Estonian Air’s social loyalty programme, will it soar?

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Last month at Airline Business’ alliances, joint ventures and partnerships conference in Rome, Estonian Air CEO Tero Taskila announced that the carrier will be the first in the world to launch a social loyalty programme fully-powered by social media.

microphone.JPGProdded by RWG from the audience for details, Tero confirmed that the airline worked with airline social media powerhouse consultancy Simpliflying to make the unique programme a reality. Within hours, the news started to spread via the same social media channels that Estonian will utilize for its new loyalty programme. 

I’ve asked Stephanie Gehman, aka Airport Girl, to tell us about what Estonian is doing. Stephanie is a marketing manager with a passion for building relationships and brands via traditional and emerging means. In this role at Harrisburg International Airport she specializes in numerous touchpoints ranging across marketing, social media, technology, advertising, digital communication, and public relations.

Stephanie writes:

A small airline is taking a big bite out of the social media pie by creating a first of its kind initiative. Estonian Air has announced that in late October it will launch a social loyalty program for customers.

Estonian Air plans to use a Facebook platform to host the programme and to reward fans and customers via the programme for actions as simple as reviewing the airline on Facebook or tweeting a deal on Twitter. While the programme does include the traditional elements of airline loyalty programmes, it is also focused on rewarding brand advocacy in Estonian Air customers as well.

Estonian Air cites that airlines are trying to find new ways to make air travel more attractive and rewarding for even those who are not frequent flyers. The future of airline loyalty is now a pressing question given to the growth of social technologies. In this arena, Estonian Air has partnered with SimpliFlying to build and shape its loyalty programme.

“Today 88% of frequent flyers use Facebook and they are twice as active as ordinary Facebook users. Over 70% of them would like to be part of a social loyalty programme too. Estonian Air’s pioneering effort in this field will intensify a pool of advocates for engaging with the airline online. The lessons learned from this can potentially change the course of airline loyalty programmes globally,” says Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying.

Innumerable social media consumers rely upon the recommendations, experiences and feedback of friends and family for their future product and service purchases. The factions of those social media consumers that travel, and travel frequently, are making social networking a part of their air travel routine. 

Many air travelers are tweeting, blogging and posting to Facebook about their airline experiences.  Estonian Air seeks to capitalize upon these trends and wants to rewards consumers online behaviors with offline rewards.

“In addition to rewarding and sharing recognition to our fans and customers, we also see it is an innovative way to bring Estonian Air and Estonia to the world map. Estonia is a small market and in order to provide good connections at reasonable price for Estonians, the airline needs to also attract connecting traffic from outside Estonia. Social Media is one of the most effective ways to market and promote brands across the borders,” said Tero Taskila, the CEO of Estonian Air.

As an airline passenger, what’s important to you in a loyalty programme?  Would you join a program that rewards based upon your social sharing habits? Do you think this new social loyalty programme will take flight or be ground delayed?

Tero and Shashank further explain the initiative in the following video:

Estonian Air makes history in loyalty marketing from Estonian Air on Vimeo.

(Photo above from Simpliflying’s SlideShare presentation: “Why the future of loyalty programmes will be powered by social media.)

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