Now that many Aviation companies have woken up to the fact that they can no longer simply ignore Social Networking as part of their business strategies, I am often asked what should be the right approach to get engaged. Below are the five first things a company MUST do before deciding how and when to participate.
CLAIM YOUR SOCIAL BRAND.
It is important for companies to realize that, for the most part, trademarks do not carry over to the cyber world. Just like with domain names, companies do not have a guarantee that their brand name will be available in social sites. For example, @Boeing on Twitter is NOT owned by Boeing Corporation. So the first thing to do is to claim accounts in all the main sites before they are gone. You can use namechk.com to find availability in a single search. You should probably claim the most important sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, WordPress/Blogger, and Flickr. Set-up the accounts using new email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org to maximize flexibility in the future. Grab all the main accounts even if you might not use them in the future. If a key site is not available, pick one brand for the majority of the sites and a derivative for the unavailable sites. For example “MyCompanyVideos” might be a good alternative on YouTube. Keep a central register of all your Social Media accounts with usernames, passwords and associated email accounts. Leave the accounts’ public profiles to the bear minimum until you are ready to use them.
ORGANIZE YOUR LINKEDIN UNIVERSE.
Search for your company on LinkedIn. Claim the company profile and edit it to your satisfaction. Include links to key parts of your website (i.e. careers), and review the groups that might already be related to your business. Create two official groups: MyCompany News (public group managed by your marketing folks), and MyCompany Current Employees (private group managed by HR). Leave them empty for the moment (more on that in step 4 below). Take stock of your employees already on LinkedIn and make a general quality assessment of their profiles.
ORGANIZE YOUR TWITTER UNIVERSE.
It is very likely that if you end up using Twitter, you will have multiple accounts. For example, you might use @mycompany as the main account but you would have @mycompany_jobs for career opportunities and discussions. Think about the account structure you would like to have and register the key accounts you might need. If @mycompany is available, it is unlikely that that @mycompany_anything would be taken. This is not as much to grab the actual accounts as it is to establish a nomenclature and structure for your future accounts. As with step 1 above, don’t forget to set up distinct email addresses for each account and put them in your register. Remember also that key members of your staff might have personal twitter accounts that should not be mixed in with their business activities. For example, Bill Smith might be your CEO and he might be active as a volunteer in the community. He might use @BillSmith for his private posts and you might want to create a @mycompany_CEO for his business posts. Do not create @mycompany_BillSmith because you will have to change it if/when he leaves. Instead put his name in the profile and change it when necessary. It works the same way with the associated email address which should be CEO@mycompany.com rather than BillSmith@mycompany.com. Make sure to create a @mycompany_employees account which you will use in your policy enforcement (see step 4 below). Set-up minimum profiles for each accounts and clearly indicate in the profile if these accounts are dormant to avoid any misunderstanding or judgment. Finally, set up the accounts structure in HootSuite or TweetDeck to be able to read/manage the multiple accounts in a single powerful interface.
ESTABLISH A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY.
The good news here is that most of what needs to be covered should already exist in other policies. Social Networking is really not different than email, although you might have less ability to control distribution. You need to simply remind employees that amongst others, your confidentiality, responsibility, and harassment policies fully apply to social media and will be enforced equally. In addition, you should mandate that your employees declare their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to you. This is simply to enforce your policy. You do not need access to these accounts, connect with them, or “friend” them. You just need to know that they exist. You should encourage your employees to keep their Facebook accounts locked and perhaps offer them a class on how to set that up. You should follow every employee’s Twitter accounts from your @mycompany_employees account to monitor potential breaches of policy. Employees should also be required to “like” your FaceBook page so they don’t miss important public news and announcements. Finally, you should mandate that everyone who has an account on LinkedIn join the private “MyCompany Current Employees” group for internal communication and discussions (Tip: LinkedIn has the ability to create subgroups for specific projects/departments). As an appendix, you should publish a list of all your Social Networking accounts with a clear responsible person or department associated with each.
LISTEN BEFORE YOU TALK.
After you have established all the accounts and policies listed above, it is now time to listen. DO NOT start posting “Hello World” messages on all the platforms. Each tool must be part of a coordinated Two-Way communication strategy. Be sure to set-up Google alerts for your company, products and areas of expertise. Set-up saved searches in HootSuite or TweetDeck to mine the Twitter conversations. Join a few key groups in LinkedIn and set-up weekly group email reporting. Create reporting metrics to quantify the activity you witness in each channel. Listening to the conversations that are taking place, finding out where your audience “hangs out” (including employees), and deciding what channel to use for what purpose is extremely important to developing a strong social networking presence.
After you accomplish these five steps, you can start to define your approach and goals. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try small projects. That is the best way to learn. You might want to read my post on “How to effectively combine website, blog, and Twitter?” for some ideas of how to move forward. But even if you decide to stand back for a while and just listen, at least you will be assured that a strong Social Networking foundation has been set up for your company and employees.
Do you have questions about these five steps? Are there other things you think should be added? Please leave your questions and comment below or email me directly.
While attending a recent AIA meeting about Disruptive Information Technologies, I was not surprised that during the debate on Social Networking, much of the focus was spent on FaceBook. In the Special Report on the subject published by the eBusiness Steering Group (PDF), most recommendations focused on the security challenges of the public social networks, while admitting that they have a benefit for the industry. In particular I find the report’s second recommendation most interesting:
“It is recommended that the AIA consider establishing an industry social network service to support smaller companies in the supply chain with a secure social networking service. This service would enable sharing of appropriate knowledge that is not covered by individual company IPR, such as the registration of hazardous substances under REAC h. The group has not made specific recommendations on the uses of such a service because one of the benefits of social networking is that uses will emerge from the community itself, within the policies established above.”
