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A lot of things have happened and changed with the way how people behave in their everyday lives and also with the way how entrepreneurs and businessmen do business operations since the technology known as the World Wide Web, or simply the internet, and its use, has been introduced . Simply, the internet is a global system that is composed of numerous interconnected computer that are parts of a large network that utilizes a standard transmission control protocol (TCP) or internet protocol (IP) . These protocols are what are used by the internet administrators to connect billions of internet capable devices worldwide. Based on this definition, the internet is basically a network of networks that is comprised of millions of public, government, private, business, and academic networks that are linked by various types of networking technologies (e. g. wired, wireless, electronic, analog, optical networking, among others). Subsequently, there are numerous technologies that have been born out of the people’s use and fascination of the internet. Perhaps one of the marvel inventions that would surely not have come out if not for the discovery of the internet is social media. The term social media may pertain to a phenomenon wherein people interact socially within a virtually created network or community, or using social media jargons, within a social media platform; it may also pertain to a technology that enables people to socially interact (e. g. exchange or share information, ideas, photos, and other forms of media, among others) within a virtually created network or a social media platform. Kaplan has defined social media as “ a group of internet based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of web 2. 0 and that allow the creation and exchange of user generated contents” . The objective of this paper is to discuss both the positive and negative impact of social media and its use on Emirates Airlines’ business performance, image, and reputation.
Emirates Airlines is an airlines company that is based in the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The airline has been founded in 1985 and has since then started conducting for profit airline operations within the Dubai International Airport complex. The Emirates Group, a larger and international airline holding company that is also based in the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, owns the Emirates Airlines as its subsidiary. The Emirates Airlines has its own share of subsidiaries too. The companies Arabian Adventures, Congress Solutions International, Emirates Tours, and Emirates Holidays are subsidiaries of Emirates Airlines. This airline company has a fleet size of 218 that operates in more than 134 airport destinations scattered in 74 countries across all six inhabited continents . In terms of flight quality and safety, and fleet size, it ranks among the top ten largest and best carrier airlines. In terms of revenue, number of passengers carried, and fleet size, it is the largest airline company in the Middle East, and based on the same determinants, the fourth biggest airline company in the world. Another fascinating fact about this international airline company is the fact that is operations four of the longest nonstop commercial flights in the world: flights from Dubai to Los Angeles; Dubai to San Francisco; Dubai to Dallas; and Dubai to Houston. The idea behind the establishment of the international airline company that is the Emirates Airlines started when Gulf Air, the then dominant airline company in the Middle East during the early latter half of the 20th century, decided to cut down its services in Dubai in early 1980s. This prompted entrepreneurs and Dubai’s royal family to work together and create a new private international airline company. This new international airline company started with only two aircrafts (which were acquired via a wet lease contract with Pakistan International Airlines), and a start-up capital of only 10 million USD. What made it more challenging for the budding company was the fact that it was required to operate without having to rely on government subsidies because it is a private company. The company’s management decided early on to shift all of its focus and airline operations in Dubai International Airport . Since then, the company has grown and expanded significantly and rapidly. Over the years, the company has been able to build a strong brand name as one of the top leaders in the Middle Eastern aviation industry in terms of profitability, service excellence, and rapid and sustainable growth. The company has been repeatedly featured in airlines magazines as well as in some airline of the year awards. In 2012, it was ranked 8th on that list. In 2013, it has been named as the best airline of the year.
Social Media Analysis
Social Media may not only pertain to the company’s use or involvement with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—some of the biggest names in the social media industry, among others. It may also pertain to other internet-based efforts to manage reputation, and establish a stable and readily available channel that current and prospective customers can use. Given that definition, customized company websites may be included in the list. Based on the definition above, a social media activity may be defined as any activity involving the share or exchange of information within any virtually created network or community. In that case, the community we are talking about may be the social media platform or the company’s own customized website. Either way, any interaction between the company and its clients done using any of these two as the medium can be classified as social media interaction.
