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The question of social media and air cargo

By Adina Solomon on June 2, 2014

The passenger side of aviation is well-known for its social media campaigns, rallying followers to share vacation photos in exchange for tickets and communicating with the public during crises.

But the cargo side still has a ways to go.

It remains unclear how many companies dealing in airfreight use social media, what people in the industry think of it and its usefulness in a business-to-business (B2B) environment.

 

Air Cargo World sent a survey to its readers, asking questions about social media in the air cargo industry, and 265 people -- those with airlines, forwarders, airports, shippers and others -- responded. The graphs are throughout this story.

 
 

Air Cargo World sent a survey to its readers asking for their take on social media in the airfreight industry, and 265 people – those with airlines, freight forwarders, airports, shippers and others – responded. Nearly 70 percent reported having 11 or more years of experience in airfreight logistics.

Having a social media presence is no longer a choice, says Silvia Cappelli,
 Swiss WorldCargo senior public relations and online communication executive.

“It is not any more an exception, but it has become the norm when it comes to communicating,” Cappelli says. “It cannot just be a nice-to-have but it’s really crucial in the communication mix because we have realized that communication is not one-way anymore, but it has become a two-way street.”

Nick Smith, investment director at Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP), deals with logistics warehouses at major UK airports, including London Heathrow Airport. Smith says he can only see social media use – such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – growing in the airfreight industry.

“Wherever anybody is located globally, then it’s a great way of getting great market penetration and engagement,” he says. “Certainly being based in Edinburgh, that’s not necessarily the pinnacle of the air cargo world or anything, but through social media, we’re able to communicate with a very broad base of customers.”

Social media also can facilitate a global conversation, says Michael Sanfey, business development manager at Aer Lingus Cargo, Ireland’s flag carrier.

“We have a lot of things that we share in common, and both customers and suppliers in the different countries are facing the same issues, so certainly I think social media can allow people in different parts of the world to share those conversations and learn from each other’s mistakes, and things that have worked in one country will probably work in another country,” Sanfey says. “It’s a useful forum for people to engage with each other across long distances.”

Right now, passenger airlines use social media to a greater extent than their cargo counterparts.

“Some people have a different audience and a different customer base than we do, so you’re going to see them react more like AirAsia, where they’re dealing with more of a consumer population that is totally social media-driven,” explains Jennifer S. Torlone, Amerijet senior director, technology and information services. “Then there are some that are just business-to-business, and they’re going to be posting things that are somewhat different, more like newsfeeds.”

Airlines manage their cargo and passenger social media in different ways. Some cargo carriers, such as Swiss WorldCargo, have their own social media accounts.

“The air cargo business is completely different,” Cappelli says. “It has a different target group.”

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