I would imagine that any company that already provides such a “social network” would probably vie for the chance to be endorsed by AIA. Of all of those, Exostar is probably the most likely candidate. It is very secure in terms of authentication, encryption, hosting and transmission. It implements the data sharing standards of the Trans-global Secure Collaboration Program (TSCP) designed by a consortium of prominent Aerospace companies. And it is used every day by thousands of companies in business critical operations. With a claim of 70,000 companies registered, it seems like this network would be the best choice for sharing “sensitive” information between companies.
But what about more casual or ad-hoc collaboration? What about forums where colleagues can discuss a variety of non-proprietary topics or ask questions of their peers? What about networking in search of business development or career opportunities? Those requirements do not fit the Exostar model. And as I discussed in a previous post, neither does it fit FaceBook. So what should AIA consider?
All three communities are offered as a free service with very similar functions. But when it comes to this kind of service, one should not overlook LinkedIn. Since its inception, this professional network has had tremendous growth and when it comes to Aerospace & Defense companies, the participation is unparalleled. Here are the stats:
Number of A&D companies with employees on LinkedIn: 9181
72 % of the companies have less than 200 employees
103 companies listed 616 jobs
Worldwide company distribution: North America 50%, European Community 27%, RoW 23%. Top 10 countries (in order): USA, UK, Canada, India, France, Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain.
Although the total number of A&D users is not available, over 220,000 employees of the top 10 A&D companies are on LinkedIn:
Nbr Employees on LinkedIn
Most of the job functions are represented:
So like it or not, LinkedIn is now the largest B2B A&D online community network, and AIA should consider that in its plan, no matter what they are. As for you, if you want to have ad-hoc collaboration (and not necessarily public mind you), if you want to discuss a variety of non-proprietary topics or ask questions of your peers, or if you want to network in search of business development or career opportunities, then LinkedIn is the place for you. You should take a moment to create or update your profile, sign-up for some of the 2000+ discussion groups, and check in on the site regularly.
As usual, the full press corps was present. Even though MRO Americas was organized by Aviation Week, Flight Global had sent a four people team to cover the show. At EBACE, those two organizations were also joined in Geneva by Aviation International News (AIN).
For MRO Americas, AviationWeek and Flight Global had their usual website landing pages with Flight also producing their online flight daily chuck full of videos during two of the three days of the show. Reporters on the ground posted blogs and used the Twitter effectively. News from the show was also available in Flight Global’s iPhone application.
For EBACE, the organizers were the first ones to try to expand the use of internet during the show. They designed a basic web-based mobile application with schedule information, exhibitor list, floor plan, and news feed. They used twitter (@ebace) before and during the show to provide information and updates in the #EBACE stream. This was a good start that I hope other organizers will pick up and improve on.
On the media side, AIN joined the fray with their regular website landing page, adding to that of AviationWeek and FlightGlobal. AviationWeek did include videos in a couple of their online ShowNews (a first!), but as usual, none of the content from the daily magazine was repurposed on the website (I sound like a broken record!). In fact, if you want a media review of this show, you can read my blog about the Singapore Air Show and change the name of the conference.
I must also point out that @AvWeekBenet was able to attend EBACE in person and that the Twitter feed from AviationWeek was finally of much better quality than that of previews shows. However, all three news organizations could still improve on their online coverage as discussed previously. To best describe the ideal coverage, I would say that I would want to see AIN’s news content in FlightGlobal’s multiformat web platform delivered to AviationWeek’s online audience.
But to be fair, the industry press had these two events well covered online. The 6,000 attendees of MRO Americas and the 11,000 attendees of EBACE certainly were well-informed and so were the ten of thousands of unique visitors that followed on Twitter and came to the AviationWeek, AIN and Flight Global websites during and after the shows. So with such huge information pipe available to them, why didn’t the approximately 800 exhibitors of MRO Americas and the 450 exhibitors of EBACE take more advantage of online coverage?
The MRO Americas exhibition floor was open for 16 hours over a period of three days. As with many events, it was open in parallel to conference sessions for most of that time. Assuming that the average attendee would spend 3 hours a day on the show floor (which in my own experience would be enormous), and would spend 15 minutes to have meaningful interactions with each exhibitor visited, it means that in an ideal situation, 36 exhibitors would get visited by each attendee. That represents 1 company visited for each 20 exhibiting. For EBACE the numbers work out to approximately 1 out of 10. For Farnborough and Singapore, it might be has high as 1 out of 50 or more. As if that was not bad enough, small exhibitors have to compete against larger companies that will attract attendees by default and keep them for longer periods of time. Which means that if you are not Honeywell, Embraer, or Rolls-Royce, your odds of getting visited are heavily stacked against you.
In the past, companies used traditional methods to try to bring people to their booths: use printed advertising, press releases and sponsorship to promote their booth number; make their booth attractive (ooh shiny!); or “buy” as many random business cards as possible with contests, drawings, or give-aways. But today, it doesn’t work that way anymore. The Power Attendees (the ones that matter – not the ones on a “business vacation”) have a pre-determined list of vendors they want to see. They come to the show with a target list and they try to fit them all in. There is no “browsing”, there is no “I wonder what this company does?” Who has time for that anymore?
These days, business is all about efficiency and that goes for attending trade shows as well. Power Attendees will have a predefined rigorous program established before they get to the event: fly in; attend specific sessions (and skip others); visit specific exhibitors; set aside time for email, phone calls and exercise; socialize with industry acquaintances; and fly out.
