sold so many tickets this month.”
Besides being a brand in itself Logan is also a hub for other brands, from international airlines to the airport Burger King, which you tweeted about recently. Can you talk about your relationship with other brands that inhabit your space? Do you team up for specific promotions or partnerships?
We have a team here that reaches out to pretty much all of the airlines to partner with them using social media tools. We actually have a micro-site that we’re using for certain promotions – we did a contest with American Airlines, An American in Paris, which was a contest where people had to create their own videos to win a trip to Paris.
We’ve worked with Virgin America on a Twitter trivia contest, with JetBlue on an All-You-Can-Jet pass contest, and so on. With the concessions, we do have certain things we’ve established, such as a Twitter list of all our restaurants and shops. A lot of these restaurants and shops are national brands that have specials that sometimes are happening at the airport, and sometimes are not.
Watching these brands on Twitter helps us zero in on what they’re doing, and we can then post these updates online. We also are fed promotions by the concessions’ promotion companies, which we either post on Facebook or retweet.
One of the challenges of being the official spokesperson for a brand is balancing your own personal voice with that of the organization. Has this been a challenge for you?
Yes, I think it can be a challenge. I have both Twitter and Facebook, and – I think a lot of people do this – I have a disclaimer that states that my opinions are my own on my personal page.
I read a story about a reporter who was fired recently for tweeting on his official account something that he’d meant to tweet on his personal account. I think that is a lot of people’s biggest nightmare. Other than that, though, it hasn’t been too hard. I think as long as people conduct themselves with personal integrity, it doesn’t need to be a problem.
How much room are you given to improvise when it comes to solving a customer’s problem or simply engaging on a human level?
We’ve been pretty lucky in that respect; some airports have to go through a lot of red tape, but because we’re not city owned it’s a little bit different for us. If we see a customer post something online who needs an answer, we can just answer them. We try to answer as quickly as we can, and we don’t have to run every answer we give up the flagpole.
There are about five of us that contribute in different ways, but there are really only two or three of us who post every day, and a few other people who help out. We’re all in the communications and marketing department. We have a very forward-thinking boss who let us establish our Twitter and Facebook back when it was still considered risky for brands to be using them as platforms.
What are you hoping to get out of @BrandsConf? What are you most excited to talk or learn about?
There’s a lot of talk about social media, but no one has directly addressed this aspect of it: the humanizing of brands. I have some real interest in that. From looking at the current @BrandsConf agenda, it looks like there will be a lot of interesting speakers, but I don’t see a lot of brands on there. A lot of agencies will be there talking about their brands, and I’m interested to see how that plays out.
I think Boston Logan, as an airport brand, has sort of a unique niche in this market. We’re excited to share how we’ve come to this point, and learn from everyone else about where this is going in the next few years.
We’re also trying to get an idea of trends, and where things are headed. It will be interesting to see how people get a handle on mobile – mobile is huge – and whether or not it makes sense to devote time to apps, or if these are the sorts of things which will lose their lustre.
We are mostly hoping to get a feel for what other people are doing, which will be really helpful in developing a strategy for the future.
@BrandsConf takes place on December 2nd in New York City. As official media partner, Sparksheet will bring you original content around the event’s theme, the humanization of brands, and in-depth interviews with conference presenters. Our readers are entitled to a 30% discount on registration by using the promo code “sparksheet” – http://brands2010.140conf.com/register