By Jim Pitman
A recent report from the Pew Research Center shows YouTube and Facebook continue to be the most widely used platforms, with Instagram quickly increasing in popularity, especially among young adults.
So what should flight schools be doing with social media?
One excellent example is found at FL Aviation Center, a successful flight school at the Tallahassee International Airport (TLH) in Tallahassee, Florida. Co-founder Faith Drewry and her team have been working to improve their social media marketing and have learned a few important lessons along the way. Below are some insights and suggestions to help you with your social media efforts.
“I can sum up my advice in three important suggestions: Put someone in charge, have a plan, and be diligent,” Drewry said. “Delegation is key. As owners and managers, we get stuck picking up all of the pieces that don’t fall into anyone else’s job description. Properly utilizing social media is not difficult and does not take a lot of time, but it does require constant attention. Once you commit to social media, you need to continue to post regularly so that your followers remain interested and engaged. Putting someone else in charge was the only way we could make that work,” Drewry said.
For FL Aviation Center, that person is 21-year-old Rachel Miller. “Rachel and her peers have grown up in a world with the Internet and mobile technology. It’s just part of who they are,” said Drewry. “We got to know Rachel and her dynamic personality when she came to us as a student pilot, which is something for other flight schools to think about. Filling this role doesn’t need to be some big, complicated job hunt. Just look at your current customers and instructors. Chances are you have several qualified candidates who would love a part-time job or be willing to take on some additional responsibility in their current position. The key is to have a dedicated social media manager who can take the load off your shoulders,” Drewry said.
If you do hire someone to fill this position part-time, I recommend that the pay be a set amount each pay period rather than hourly pay. This is important because managing social media is not something that happens within set hours.
“It’s more about staying constantly engaged,” Miller said. “It just wouldn’t work if I had to fit everything into a set work schedule. It’s more like a few minutes here, few minutes there, checking a post, replying to people. I do it all from my phone all hours of the day, in between other stuff I’ve got going on. Sometimes I might spend 30 minutes preparing an important post that I want to get just right, but that’s the exception.”
Creating and following a plan is the second suggestion. This includes identifying your target market, selecting the best platform to focus on, and following through with a posting/interaction strategy.
“Since we’re in a college town, we’re focused on connecting with young adults that might be interested in becoming pilots. When we first started with social media in 2012, all of our attention was on Facebook, but that’s not where a lot of the young people are spending their time. Instagram is our new focus, with automatic cross-posting to Facebook,” Drewry said.
Drewry shared stats from a recent Instagram post that represents their typical results. Eight days after posting, it had 1,124 impressions (812 from home, 275 from hashtags, 1 from profile, and 36 from other) and reached 631 people/accounts, of which 41% were not currently following. There were also 80 likes and 7 actions taken. These numbers show the engagement FL Flight Center is experiencing with its clients and prospects.
So what should you post?
“We share everything that’s fun,” Miller said. “First solos, passed checkrides, aerial photos, interesting articles; as long as it’s positive, it’s good to share,” she said.
It’s also important to be consistent and professional across all your social media platforms. This is accomplished in part by using the same logos, colors, and styles in everything you do. Miller uses Adobe Lightroom on her phone, but she noted there are many other free apps that work as well.
“You want to be able to easily edit photos and apply filters to give all of your posts a consistent look and feel,” Miller said.
Relationship marketing expert Kody Bateman teaches that 80 percent of your customer interactions should be focused on building relationships, and only 20 percent should be directly promoting your business. Social media is a great place to practice this 80/20 balance. No matter how much your followers love you, they don’t want to see a bunch of ads and self-promotions. Focus on content that provides value and connects with people on a personal level. This article provides some additional ideas and suggestions.
Step-by-step instructions and tips for Instagram (including informative short videos) can be found here.
And specific instructions on how to use Instagram for business are available here.
Drewry’s third suggestion is to be consistent. “Having a dedicated social media manager provided the greatest help in our quest to be consistent with our postings. The other co-founder [Lacey Smith] and I check in regularly with Rachel to stay in the loop and provide guidance as needed, but it’s been great to have her take the ball and run with it. Rachel has come up with some fantastic ideas for posts that would never have occurred to us. Give your social media manager the freedom to be creative; just make sure that you know what’s going on and stay in the loop. Your consistent efforts will lead to measurable results before you know it,” Drewry said.
By putting someone in charge, creating/following a plan, and being diligent, you will achieve the results you seek. And remember, we’re talking about social media. Have fun with it!
Connect with FL Aviation Center online:
Jim Pitman has been a flight instructor since 1997. He has been a Part 141 chief flight instructor, Cessna Pilot Center regional manager, and Arizona Flight Instructor of the Year. He currently flies the Canadair Regional Jet for a U.S. carrier while working as a freelance flight instructor and Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) for the FAA. Connect with Jim at his website (FlywithJim.com).