As an exhibitor, you have to realize that in today’s world, there are only three reasons a Power Attendee will visit your booth:
they have a pre-existing direct interest in your product (e.g. existing customer, pre-show marketing campaign)
they are steered toward your product by the industry media or an independent conference speaker
you are recommended by someone they trust attending the conference.
You should use the web to help develop these reasons and increase the chances of getting visited by the Power Attendees. The basic approach would be to use the trade show to TEACH attendees something rather than to SELL something. What is more attractive: “Stop by the booth the see my new sensors”, or “Stop by to learn the three factors that make old sensors malfunction”? If you are good at teaching and your sensors do address the three factors, you will sell them – implicitly!
With that approach in mind, here are three things should do before and during the show:
USE YOUR WEBSITE: create a specific landing page related to the event you are attending. So many exhibitors simply put up a link from their event page to the event home page without taking the opportunity to explain why attendees should be interested in visiting them at the show. Create a page that is specific to your participation at the show. Provide a compelling argument about what you want to teach them (perhaps as a short video), provide information in advance such as a white paper (download it in exchange for contact info), and solicit feedback. If a potential attendee posts a comment on your event page saying “excited to come see you at the show”, it will definitely pique the interest of other attendees. Allow attendees to share a link to your show page with others via email or on social networks. Provide practical information about who will represent you on the show floor. Indicate when you will be there (specifically) and where you can be found. List names, function, specialties, cell phone numbers, email address, and twitter accounts. Provide your associates’ pictures. Simply put, make it easy for attendees to find you. Remember to draw the media to your show page so they might have an interest in discussing your educational approach prior to the show (not necessarily in an article, but on a blog or on twitter).
TAKE PART IN THE PRE-SHOW CONVERSATION ONLINE: prior to the show, start talking about what you want to teach attendees on Twitter, and in online forums such as LinkedIn. Several events set up specific groups or Twitter hashtags prior to the conference where attendees can network before they travel. AviationWeek and Flight Global also have free forums sites (AWConnect and AirSpace respectively) that are a great place to discuss the challenges you are trying to solve. Be non-commercial in your discussions, leverage the website landing page you have built and invite the attendees to connect at the conference.
INTERACT WITH ATTENDEES ONLINE DURING THE EVENT: monitor the conference stream on Twitter and get involved in the conversation. Try to contribute rather than sell. Gain respect for your expertise in the community. Find out what the “buzz” is, our create your own. Create “impromptu” events over twitter by gathering people of similar affinity or background at a lunch table or at the bar after hours. Involve the press in the discussion. Post answers on their blog posts, upload pictures or even short videos to the conference site or YouTube.
Events are using the web more and more to promote and manage their events. The industry media is jumping on the band wagon (we various degrees of success), but definitely creating buzz. Vendors who are not taking advantage of this media to their advantage are definitely missing out. And despite what many believe, you do not need a big budget or a large staff to take advantage of this opportunity. If you want to check out a company that does this well, check out Duncan Aviation’s EBACE page and follow them on twitter (@DuncanAviation). They understand the digital environment and they are getting ahead!
Are you taking advantage of the Internet when exhibiting at an Aerospace event? Share your story, ask your questions, or share some tips here. We would love to hear from you.
Earlier this month, I was asked by Flight Global to judge the “Best Use of Social Media” category for the annual Webbie awards. I was joined by industry executive Jim Muttram, Online Strategist and Managing Director at Reed Business Information. Although the results were published with a short comment from the judges, this category was just one amongst many and there was no room to expand on our choices. So here are Jim and my full comments on the three winners, my “lessons learned” from each entry, as well as a review of another best use scenario that would have done well if it had been nominated.
Full judges’ comments: In 2009, Northrop Grumman took the lead in the implementation of Social Media amongst their industry peers – often quite conservative in the social media space. They established outposts on Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube and LinkedIn. They interlinked all of their resources and featured them prominently on their main homepage. They have successfully spurred meaningful conversations on many platforms, used Twitter to guide followers to them, and built dedicated channels, websites, and fan pages to serve “internet tribes” with common interests. They are leveraging all of these platforms for communication with employees, suppliers, customers, and the general public, for information gathering, for education, and for recruiting.
Lessons learned: I liked…
…the full frontal approach to social media and the recognition that multiple platforms and audiences exist out there. I liked the interlinking and reuse of content amongst multiple platforms. Often people think that Social Media means creating new content. Actually it is about guiding audiences to existing internal and external content.
Lessons learned: Improvement is needed…
…in the interaction portion of social media. Although it may be happening behind the scenes, there is not enough “conversation engagement” on the platforms. Soliciting public comments and reactions, polling, answering questions, and contributing to conversations started by others should be a major part of the social media strategy. Secondly, Northrop Grumman is inconsistent in its use of Social Media at tradeshows. Although I understand they cannot “tweet” from every event they participate in, they should do it from all the major ones. For example, they were all but silent during the recent Singapore Air Show.
Full judges’ comments: When Manchester Airport decided to use Twitter to communicate with its patrons, they went beyond the traditional “Press Release Distribution” usage many companies implement. They started immediately with a very clever and useful flight departure board feature. But most importantly they engaged with their audience by listening to the conversation and responding to it. The airport shops promotion tie-in to launch and grow the follower base was also very innovative. Manchester Airport have fully appreciated just how flexible and powerful the Twitter platform is, and are to be applauded for their use of it.
