Coverage of this session by Kristen Platt of Connect with her by following her on Twitter.

1:30 —’s Erin McDaniel introduces United’s Senior Manager of Social Media Marketing Programs, Allison Brown.

1:31 — Allison: We’re talking about a product today that hasn’t been released yet. We hope this will be helpful for your social commerce strategy.

1:33 — What are the big social media questions that keep you up at night? What’s the next big platform? Is Facebook still going to be around in two years?

1:35 — Allison brings up the Wall Street Journal article “Social media fails to live up to early marketing hype.” She asks how do we prove the need for a social media objective to our business?

1:36 — Allison explains United’s current implementation of social integration: One-way communication, product focused, lack of CTA, and not too targeted. “It’s not bad, but it’s not ideal.” We basically use the “megaphone approach:” When brands send mass messages to a large group of people.

1:37 — We assessed the social media commerce landscape and examined the communication direction between the key players: group buying, peer recommendations, participatory, social shopping, and peer-to-peer.

1:39 — We found that people-to-people transactions are happening via social. We also examined Maslow’s drivers of human behavior: Why do humans do what we do? What motivates us in the social space? Allison lists the key drivers as the need for: expression, escapism, fame, social, and altruism, and discovery.

1:41 — This provides us with a roadmap for how to engage our customers. Allison shares her epiphany while putting together her baby registry on Amazon: When she shared her registry on social media, she didn’t get much engagement, but she DID get a ton of conversions! So she learned that engagement doesn’t always correlate with purchase rates.

1:43 — This sparked the idea for Flight Fancies. This program allows a basic social networking flow for customers to share their flight details and a way for friends and family to buy drinks, snacks, luggage passes, etc. for those traveling.

1:44 — Allison explains how this benefits United: There are multiple social activation opportunities that can be integrated into the customers’ travel journey. The goal is to deliver real-time products for travelers during their flight.

1:46 — Allison: What we are trying to achieve in our social strategy: We are selling the experience over the product. Flight Fancies is fun, social, and helpful for customers. We are lowering the barrier of entry for participation so that more customers will get involved.

1:48 — Flight Fancies is a new approach to social activation for United. It’s organic, social communication and experience-focused. There are clear CTAs, and it’s a great conversation starter.

1:49 — It’s a win-win: United flips the sales funnel and leverages the rule of reciprocity in social networking, i.e. If your friend buys you a drink on a flight, what are the odds of you returning the favor later when your friend is flying? (The odds are high.)

1:50 — Conclusion: Remember the drivers of motivation in social. Take yourself out of the equation to help give customers what they desire via social instead of consistently trying to push your product.


Q: What about the stakeholder engagement for Flight Fancies?

A: We did a roadshow trying to get buy-in from folks. We also came up with a business model on how we would make money back…basically a lot of meetings!

Q: Do the people buying those add-ons get frequent flyer points or is that reward program involved at all in Flight Fancies? 

A: The short and long answers are yes. We would like to integrate our frequent flyer program with Flight Fancies.

Q: How do you manage the negativity from this program, if there is any?

A: It’s a work in progress still, so we haven’t launched this program yet. But we will be monitoring Twitter and Facebook.

Q: Do you have suggestions or tips for brands doing something similar to Flight Fancies?

A: Customers don’t like to be dictated to on social media. Think about what you would want as a customer on social media instead of brainstorming from a brand-perspective.


  1. Cynthia Floyd Manley |

    Loved this presentation. Favorite part was the advice to get out of the way and let “social do it’s thing.” Can we get the source for the hierarchy of social media needs? Thanks!

    • Allison Brown |

      Thanks so much Cynthia!! The Drivers of Social Media use is from a study done by TMW in London.

    • allison brown |

      Thanks so much Cynthia! The drivers for social media usage in the preso is from a study done by TMW london

  2. Vic |

    Great presentation. Congrats on the new program. I love your focus on the experience versus the transaction

    • Allison Brown |

      Thanks VIC. I’m so glad that you found the presentation enjoyable. Yes. Life is but a string of experiences, right? :)

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