Why do businesses integrate social media efforts in their business strategies and operations? According to research, most business managers do so in an effort to positively improve company image, brand, and reputation. In a way, businesses use social media strategies as a form of public relations management tool . This has, in fact, given birth to a new term called reputation management or in this case, online reputation management. It is now common for companies to employ the use of social media strategies and other internet related ones in their public relations efforts with a goal of maintaining or for some improving their reputation, the image of the company, the its product and or service brands . Online reputation management may be defined as any process that attempts to understand and or influence an individual or a group of individual’s perception about a business or the products and or service offered by that business. Reputation management was, in fact, first coined as a public relations term but recent advancements in the internet, information technology (e. g. cloud computing), and social media have made it more about the management of online reputation and image.
So what are some social media efforts that the company, Emirates Airlines is currently engaged in? For this analysis, we will focus on only one social media platform, Facebook. Currently, there are a number of Facebook accounts and pages that may be related to Emirates Airlines, but there is only one official account that the company holds.
In the case of Facebook, what most business-minded individuals who want to promote their business and its products and services often do is they create a page that is all about their business. Creating a page in Facebook is, in many ways, different from creating a personalized account, or those created by real people who want to engage in any social media activity (e. g. chatting with friends, uploading photos and videos, and etc.). After a thorough observation of the Emirates Airlines’ Facebook account, we have had three major observations. Firstly, the social media manager in charge has chosen to create a personalized account, and not a business page or a group, for Emirates Airlines. This goes against the common practice or the trend of using Facebook for business related purposes. With a business page, anyone who likes the page (a Facebook feature) would basically be able to see all the updates, photos, and all uploaded media content posted by the social media account manager or moderator. Business pages are also often managed by people who also have accounts on Facebook. Now, this is the typical strategy employed by most businesses who have decided to use Facebook in their social media efforts.
What Emirates Airlines did was they created a new Facebook social media account for Emirates Airlines, as if it is a person. With this strategy, other Facebook users who want to get in touch with the company, receive the latest updates, promos, and announcements, make suggestions, inquiries, and basically interact with the company would first have to add the company as a friend. While this may seem to be more complicated a process than just simply clicking the like button (had the social media moderator decided to create a page instead of a new Facebook account for Emirates Airlines), it has its own merits. Firstly, the company would be able to filter the people who would be able to receive updates from the company, post on its wall, or send it a message. With the number of troll accounts on internet forums and social media sites like Facebook increasing, there is a good chance that people with fake accounts would be able to reach Emirates Airlines’ page (had it created one) and stir confusion, among other negative things it can do. There is however, a drawback to this. What most people who own a business think whenever they use the internet or Facebook for this matter to boost their businesses is that internet and social media gives them or their business exposure to a diverse international market, which is farther than what any large scale offline image and reputation management efforts could bring them. In order to maximize that level of exposure, the social media manager would normally want to remove as much restrictions to that exposure as possible. The fact that people who want to get connected with Emirates Airlines via Facebook would first have to add it (Emirates Airlines) as friend and wait for the social media manager to confirm the request just to get updates or ask some serious questions can be considered as a huge restriction to that exposure. In fact, this is what we saw in our analysis of the company’s Facebook page. Most international and especially famous businesses that have Facebook pages are often liked and accessed by tens of thousands of Facebook users. FedEx, an international small package delivery company based in the U. S. for example, has a Facebook page that is subscribed to by some 930, 000 users. Emirates Airlines, on the other hand, no thanks to the restriction created by the company’s social media manager’s decision to create a personalized account rather than a more simplified Facebook page. Based on our last check the number of people subscribed to the personalized Emirates Airline account was only 165. This only meant that people, in general, did not like the idea of adding a company first before they could get in touch with it. The last activity in the account was in 2012, approximately two years ago.
Upon conducting a more thorough search, we have discovered that in the same year, 2012, specifically January 20th of 2012, Emirates Airlines have shifted to the use of community or business pages instead of individual accounts in their social media efforts. Since the past two years of maintaining the Emirates Airlines community page, it has gathered more than 3 million Facebook likes with more than 130, 000 people talking about it within Facebook’s social media platform. This only means that in terms of quantifiable performance, specifically the number of Facebook likes and people talking about it within the social network, the community or business page strategy tramples the individual account strategy.
