Social Media Ignorance: Aviation's 'Canary in the Coal Mine'

7:39 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Everyone reading this article knows general aviation HAS to grow in the coming is the single biggest issue facing the industry. And that growth needs to come from two places, women and the younger demographic...people ages 18 to 40(ish). When you look around the airport coffee shop, there is more gray hair these days, a clear and present sign that the general pilot population is aging.

If we as an industry fail to bring the younger pilot into flying, we fail to replace the seniors among us who lose their medical. Sure, a few move on to Light Sport Aircraft, flying on a Sport Pilot ticket and using their driver's license as their medical card. But this is tiny fraction of the older pilots that are losing their flying privileges, and with a few major exceptions like EAA's Young Eagles program, aviation as a whole is dropping the ball on seriously reaching anyone under 40 years old. This demographic LOVES adventure sports, and nothing shouts adventure like flying. Nothing.

To reach this valuable demographic so vital to the future growth of GA, you have to connect with them online, using social media, because that's where they live. They do not read newspapers, they do not use email. They do not listen to radio, and most never watch any scheduled television. All of those methods to reach them are considered by those under 40 to be what their parents use, or to put it bluntly, what old, out of touch dinosaurs use.

People under 40 are all over Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and probably a dozen lesser social platforms that are not relevant in this discussion. As a social media marketing professional, I spend most days on Twitter, and know the value of the platform and the demographics intuitively. My team and I also post for clients to Facebook, and it is very easy to reach a chosen demo just by the choices you make in content, and how you "boost" a particular post.

There are just too many people in the aviation industry who ignore social media, mostly because they do not understand it. 

A glaring example was that Twitter was mostly silent before and during the recent U.S. Sport Aviation Expo. Yes, there was a trickle of tweets from the organizers, but so few exhibitors bothered to use Twitter during the show, you could count them on one hand and still give someone the finger. During one day of the show - Thursday, January 15th - not one manufacturer tweeted anything using #Sebring15, the show's official hashtag. None, nada, zilch. This, my friends, is the Canary in the Coal Mine, telling the aviation industry that it's time to wake up about social media marketing.

I am sure the people in the LSA sector who refuse to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc...say it doesn't work. And they would be right...those platforms are 100% ineffective if you DON'T USE THEM. And I am pretty sure at some point, a few of the exhibitors looked around the show grounds at all the gray hair, and wondered where their younger buyers were hidden. Well, it's quite simple...they weren’t at the show, because they didn't KNOW about the show.

This remains one of the biggest frustrations we in aviation marketing have as we watch the sector stumble along trying to reach the valuable younger buyer. And at Sebring, the LSA makers set the bar much lower as they succeeded in keeping the show a secret to anyone under 40.

On Twitter, we have a hashtag for that...#FAIL.

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