Lessons learned: I liked…
…how they launched the service with a promotion and an interactive feature. This is a great way to grow a base of followers very quickly and guarantee that users will remember the service. I like how they listen to the channel and respond to questions.
Lessons learned: Improvement is needed…
…in what the next interactive application will be. This is a two-way platform, what can patrons contribute? Employee nominations, report maintenance issues, parking issues, traffic issues? They should entice users to be part of a community of frequent users (segregated group?) that can feel an “ownership” in the airport operation. Also, using location based technology (such as FourSquare!) to run store promotions might be an interesting development.
Full judge’s comments: NYCAviation started with a group of NYC plane spotters with limited resources and is growing to a large community of aviation enthusiasts. They have successfully taken the feverish interaction found on their “traditional” website forum to the new FaceBook and Twitter platforms. This has translated to community growth and recognition.
Lessons learned: I liked…
…how they transitioned from a somewhat restrictive bulletin board platform to fully open social media platforms. They are often quoted in professional and main stream media because of the “freshness” and exclusive content provided by their members.
Lessons learned: Improvement is needed…
…in crowd sourcing applications. The main audience of the site is Plane spotters. Why not turn NYCaviation in a more interactive platform for them? Allow registered members to enter plane spotting locations and reviews. Use location base platforms to promote interaction in the field. Allow them to track interesting tail numbers in a database (similar to “Where is George”) and make it a game by keeping scores and showing top lists.
My comments: AskBob was started by Aircraft Technical Publishers (ATP) in 2006 as a simple blog for communicating with customers. As more and more customers started to interact on the blog, Bob Jones, ATP Product Marketing Specialist, started to foster forums between himself, his customers, other aviation mechanics and other experts on a number of subjects. In 2008, the blog grew to a full fledged community and embraced the idea that there is a wealth of experts in the industry who can share information, news, tips, and stories with a large community in search of answers. Expanding to Twitter and FaceBook was an easy next step from there and has allowed Bob and ATP to serve a growing community of almost six hundred members.
Lessons learned: I liked…
…how there is real sense of community on the site. “I cross post a lot of articles on LinkedIn and other forums, while others like NATA do the same on our site. Although I work for ATP, this is truly about sharing information and not at all about marketing. It is a real community service”, Bob told me during a phone interview. Beyond the aviation maintenance specific news posted in the forum, the features most important to the members are their ability to ask questions and to get training tips. Bob also goes out of his way to provide answers. He said: “once I figured out how to use Twitter as an interactive platform, I was able to get a huge amount of information from it and engage industry folks in real conversations.”
Lessons learned: Improvement is needed…
…in opening and delegating the community tasks. I am worried about what would happen to the community if Bob moved on. Others need to be allowed to get involved and help manage the site. In particular, the platform could be used by local mechanics communities and companies to deal with their own issues. Opening up usage to other associations and groups will also insure that the community grows and thrives for the long run.
I am sure there are many more examples of best use of Social Media in aerospace. Please visit this blog or follow me on Twitter to keep informed on this subject. Don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you’d like me to review your efforts or help getting started.
A few months back I wrote about the “Three must-do for industry associations’ websites.” I received promising feedback from several prominent groups, so I thought I would check out their progress as we begin this New Year. I reviewed the websites of 42 Aerospace, Aviation, and Defense Associations websites, and the results are unfortunately dismal.
With every other industry embracing Social Media whole heartedly, it was not surprising to me that our community would be slow to react. However, recent signs of movement have appeared and I am starting to see traction from major Aerospace companies and many Airlines. All that have tried it are indicating early success and are eager to grow the use of Social Media in 2010.
Most of the associations I researched had very similar goals: promote the members’ capabilities, provide networking opportunities, gather feedback and create a “representative” voice. You would think that with these goals, associations would jump on the benefits that Social Media has to offer. But yet, most are completely ignorant of this new trend.
The venerable Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and its UK counterpart A|D|S (former Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC)), are both active on Twitter. Although @AIA_News mostly posts the main headline of its daily briefing, a couple of more interesting posts have appeared lately. Also the last few editions of their AIA eUpdate newsletter finally have the standard “Share” button at the bottom of their pages. I do not understand how this is not used more throughout the site. From the UK, @adsgroupuk has been a fairly active and militant account and I have seen a good bit of interaction with them. However, neither AIA nor A|D|S publicize their twitter account on their home page. There also doesn’t seem to be a Social Media strategy from A|D|S for the upcoming Farnborough air show, but that will be the subject of another blog post.
Patrick Carlson, Online Communications Manager at AIA, says that Social Media is a major agenda item for the association in 2010. The experimentation they did last year with the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) was very successful and they now need to determine the best way to engage various portions of the AIA audience from young people, to industry, and to staffers on the Hill. “We believe there is an opportunity here” said Carlson, “and you should see a lot more from us this year, particularly during the upcoming major Aerospace events.” That is very encouraging.
TOP OF THE CLASS
Three associations are noticeably ahead of the rest.
