Flight MH 370 – Malaysia Airlines and its social media strategy
As dozens of countries continue the painstaking search for physical clues over its whereabouts, aviation experts (and plenty of non-experts) are battling it out with one another with theories ranging from the reasonably calm and measured to outright bizarre.
Uncertainty breeds speculation.
Whilst many have been quick to criticise the airline and government officials over their handling of the incident, Malaysia Airlines still has a service to run in the full glare of the watching world.
This is no more so than in its social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, where it has wisely given over almost its almost entire social strategy to the incident (rather than promoting offers or pushing other activity).
Perhaps one of the first things to note is how the airline quickly changed its branding on both channels to a respectful and low-key grey.
Other major social networks, such as Instagram, have not seen any activity from the carrier since the aircraft disappeared on March 8.
So what has the carrier been doing on the two primary social networks following the disappearance of MH 370?
Alongside posting links to the latest information and live press conferences (as confusing as some of those details have been, especially in the early stages after March 8), officials appear to have tried their best to be respectful to those anxiously awaiting news of the aircraft and urged onlookers to pray for the families and offer other support.
It has consistently used the #MASalert hashtag.
Inevitably not every message is seen as adhering to the spirit in which it was meant, with one particular note on Facebook on March 16 being received rather angrily by some for using the industry term “PAX” instead of “passengers”.
It is a hard way to learn about such sensitivities in the heat of an incredibly difficult situation for both the carrier and the friends and families of the passengers and crew.
Still, to its credit, Malaysia Airlines appears to be leaving most of the negative comments in place on Facebook – rather than delete them and then face accusations of blocking transparency over reaction from the wider world to the incident.
Inevitably, with such enormous global attention on the carrier it is perhaps expected that both its Twitter and Facebook channels have seen a significant jump in “followers” and (perhaps not the most appropriate word) “fans” respectively.
For example, data from social media analytics service BirdSong shows followers on Twitter jumped by almost 20% between March 8 and 9:
Facebook “fans” followed suit:
Engagement levels on Facebook (defined by BirdSong as the number of those “talking about” a brand on a fan page which is divided by number of fans) have also massively increased over the same period:
This, of course, is the official activity from the airline in social media surrounding MH 370′s disappearance – running alongside countless other hashtags and activity of forums which have become the primary venues for those leaving messages of support and sharing their theories.
Some have gone to the extent of creating their own dedicated pages to MH 370, with BirdSong counting at least 20 different pages on Facebook with the phrase “missing Malaysia Airlines”.
One in particular has close to 400,000 “likes”.