Last week I had the tremendous opportunity to attend a very important Latin America airline leaders forum in Colombia. During the last keynote lunch, Enrique Beltranena, CEO of Mexican low cost carrier Volaris, talked about the importance of Social Media for airlines and used the example of his own company to illustrate the impact and potential that this set of new tools have as part of the marketing mix. He stated clearly that Social Media should not be used as a substitute of traditional marketing channels but rather as consistent complement of an existing strategy.

Volaris.com.mx

Volaris.com.mx

I could write a long paper just describing the wide set of innovative channels the airline uses to communicate with its customers, achieving intimacy and focusing on them rather than on their products (which also happen to be disruptive and innovative); but in this post I’ll try to concentrate on the emerging digital channels they have chosen to formally incorporate to their mix. And this takes me exactly to the first step of their strategy: As Beltranena explained showing a slide with a big amount of emerging media categories and social networks, they had to first choose which ones they’d use according to their usefulness and relevance to their overall marketing strategy. They ended up choosing the fastest growing channels in Mexico after their assessment: YouTube, Facebook, Twitterand a Volaris-branded blog (coming early 2010). The message here is that these channels won’t necessarily be the ones everybody should pick for their Social Media strategy. In each case, resourcefulness, relevance and fit should be analyzed before picking a given tool. For a different company maybe MySpace of Flickr could prove to be more efficient and adequate channels.

Then Beltranena showed this video, which, in a nutshell, answers the question of why Social Media is not a fad. The best part of the afternoon was watching the faces of important CEOs and airline leaders while they saw the video with awe and realized that they had to do something about this quickly. Hopefully, they will take the matter seriously and, like our friends at Volaris, assign (human and budgetary) resources to it and instruct their CMO to make Social Media a cornerstone of their marketing and communications strategy.

To get a feel of what Volaris is doing, go to their Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels and see how they are first listening, then connecting and at the end communicating with their customers. Please note the customization of the content according to the channel and the continuity they exercise in each one of them. Also try to see how they seek a healthy amount of activity that will demonstrate engagement without bother the user with excessive tweets, posts, videos or content.

I’m proud to say that Volaris is the first Latin American airline to successfully deploy Social Media as part of an innovative and disruptive marketing strategy, setting a precedent and putting Mexico’s name and digital literacy high above. Congratulations from this humble blog to everybody making it happen.