The National Air Transport Association (NATA) has established a presence on Twitter (@NATAaero) as well as on FaceBook. They responded to some of their pioneering members such as Duncan Aviation, Cutter Aviation, Priester Aviation and DB Aviation who are all active users of Social Media. They advertise their presence right on the home page, and they maintain an active blog. They provide members with the ability to interact mainly on the blog, but they do not have the ability to share information on other Social Media sites. Score Card: B-
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has been the most active and vocal about Social media. They have established a strong and active presence on Twitter (@NBAA) and on FaceBook. They have used social media at their events by taking advantage of hashtags. They even have had dedicated Social Media sessions at their conferences (See #NBAAsm). These sessions have generated huge interest and been very well attended and received. They are advertising their social media activities right on their home page and they have a “Share” button on just about every page. I would like to see a regular blog to round out their presence, but I guess it would be duplication the great job Benet Wilson is doing at AviationWeek’s Business Aviation Now blog. Patrick Dunne, NBAA Communications Manager, says: “Social Media is a great way to reach out to our community, participate in the conversation, and offer support. Even though our members have interacted on our AirMail forum system for years, we find the social media platforms offer new opportunities for engagement.” Score Card: B+
But by far the best implementation of Social Media by an Association can be found at the Air Force Association (AFA). No doubt encouraged by the US Department of Defense superb use of Social Media, the AFA has taken advantage of all the benefits of these platforms in its activities. From Twitter (@AirForceAssoc) to FaceBook as well as LinkedIn, AFA is omnipresent. Much activity is generated before during and after its events. The content on the site can be shared on other social media sites. And there are many good opportunities for interaction on the site and on the blog. Chet Curtiss, Director of Communications at AFA says their implementation of Social Media was an absolute requirement: “Our mission is to advocate and educate the American public and the younger audience in particular, about Aerospace Power. As technology started to evolve, we could not be left behind and Social Media is where the conversation is taking place.” Score Card: A+
In the days before the Internet, associations were necessary to help members of an industry interact with each other and to represent their common interest to the public and the government. However, with the advent of technology and Social Media, such tasks can be achieved easily without such intermediary and often opinions and information circumvent the associations.
Don’t get me wrong, I think trade associations are needed, but they need to adapt. They need to find ways of brining new benefits to their members and they need to embrace and exploit new ways of doing so. I believe Social Media is a great opportunity to be more involved with the membership and carry-on a true conversation. It can also be used in trade events and associations could do far worst than leading the way in its implementation and teach their members how to do it in turn.
Dubai Air Show 2009, the 11th and largest in the biennial series with 890 exhibitors from 47 countries as well as 130 aircrafts on static display, concluded yesterday with an onsite order book of over $US13 Billion. Not bad for a recession, but significantly less than in 2007. It remains nonetheless a very important event for the industry, and as such draws a lot of attention from all corners of the world. Many get a chance to experience the show in person, but more follow the developments online. Here is my review of this year’s coverage on the web.
AEROSPACE & DEFENSE MEDIA
Although the show was well covered by worldwide mainstream media, the top three aerospace and defense magazines dedicated significant resources to the event. Aviation International News, Aviation Week and Flight Global each created a landing page dedicated to the show on their websites. Flight Global reprising and expanding on its great coverage at Paris (see “Paris Air Show Online Coverage”), provided a much more esthetically pleasing experience than the other two organizations.
However, many will argue that it is the content that is important. But judging strictly by the numbers, Flight Global also comes out ahead in this area.
Although overall less online content was generated than at Paris, some of my favorites were there. Flight Global’s daily video wrap-up by Mary Kirby (@RunwayGirl) and Jon Ostrower (@FlightBlogger) is always excellent, although they quit a day early to my great surprise and disappointment. Flight Global also brought out a full WYSIWYG version of their daily publication, catching up to Aviation Week which has had theirs at both shows. AIN did not provide theirs.
I feel that AIN was the least “Online” friendly of the three. Aviation Week did not seem to improve from Paris. In fact, I feel they went backwards, as they had only 1 video and a much disorganized Twitter presence (see below). Also, they decided to place a full screen Airbus A380 advertising as an entry page for most of the show coverage which was extremely annoying.
All in all, it was clear that Flight Global came to the show with a well conceived online coverage plan. Their online editor, Michael Targett, confirmed that they put a significant amount of work into their strategy. The web traffic numbers should show that it served them well.
I think Flight Global has set the bar for the other media organizations and the race is now on for Singapore just a few months away. For that show, I would like to see the news segregated in “channels” (e.g. BizAv, Defense, Space, and Commercial) and more online interaction with the trade visitors and exhibitors before and during the show. Singapore Air Show should also have very good cell phone data coverage, so smart phone applications might make their appearance. By the way, Flight Global has already released a primitive iPhone app.
After Paris, AUSA and NBAA, Dubai was the fourth major A&D show where Twitter was used. The organizers, Aviation Week and Flight Global all agreed on a (short) hashtag for the show (#DXB09) back in late October. From November 10th to the 19th, it was used in over 1100 posts by more than 180 unique contributors. It is half the contributions from Paris and five times less than at AUSA. However, I suspect this has to do with the availability of cell phone data coverage more than any other factor.
Looking at the top 10 contributors during the show, @RunwayGirl and @FlightBlogger, both from Flight Global, dominated the stream with 112 and 73 posts respectively. Flight Global accounted for 4 of the top 10 contributors.
The other twitter accounts belong to a variety of users, all very passionate about Aerospace: @Tangosix is a Serbian aviation journalist; @DefenseAviation links to an impressive blog managed by a student from the Mangalore University in India; @InflightCuisine reports on behalf of an online community of over 600 in-flight catering professionals; while @obsalah is the Head of Quality Assurance and Safety for the local company Al Jaber Aviation and has almost 1900 followers. In fact, the top 10 contributors count a total following of over 11,000 accounts. This audience does not include the numerous other people simply following the shows’ #DXB09 stream.
