Is this a social media (mis-)interpretation by an airline?

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Now, that I have joined the social media circle of people who like the general principles of the -well how can we name it- new movement, I have a questions…

Is social media still social media for businesses? And in order to be clear what social media really means in a common sense, I double-checked the „communities voice“ about the term – on wikipedia…

„Social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content; it’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers.“

When I see the latest development and how business care about the rules and principles of social media, it is a valid post to rethink what companies are doing here. One of the latest examples made me write this post…

The new American Airlines (AA) campaign
The airline launched a social media campaign last month in order to get their Facebook fan page above the 10.000 AA fans figure for New York. The benefit for „friends“ is to offer an exclusive promotion via this fan page. The campaign is pushed via their Twitter account as well.

Is this social media – a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content? Yes, it is because years ago, people flying American Airlines were used to receive news and information via frequent flier programs. The way information is distributed is different in terms of the media that is being used.

Well however… Is this Facebook relationship, friendship or whatever it may be between brand and customer (if it is a fusion of anything at all…) the new form of social loyalty with a brand? What’s the difference then between a paying customer and a Facebook fan, the airline could have asked itself? And what is one worth compared to the other? Does this second loyalty program idea make any sense when I have a perfect customer loyalty system in place?

Or is this just another nice domino promotion idea? Another push method to generate new frequent fliers, or interest in the airline, or just another uplift in sales figures to make share holders happy?

From a marketing perspective, it is just a modern way of gathering distribution lists without the use of the good old email marketing method. Clever managers and companies use Facebook today to get access to different new users via Facebook. Or via Twitter like Dell, making it a well-organized sales funnel with the appearance of a customer service desk. And some simply get in touch with an Australian company and buy Twitter followers.

In some way, the meaning of social media communities is misinterpreted and transformed to sales channels. Is this really democratization of information and communication? Or just using new communication media channels for old sales and marketing techniques?

Installing a „many to many“ communication from a business perspective is a challenge. The American Airline campaign is following the good old „one to many“ way of corporate communication. Isn’t the term „campaign“ already denying social media? And if a company sends out a press release to promote this „campaign“, it is even more the traditional way of corporate communication in my eyes.

The good examples of using social media according to the social media definition can be seen at Dell’s Ideastorm, Adidas Facebook fan page or the My Starbucks idea community … . People talk, create products, brand and customer listens and learns from each other, and they all share information and content.

It is the hand-in-hand dialogue between brand and customer – not the old-fashioned way of R&D economics „We create, you buy!“.

And not the idea of democratizing an open customer service hotline for unhappy customers…

Spot On!
Are these (mis-)interpretations happening because there exist so many „highly-rated“ social media experts? Or do companies not know how to work with social media the „proper“ way? Or do business just take care of their revenues and figures for share holders value – and make mistakes with the use of social media tools? Or social media is just a dream that has not been facing the real business world? I don’t know is the answer…

Maybe you have an answer?

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