We all know that LinkedIn is the default social networking for business-to-business (B2B) social media marketing, but many forget that LinkedIn is also the social network that could also be where the most educated and affluent consumers are. While you can’t (and shouldn’t) market to the LinkedIn user in the same way as you can on Facebook, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline (disclaimer: I have been a Brand Ambassador for ANA in the past), recently announced an innovative way to increase brand awareness amongst the LinkedIn community: Flight Connections.
Flight Connections is a new website created for the modern traveler to turn their online connections into physical meetings with the help of LinkedIn. Visitors to the Flight Connections website will be asked to log in with their LinkedIn profile; the platform will then create a personalized ‘flight map’ visualization of the user’s LinkedIn network with ANA flight information overlaid where geographically applicable. The interactive site incorporates data from the users’ LinkedIn network to generate a visual representation of their global network and overlays ANA routes to show users how they can easily connect with their business relationships in Asia.
I had a chance to catch up with Jean Saito, Manager of Online/Marketing Communications for All Nippon Airways, The Americas and find out more details about this strategic LinkedIn initiative. My first question was obviously, “Why the focus on LinkedIn?” Jean’s answers are below in italic, bold has been added by myself to emphasize key points.
ANA is active on many social media platforms, including Facebook. However, Flight Connections is less about interacting with potential passengers directly, as with most social media marketing. Instead, it is more about offering passengers an innovative service that helps them make the most of their social networks. The choice of LinkedIn coincided with our interest in helping business class travelers—we know networking can be integral to their professional success, and we saw an opportunity to help them turn their online connections into in-person meetings.
There are many ways to market on LinkedIn, but ANA came up with a truly innovative solution to serve as a resource. How was Flight Connections conceived?
The Flight Connections concept was seeded from ANA’s ability to bring the business world together. There are interesting conceptual overlaps between ANA’s global flight network, and a business-centric social network like LinkedIn. Modern business travelers often have LinkedIn connections all over the globe, many of whom they’ve never actually met in-person. So we saw this project as an opportunity to help bridge that digital-physical divide.
What is the future for Flight Connections as well as the ANA/LinkedIn partnership?
Through April, ANA is running a promotion on the site that gives people the chance to win a round-trip Business Class trip to Asia. After that, the experience will primarily be a discovery tool — a way for business travelers to reimagine their own LinkedIn networks, as well as learn about ANA’s global network. Because business travel is so central to ANA, we see LinkedIn as an important platform moving forward.
Whether you’re focused on the business traveler or the business demographic, LinkedIn should be one primary focus for your social media marketing efforts. However with professionals becoming more and more connected and more content being streamed to our social networking news feeds, brands will need to be more innovative to truly rise above the noise and provide a unique resource to any given social network’s user community.
All Nippon Airways has succeeded in doing this. What is stopping your company from innovating in a similar fashion? If it’s access to the LinkedIn or other social network Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), this shouldn’t stop you:
LinkedIn was very helpful in guiding the teams on how to fully realize the potential of their platform. Knowing the possibilities, as well as limitations, of the information we had access to early on in the design process was key to building a great user experience.
Instead of seeing social networks as mass avenues in which to market themselves and their products and services, perhaps brands should be forging similar relationships focusing on the technology and how they can extrapolate that data and provide a service, either by launching a new website or app or modifying an existing one, to add value to the users of that network that intersect with their target audience such as what All Nippon Airways has done.
“What helps people, helps business.” ~ Leo Burnett
Have you seen other innovative uses of tapping into social networks to provide a resourceful service to consumers or businesses? Please share!