Aviation Week seemed disorganized in their use of Twitter. @AviationWeek and @AvWeekMorris posted very little, but most importantly, they did not use the event hashtag thus missing the majority of the audience. As always, but again from thousands of miles away, @AvWeekBenet carried the torch for the organization by providing a steady stream of updates finishing 15th in the contributor ranks. She also posted on her personal account (@BenetWilson) and was assisted by @ThingsWithWings who posted about various elements of Aviation Week’s Dubai coverage including links to Mike Vines’ great photos. @AvWeekJobs re-tweeted two of these photo links continuing to post “ThingsNotAboutJobs” on this account (Am I the only one that is bothered by this?). As an organization, Aviation Week produced 25 online stories, 29 blog posts and 4 days’ worth of editorial content for the show daily news. Yet, they only posted (collectively) 57 updates on Twitter. What is wrong with this picture?
Another disappointment was the organizers (@DubaiAirShow) participating only timidly before and during the show. They managed 6 tweets in 4 days; two of them re-posts from other contributors. I think they could have done better (see below).
The rest of the industry was equally shy. Honeywell (@HON_Carrie and @HON_KC) contributed the most (25 posts), while @Fly_cessna and @PrattAndWhitney basically checked in. @Airbus, @BoeingAirplanes, @NorthropGrumman, @BAESystems, @ThalesGroup and @RaytheonCompany were noticeably absent from the show stream.
Except for Flight Global, I think the concept of Twitter as a sort of “headline news ticker” that draws people’s attention to the rest of the content provided in blogs and websites seems to still be lost on most A&D companies.
F&E Aerospace continues to do a remarkable job with the physical logistics of putting such an enormous event together. The event’s website contained a wealth of information for Exhibitors, Journalists, and Visitors. They did make an attempt at social media by adding a Twitter account, a LinkedIn group and a social media “Share” button, but these felt like afterthoughts with not much strategy around them. During the show, the website was updated with the official press releases and a few photos. I think a great opportunity was missed.
DubaiAirShow.aero should have been the absolute hub for all online activity before, during and after the show. The organizers are in the unique position to “mash up” content from all the media and the exhibitors in one place. They can share the excitement in the run-up to the event and provide its heartbeat during. Here are three ideas (Are you listening Farnborough?):
Stream information, pictures and video live from the show. Post time-lapse pictures of the exhibit hall construction. Provide live webcam of the press conferences. Update the number of visitors and the onsite order book as streaming data feeds on the home page. Show live video of the flight demos. Make the site fun and addictive so online visitors use it as their central hub well before the event and for its duration. I guarantee it will make more people want to attend next time.
Collect and publish each exhibitor’s website, twitter, and RSS information. Use this information to provide a centralized but segmented news feed (e.g. Corporate, Defense, etc…) directly on the website. Provide a twitter window for the #DXB09 feed.
Create interactive features before and during the show: voting on the flight and static displays by visitors; “must visit” exhibitor lists ranked by journalists; interactive forums about the local hotels and restaurants.
In a global economy, events such as the Dubai Air Show truly have a worldwide appeal. “Attending” the show online will never replace being there in person. However, better online coverage will expand the reach of the organizers and exhibitors, augment the business buzz, and definitely create the desire to be there in person next time. Next up is Singapore, then Farnborough. Let’s see if they learn from Paris and Dubai.
Based on the great success of the Social Media session at the recent NBAA annual event, I decided to further explore the topic with the business aviation audience through a very quick survey. The purpose was to quantify participation, catalog the interest, and collect (anonymous) demographics.
The survey was designed as a collaborative effort and then posted online for 5 business days. Participation was solicited mostly via Twitter, but also through posts in LinkedIn discussion boards. The complete result summary is available for download here (PDF). You can also contact me if you want the raw data in Excel. After reviewing the survey results, here are the 5 findings and 5 opportunities I discovered:
Contrary to many reports, 73% of respondents indicate that social media platform access is NOT blocked at work. However, companies that prevent access generally do it for all social media sites except for LinkedIn. Only 41% of companies have a Social Media policy.
LinkedIn is the premier e-Networking platform amongst business aviation professionals. Over 91% of respondents use it, but they indicated that looking for job postings was the least important use. They mostly use it to connect with colleagues and customers.
Social Media is used in the executive suite. 60% of respondents were at a Director level or above. 57% were 40 year old or over.
Twitter ranks highest amongst the platforms used by companies. Although it seems like all platforms are used fairly evenly.
Companies have added social media as an additional news/marketing channel. 67% of respondents indicate that publishing news is the most important use of social media platform, followed by marketing/promotion (44%). A full 48% indicate that recruiting is the least important use of Social Media.
Did you spot something else in the survey results? Do you have your own take? Please send me your feedback or post comments on this post and I’ll add it to this list.
Business Aviation is embracing social media at a good pace, probably faster than the rest of the A&D industry. Structuring the communications and properly combining websites, LinkedIn and Twitter will continue to be the trend. More can be done to use blogs as only 36% of respondents indicated their companies use them.
I am a big believer in using e-Networking to enhance industry events and conferences. However, it seems like NBAA missed an opportunity, as most respondents indicated that the use of social media platforms made NO Difference in their experience of the event. There is much to be done in this area.
E-Networking is about interaction and conversation. Only 35% of respondent said that soliciting ideas was the most important use of social media for their company. I think that e-networking is about sharing and collaborating not lecturing or selling. For example, companies should move away from looking at Twitter as another channel by which to distribute press releases. It is much more than that.
