The elevator in my Chicago office building contains a screen running advertisements, and every day I’m subjected to an out of date campaign from Hotels.com called I need a vacation. Apparently Hotels.com are spending all their advertising budget on Google instead, and no-one has taken over the elevator advertising slot. But today I saw something equally as ridiculous. Under a section called something like Latest News, I saw the headline Travel industry uses Facebook and Twitter to reach customers. Nothing else, just the headline.

So if that is the latest breaking news, then heaven help us all. I since found out that it was the headline from a story in USA Today. Most if that article is just rehashing anecdotes from different airlines using social in different ways, but there was one that stood out for me as an impressive use of social media to really go after a target market with a very targeted product.  It was from AirTran.

AirTran’s “AirTran U” program, which allows 18-to-24-year-olds to fly standby for a discounted fare, has its own Facebook page. One of its promotions, “AirTran U Creeper,” flashes photos submitted by users at midnight. The first person to spot his or her picture and alert the airline wins a prize. “It does help build the brand,” says AirTran spokesman Christopher White. “We know some people will read our website. Some people will read the newspaper. But this is a unique channel. And the 18-to-24 crowd really is not tuning into the radio ad. They’re living their lives via social media, and if you’re not in that space getting your message out where they can hear it, they’re simply not hearing it.”

Keeping on with the Facebook theme, recently there was a Tnooz story on the top 10 airlines in the world and what they were doing on Facebook. This was was followed by All Facebook covering the top 10 US carriers. I also saw Delta and American are giving away a prize of one million frequent flyer miles to someone downloading their iPhone app. So how is all of this related to the title of this post?

I read a very short but right on the money post recently – it was written by well known tech investor Jeff Hilimire. I think he summed it up beautifully when he wrote:

If you have the engaging platform, if you’ve found a way to be genuine with your customers, then and only then it can be about the fan count.  Engagement first, fan count second.  Mix and repeat.

Enough said.

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