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Selling rail through Social Media

January 20, 2011
Author: Eve-Marie Morgo

At the Amadeus Total Rail Forum in November I facilitated a workshop on social media, with a focus on how we could use social media to “promote” rail travel. We discussed how we could convert travellers to customers and encourage more people to travel by train.


But firstly, understanding what social media “tools” are out there and what they can do brought much debate. So we took a look at inbound marketing so that we could then link our social media strategy with business objectives.
 

What we found was that different companies have different policies about social media, and almost most people had not heard of inbound marketing, let alone using social media, the other 20% where using various forms of social media tools and were using it to good effect. The main consensus was that it had still not been exploited yet, and there was still room for further investigation and improvement to raise the profile of a travel agency or railway and how to use it as a sales & marketing tool.

 
We discussed the drawbacks and many came from the privacy issue – once it’s published its public, and comments that could be bad news about the company. Also the next biggest thing was the actual number of resources needed to manage it – once you start you need to monitor it and manage it carefully, nurturing the progress through its infancy and then through to maturity (just like anything really). Questions from customers would need to be answered quickly, and where as in the past a day or two may have been acceptable, now answers by the minute are needed! What about measurements? How do you measure success and ROI? Quite a few people said that they believed social media for young people only, ask my son and he will know what to do!

 
Once we started to brainstorm about how we could use social media we came up with a few interesting ideas and categorised them:

Customer satisfaction, awareness about the company and products

  • Build on good news that would otherwise be missed
  • Build a community following
  • Employees involvement, company advocates, being able to react
  • Travellers feedback can be used as ways to build on customer testimonials and to act positively on criticism
  • For rail – to facilitate rail bookings through “tips”, with users examples
  • Importance of “mobile friendly files”, sites, Internet strategy
Promoting rail travel
 
  • Images or film of staff travel experiences – train travel e.g. Europe rail travel for international travellers
  • Better positioning of rail products and services and therefore the company
  • Using the social media channels for promotions – using twitter to promote products
  • Real-time location based information using mobile device for travellers.

    Using Facebook instead of direct e-mails

 
To sum up the results of the workshop we identified that within the circle of railways and selling rail, social media is not widely used except when necessary (for example twitter feed for timetable changes, cancellation information or if your customer base is a young one). A large number of people do not use social media yet and this was true for the age groups 35+ i.e. it’s for young people?

There are however some opportunities to use social media, such as in marketing and customer awareness or customer information but the biggest need was for education at company level – social media needs to become part of the companies mind set.
 
I leave you with the best quote of the 2 days:

“We found out that a hate group had been created about our company”
Question: “so what did you do?” Answer: “we joined the group!” 
 
 

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