I would like to thank the people that dialogued with me before and during the survey. Also, I would like to thank the tweeples that helped soliciting survey answers: @AWyss, @AvWeekBenet, @nonnyjorris, @NBAA, @CDHeisermann, @CutterAviation, @AeroPR, @ShowalterFlying, @GretemanGroup, @HeisteComm, @kevinmerritt, @FlightGlobal, @AviationWeek. What started as an experiment actually provided very interesting results. I would have liked more responses, but I wanted to run this survey as a Social Media platform experiment to validate its use as an interactive medium for our industry.
I would love to hear your feedback on this survey or on other surveys you think would be interesting. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
Several people have recently asked me how to combine multiple internet communication channels most effectively. Most companies have an official website but find it difficult to integrate blogs and micro-blogs (Twitter) effectively with it. Although “old” websites should be updated as I suggested in a previous blog, I will assume here that we start from a “classic” and established internet presence.
The way I see it, the three channels represent an information pyramid with Twitter at the top, blogs in the middle and websites at the bottom. Here is how each element fits:
Website: This is your reference library. This is the “big bucket” of information about your business. It contains practical information (contact, eServices login, support, events) which will be the most accessed. It also contains reference information (solutions description, customer testimonials, press releases, documentation, white papers) that can be voluminous. Even though it will hopefully have a basic navigation and search feature, the website will still be too massive and intertwined to be useable by your curious prospects. For example, think about how many clicks it would take from www.Raytheon.com to find a specific niche product or service (Answer: 5 to get the Interdaptor® product sheet if you even know that is what you need). In these days of information overload, chances that someone will land on your website and start sifting to the many reference pages is very slim. Prospects will need a reason to get there and have a pre-existing interest. That is why well tagged reference pages will get visitors from Google and Bing search engines. Someone typed a query and then jumped into the middle of your website. But competing for attention based on Search Engine Optimization is more an art than a science so blogs are another way to bring people in.
Blogs: These brief “discussions” are no more than one or two pages (a dozen paragraphs) and provide highlight of ideas or news events that are easy and fast to consume. To be successful, blogs should be educational and thought provoking rather than commercial. They should definitely contain links to reference information on your website, so if someone is interested they can “dig deeper” to, for example, a white paper or a customer testimonial. Entries should discuss all relevant subjects of interest in hope of positioning the company in the role of a trusted source of information and expertise. This means the blog should also discuss news that may not translate directly into a product sale, but rather in reader education. There should be plenty of external references and links to other sites to encourage “exploration”.
To increase exposure, blogs should be available as an RSS feed so they can be integrated into other sites from news organizations and industry associations. Links to blog entries should also be posted on other forums such as LinkedIn discussion groups, FaceBook pages, or community sites such as AeroLeaders2. Surprisingly, blogs can have a fairly long shelf live, especially when they are linked back from future entries. Keeping old blog posts up to date is a good practice. Most importantly, they should be created to solicit feedback and “engagement” with prospects. Comments and poll answers from potential prospects are excellent audience barometers.
Twitter: Think of this as the “Headlines News” channel to your company and blog. Unlike blogs and websites, Twitter entries will only have a very brief life. People that follow you or a particular subject (like #aerospace), will rarely read an entry that is more than 36 to 48 hours old. This should be used as an “alert” system for your community that there is something they should pay attention to. It could be a new relevant blog post (from you or someone else), a new document on your website, or some related breaking news. Because of this, quality is much more important than quality. Unless you are at an important event where many things are happening (e.g. ParisAirShow), companies do not need to post every day. I would say that a minimum of once a week is a good measure. As with the blogs, don’t just post news about your company. Posting other relevant information such as partner or customer news is as important. Re-Tweeting other posts can also be an effective way to stay “interesting”. The bottom line is to stay in the forefront of your prospect’s mind with little gems of interest without become boring, irrelevant or, worst, annoying!
How do you combine these three elements? What has worked well for you? What has not worked? Please leave your comments and suggestions here for further discussion.
When it comes to conservatism, control and prudence, very few beat the Aerospace industry. Unfortunately, these virtues indispensable in the field of defying gravity often permeate in business support practices where they quickly become impediments to progress and efficiency. As the business world dramatically changes the way it communicates and collaborates with the advances in Internet bandwidth, technology and tools, the Aerospace industry seems to be on the trailing edge of those innovations. This is particularly noticeable in its public websites (and general Internet presence) as well as those of its associations.
But there are some signs of an awakening. The Oklahoma Aerospace Alliance recently requested feedback about its website via their twitter account (@OKAero) in an attempt to “make it effective for aero pros and the public to get excited about aerospace.” Even though I could have written this review about many websites, I thought they provided a good case study applicable to many others. Simply put, this website is a fantastic example of Web1.0 technology. Unfortunately, the world has evolved to Web2.0.
Here are the three changes that must be implemented to keep up with innovation:
Provide members with the ability to relentlessly interact. The main difference between the old and new way of constructing a website is that the basis for Web2.0 is two-way communication. This should now be the guiding principle for any association: solicit feedback at all times. Every area of the site, from overall design to specific small content, should promote the ability for the readers to “answer back”, provide suggestions, and share with others. The website should also include forums and direct messaging to promote member-to-member interaction. Feedback should be viewable, summarized and influential. However, the association remains in charge. This is not management by committee; it is instead the unabated search for good ideas for the common good of the association’s members. Often there is a fear that public comments would be inappropriate or negative. Knowledge in the 21st century results from a debate of ideas rather than the opinion of a single trusted source. An association can increase its usefulness by providing a platform for such exchange of ideas (positive and negative) while moderating the extremes. However, all comments should always be attributable, focusing the embarrassment and consequences of inappropriateness on the contributor.
