Spring 2010 can be remembered for the cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland, which covered much of Europe and had the power to bring all air traffic to a halt for a while. However, the old Finnish saying 'not so much bad without something good too' applies: while the planes were grounded and it was imperative to provide information to the waiting passengers quickly, Helsinki Airport found out just how effective social media can be. Their use enabled speedy distribution of information.
Today, Helsinki Airport is very much present on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The work with these channels of communication is led by communications expert Markus Haapamäki, but the airport's customer-service staff is also ready to answer questions.
'Twitter is very fast-paced: usually a passenger will message us upon arrival at the airport and expect to get an immediate reply. These questions are often related to the airport, how to navigate and use its services, and the best ways to spend time here. We hope that by being active in social media, we send out a message that we are active at the airport too,' explains Haapamäki.
Facebook is of a less rapid-fire nature than Twitter is. People often use it to ask questions before travel, and the questions tend to be more anticipatory: 'I have 35 minutes to transfer. Is that enough?'
A good feeling – but useful info also
One important goal for Helsinki Airport's social media channels is to create a good feeling. For example, the passengers consider a picture of the northern lights or Moomins to be pleasing, while it also promotes a sense of 'Finnishness'.
Besides spreading good feelings, social media are handy for passing on tips and advice. In fact, visitors to Helsinki Airport's pages are encouraged to share their travel tips with others; thus, everybody can contribute to making travelling a smoother and more pleasant experience for all.
Social media editor Haapamäki finds it a real pleasure to read positive feedback on good service received at the airport. Most of the praise has to do with Helsinki Airport's free WiFi and the provision of plenty of wall plugs for charging various appliances at no cost. It is a great joy to Retweet such positive messages!
Finavia's Facebook and Twitter channels have more than 50,000 followers.
This last summer, social media showed their potential in a heart-warming chain of events: a little German girl had lost her toy cat Lief at Helsinki Airport. A picture of the cat was published on Facebook – and, lo and behold, the cat was found and has since returned home safe and sound!
'We should bear in mind that social media are not just a collection of pages on which an admin can post pictures and messages. These are a real, always-there-community,' remarks Haapamäki. International consumer research company Nielsen conducts surveys in many countries, and their 2012 report on the use of social media states that people spend one fifth of their online hours on various social media sites. For those accessing the Internet via a mobile phone, the figure is 30% of the time using the phone.
Join our community! You can find us on Twitter under '@HelsinkiAirport' and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/helsinkiairport.
Text: Tiia Soininen
Illustration: Birit Sarre