What can be seen from the Emirates Airlines’ business page on Facebook are pertinent information about the company’s history, the milestones it has achieved, some interesting promotional photos, updates about the company and other related industries, some event announcements, career openings, customer service concerns, house rules for customers or prospective customers who would like to post their concerns on the business’ timeline, videos, and notes, among others. All in all, it is a complete package that provides any current or prospective client the means to contact the company directly. Also, it can be noticed that there are people in the site that posts both positive and negative comments about the company in general and more specifically about its products and or services. This, however, is completely normal the presence of events like these only means that social media efforts of the company are actually paying off .
Emirates Airlines also operates its own website. Compared to the company’s Facebook community page, the number and types of action that can be executed on their website are better. For example, prospective clients can book their flights, check the status of their flights, manage existing bookings, find available cars and hotels, and view available destinations, among others in the Emirates Airlines’ comprehensive and dynamic website. There is also a help center where customers can ask questions and voice out their concerns.
Aside from having a Facebook community page and a dedicated website, Emirates Airlines also maintains a social media account in the professional social media platform LinkedIn. The number and type of information available to other LinkedIn users are basically similar to the number and type of information available to Facebook users. If there will be one major difference between the two, it would be the looks, the interface, and the target audience. LinkedIn users are more focused on professional, business, and career-related leads .
Social and Traditional Media Comparison
The number of possibilities that maintaining multiple social media accounts or pages across various social media platforms can be tremendously huge compared to the ones that businesses like Emirates Airlines can obtain from traditional offline media strategies. With the use of Social Media Platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and having a dedicated customized and dynamic website, Emirates Airlines would surely be able to cater to their clients every need, which of course, would be nothing but good for their company image, reputation, and brand awareness.
Principles of Ethics
Ethics is one thing that is often taken for granted in the management of business related social media accounts, pages, and websites. The truth about ethical issues in social media marketing is that it is a double edged sword that can damage both the business and the individuals, depending on the type of ethical issue involved.
It is important for companies like Emirates Airlines to not only understand but also follow long-standing marketing ethics, and advertising rules and regulation . Examples of this may include the types of posts that the company allows to be posted on its pages and the types of posts from customers that it censors. The way how the social media account manager responds to the questions or comments of the posters may also be covered by the principle of ethics. Generally, social media account managers are expected to reply to customers with honesty and courtesy.
Ethical issues concerning consumer privacy may also be a key issue in company image and reputation management. There are some companies who without the knowledge of their customers, mine private client information in an effort to get higher and better leads. The truth is that when done properly and with the consent of the clients, information mining is a win-win both for the customers and the company. But when done using black hat or ethically unacceptable methods, it can even lead to a scenario wherein the image and reputation of the company gets damaged, which of course, effectively defeats the purpose of establishing and maintaining social media accounts .
Conclusions and Recommendations
In summary, we conclude that the impact of social media efforts and strategies on Emirates Airlines’ company image, reputation, and brand awareness has been more positive than negative thanks to its continuous experimentation on the best practices and strategies to use. In the case of their efforts to establish an online presence in the social media platform Facebook, for example, the company immediately shifted to the use of community pages from the use of individual personalized accounts after seeing that it restricts people from getting in touch with them, which is mainly the reason why businesses manage business-related social media accounts. The company’s social media account in LinkedIn may also be considered as a great boost to its online social media presence, especially when we consider the fact that most, if not all, people and organizations who manage accounts in that social media platform do so with the intent to find new business partners and strengthen their relationship with existing ones. It is recommended for Emirates Airlines to continue whatever they have started and keep changing whatever needs to be changed just like what they did to their Facebook social media strategies upon seeing that it was not working. After all, it is how the business reacts to change or the need to change that determines whether it will continue to be a market leader in the future or not.
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