Choose the right tools for the right context. Today communication through short videos (2 minutes max) is the most efficient and effective way to share important information. However, there is no need to create a video library on the site. Instead the website should create and link to a YouTube channel. Why recreate the wheel when other sites already have the tools? Generally, services targeted at the general consumer or public are better served by tools like FaceBook (e.g. community involvement, sponsorship). Similarly, employment and business career/advice services can take advantage of LinkedIn. The site should have “cousin” areas in these other networks and provide links back and forth between them. Individual members registering on the site should be encouraged to enter links to other networking site they belong to. The boundaries of the association need not be the limits of the information contained on its own website. As such, the association should provide its own RSS feed for others to aggregate into their own context.
Members will look to the association for advice on the tools and techniques to use to communicate, engage and collaborate with their customers and suppliers. The association must be a shepherd in this field providing information, case studies, training and brainstorming sessions. In some cases, like secure information sharing or indirect procurement, association-hosted tools could even be provided directly to the members.
Transform the association website into a platform. The association website should be a “mash-up” of content and tools provided by and for the members. The association should be acting as a content cheerleader/care-taker and moderator rather than a content generator. Turning the website into a platform where members can post their own news, events, blogs, WIKI entries or photos will make it the richest possible. The information can then be presented by topic, company, calendar, map, or any other aggregation technique. The idea is not necessarily to provide all the content in one place, but more to link to other content within the context of the association.
The “build it they will come” mistake should be avoided. The association should take advantage of tools like RSS, Twitter Search and Google Indexing to generate and index content automatically rather than force members to have to post in multiple places. For example, the member’s official website address and twitter account should be collected in their company listing. Then, an aggregated (and archived) Twitter “association stream” can be provided. Also, a capability search would pick up on keywords in the members’ own websites rather than in an always outdated directory.
For the website to be successful, it must be used regularly. And to be used, it must be active, customizable and innovative. The site should be public but membership must have its privileges. There should be three basic “profiles”: guest (read-only, generic), participant (read-only except for comments/suggestions/polls, customizable view, subscription email alerts), member (content provider, customizable view, dashboard, voting rights). There must also be exclusive content such as executive blogs, video interviews, and online training not found on other sites (but no necessarily generated by the association). All content should be very short and concise at the first level, providing links to deeper content if the reader is interested.
If you want to see a glimpse at excellence in this field, check out FlightGlobal.com. Although not technically an association, they provide mush of the information and online services association members are looking for. Under the enthusiastic leadership of Editor Michael Targett (@flightglobal), they have embraced all of the above principles and have seen a huge jump in on-line readership as a result. Perhaps they will become the Global Aerospace Association of the future?
I have always taken pride in keeping my private and professional life separate so when I came across FaceBook and LinkedIn it was natural for me to use them to support of my good habits.
LinkedIn is naturally suited for my professional work. It already contains my work history, my references, and my professional network. Using LinkedIn, I can develop and maintain my personal brand by participating in professional groups and answering expert questions. I can participate in and conduct surveys, extend my network, and reach out to new contacts through very beneficial introductions.
Sure, my personal friends can be in my LinkedIn network, but they should only anticipate “shop talk” from me there. I will have links to my VisualCV to showcase some of my work, my status updates will be strictly professional, and I won’t recommend anyone unless I have actually worked with them. I keep my public profile open with a nice professional picture and relevant business information for anyone interesting in talking Aerospace eBusiness with me.
On the other hand, I keep FaceBook strictly for personal use. If you look up my name in the public directory, you will find a fun picture and a link to send me a message or request to be my friend. That is it. You will not be able to see any additional info about me, access my wall, my photos or any other information. Now, this is not the default configuration and locking down your account can be a bit tedious, but it is worth the time.
Inside FaceBook, I keep three nested “circle of friends”. At the center are my family members (at least the ones I get along with), and other close friends. They have access to everything. The next layer contains my regular friends who have access to my wall, my posts and most of my pictures (they don’t need to see my grand father’s funeral). Finally, I have a last group that I would describe as acquaintances, and I restrict them to my status, basic wall posts and a few picture albums. I make sure to set the access rights for each photo album I create and application I join, but using friend groups, it is pretty easy.
If a business colleague sends me a friend request on FaceBook, I decline it and send them back a message telling them that I am reserving FaceBook for personal use and ask them to connect on LinkedIn. I regularly review my friends list and “purge” connections that do not contribute or that I find little interest in staying connected with. Remember that no one gets a note if you drop them (guilt free!).
By keeping my FaceBook private, it allows me to interact with people specifically in a “non-business” capacity. I can express my opinions independently and associate with people I enjoy outside of work. On LinkedIn, I then interact in a professional manner conducting myself with the rules and policies appropriate for such platform.
“Clean” Business Policy
If corporations used this model to guide and educate their employees it would make social media policies much simpler. They could encourage the use of LinkedIn for professional purposes (e.g. customer forums, working groups, etc…). Companies worried about compliance could go as far as having their employees declare their FaceBook account to verify that they have them locked down.
It would also help companies wanting to be active in the Social Media scene to choose the right platform. Consumer oriented companies would want to have FaceBook pages, while companies targeting employees and corporations would focus more on LinkedIn.
What about Twitter?
For Twitter, I would follow a similar model. Since they allow multiple accounts, you should have one account for professional updates and discussions, and a separate one for personal matters. Although you could “lock” your personal twitter account (limiting the followers), I think that would defeat the purpose of the tool. I would simply keep things separate and try not to embarrass myself (or my employer) on the personal account. Always remember that Riesling and Twitting don’t mix!