Airport Business

APR 2018

The airport professional's source for airport industry news, articles, events, and careers.

Issue link: https://airportbusiness.epubxp.com/i/963363

Contents of this Issue

Navigation

Page 37 of 51

LEGAL MATTERS By Mark A. Dombroff #Goodjobs and #Airportfails: U.S. Airports are Getting Their Wings on Smart Use of Social Media When the power failed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport this past December, the response by the world's busiest airport included a relatively new tactic for airports — talking about it on Twitter. Hartsfield's communications team used the social media platform to convey information that made a real difference for frustrated travelers. The tweets included a list of hotels that still had available rooms (some for free for those who were stranded), real-time updates from the FAA, Georgia Power, Delta Air Lines and the mayor, and even an uplifting article detailing acts of heroism carried out by everyday folks during the outage. The team capped the event with the following tweet: "A massive thank you to our employees and passengers alike for their acts of kindness during this experience. We know it's been a challenging few days in #ATL, but your patience and humanity have eased the task of getting the airport back to normal." The outage stranded thousands of passengers, forced the cancellation of about 1,400 flights and made national news. By using social media to communicate with the public proactively, Hartsfield avoided looking uncaring and out of touch. #goodjob. But here's the rub: At the time of the outage, the airport had a grand total of about 63,000 Twitter followers. That might sound like a lot, but roughly 280,000 people pass through Hartsfield every day. Viewed through that lens, Hartsfield's Twitter following is on the paltry side, with enormous room for growth. We point this out, not to pick on Hartsfield, but instead to make the broader point that U.S. airports could do more to leverage social media. Consider the potential advantages: • Social media platforms can reach enormous numbers of people, unmediated by news organizations. Consider that Facebook has about 2.2 billion users worldwide, or that President Trump has more than 40 million followers on Twitter alone. • The communications are instant — no small consideration in an industry in which timeliness is critical. • Skillful use of social media can demonstrate an airport's immediate concern, compassion and hands-on involvement. Perceived lack of forthrightness and engagement on the part of airlines and airports is among travelers' biggest gripes. Clearly, in our information-driven society, saying "no comment" or otherwise failing to engage on difficult issues and events runs contrary to the business goals of maintaining customer loyalty and building a strong brand. But of course, there is another side to this story. If the Hartsfield power outage illustrates the upside of social media, the false alarm that gripped Hawaii this past January highlights the risks. In the false alarm, an employee sent the following emergency alert to mobile phones across the state: "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek emergency shelter. This is not a drill." About 40 minutes of panic ensued. Without proper social media safeguards, airports that ramp up their social media activity potentially run the risk of causing a similar panic in a crisis situation. Statistically speaking, a higher volume of posts on the likes of Twitter, Facebook or Instagram translates into more opportunity to make mistakes. In situations involving crisis or potential crisis, airports must carefully vet every post before hitting send. A single employee's mistake caused the Hawaii false alarm. Airports need to make sure their social media posts are subject to the informed consensus of team review. Depending on the subject matter, this could involve experts in airport operations, emergency management safety protocols, legal liability, public relations and marketing, and/or government relations. The goal should be to preserve speed to the greatest extent possible, without sacrificing accuracy or prudence. Team members need to be on call and able to respond to pressing communications questions at a moment's notice. "A massive thank you to our employees and passengers alike for their acts of kindness during this experience. We know it's been a challenging few days in #ATL, but your patience and humanity have eased the task of getting the airport back to normal." 38 airportbusiness April 2018

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Airport Business - APR 2018