Social Media is since some years the travel companies' focus. Being used as another distribution channel, we would like to explore in this blog how selling rail travel through social media, how could travel sellers and railways use social media to promote rail travel.
Social media tools have become a life's routine for many of your customers. At the Amadeus Rail Forum 2011, we carried a workshop to understand the current social media tools available and how could the travel industry succeed in interacting with the customer.
Social media tools: putting customers first
The debate's first objective was to understand the current social media tools available and the added value to your business. Taking a look at inbound marketing strategies helped us to link and understand social media tools with business objectives. The first conclusions were:
- Companies have different social media policies
- Some companies have not heard about inbound marketing
- 80% of participants didn't have a social media strategy
The main consensus: social media has not been exploited yet, and there is still room for improvement.
We discussed the drawbacks and many came from the privacy issue – once it’s published it is public. 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. Questions from customers would need to be answered quickly, and whereas in the past a day or two may have been acceptable, now answers by the minute are needed!
Customer satisfaction, company and product awarenessOnce we started to brainstorm about how we could use social media we came up with a few interesting ideas and categorised them:
- Build on community following
- Share good news
- Employee involvement, company advocacy
- Travellers feedback can be used to build on customer testimonials and to act positively on criticism
- For rail – to facilitate rail bookings through tips involving users examples
Promoting rail travel
- Images or videos of staff travel experiences – train travel e.g. European 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 devices for travellers to bring innovation in rail
To sum up the workshop results, 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+.
There are however some opportunities to use social media to improve the rail booking experience, but the biggest need is still education at company level – social media needs to become part of the companies mindset.
Turning travellers into customers should be a priority to encourage more people to travel by train.