Airlines are wrapping their arms around social media and with good reason - it is now an essential marketing tool. It reaches loads of people (and indeed is becoming part of our daily lives), and, oh yeah, it's FREE (okay, you do need at least one warm body and ideally a social media strategy).
The carriers that understand how to harness the power of in-flight connectivity together with social media - I'm looking at you Lufthansa and your MySkyStatus - will be leaders in this industry.
So with all this attention being paid to the benefits of connected IFEC with social media apps, surely the major players in the field - Panasonic, Thales and other IFEC stakeholders - are participating, right? Wrong!
The Thales Group has a Twitter stream, but it pushes out tweets about everything going on within the group (space, defense, everything!) and really only uses the service as another public relations outlet...i.e. There is no back-and-forth conversation.
Sadly, Thales doesn't even own its own Twitter handle. Instead this person does. We call this a social media #Fail on Twitter. The Thales Group does have a FaceBook page, which is a little bit more dynamic but still very general.
Panasonic promises that it will be actively tweeting soon (see below), but again it doesn't appear to have a dedicated Twitter handle for IFEC. Another social media #Fail in my humble opinion. Its FaceBook page is also very general.
Both firms - and frankly all IFEC companies - should also be looking at building an IFEC presence on YouTube. Who better to showcase the latest and greatest IFEC systems coming to market - and the latest and greatest content - than the providers? Then we journos will take that info and push it to our growing networks. Yes, airlines brand your systems, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be telling the world about what you do (hey, even Boeing is jumping into social media!)
Someone asked me today (on Twitter): "Will social media really help Panasonic or Thales win an RFP contract because they're more social?" Fair question. Here's my answer: "It can't freaking hurt!"
Indeed the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) - which is rebranding as the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) - is even starting to get more social, with the launch of the Passenger Choice Awards (it should be touting these awards on Twitter and FaceBook!)
Meanwhile, I can't wait for the day when I'll be able to tweet: Panasonic and Thales - IFEC social media #Success.
On an aside, I'm curious as to why the IFEC press hasn't jumped into the social media arena either. If you stay out of social media (or merely lurk in the shadows), you'll let others dominate a conversation that you're likely best equipped to lead (The same argument can be made for Thales and Panasonic and other IFEC players.)
Perhaps you think the real thought leaders in our industry aren't using Twitter. I can tell you that they are. Sure, some IFEC executives prefer to stay in the background, but these and others are becoming increasingly vocal.
Collectively, this industry has a tremendous opportunity to use social media to get the word out about how IFEC plays a crucial role in the passenger experience (and I assure that the passenger experience is one of the most popular topics on Twitter).
If nothing else, would you please jump on Twitter and help me dispel the myth that the iPad is going to kill embedded IFEC? My God, that could be a job in and of itself.
So, what do you say? Will you join me?
Here is what people are saying about the in-flight experience now.