Recipe for social media: stir in language, culture, religion and humor

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Skyscanner takes its growing multinational presence very seriously, and social media plays a big part in this.

Skyscanner takes its growing multinational presence very seriously, and social media plays a big part in this. But as Yara Paoli, the company’s Social Media Manager tells EyeforTravel’s Pamela Whitby, the firm does this with a sense of humor and fun.

The German statesman, Willy Brandt, once said: “If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen sie Deutsch sprechen.” This is one of the essential principles behind the social media strategy of the online flight search engine, Skyscanner.

With a fast-growing presence across Europe and Asia Pacific, with its myriad of languages and cultures, having a social media that sticks to this must be tricky. According to Yara Paoli, Skyscanner’s Social Media Manager, the main challenge is finding the right sense of humor and the most appropriate localization for social content. But the approach is to “see these differences [of language and culture] as new opportunities rather than challenges.” After all, travel is about moving, about discovering, about learning something new, and this is exactly what Skyscanner is aiming to achieve on social channels. “With such a multi-coloured cultural rainbow, we can pick from a myriad of different ideas,” she said.

Ultimately, the company wants to help people travel first virtually, as they begin to dream. But secondly to help them find out about new destinations together with (as this Rude Italian Hand gestures YouTube video shows), and funny and interesting aspects of different cultures. All these factors help to motivate and inspire a real journey.

Aside from linguistic diversity, the other thing Skyscanner considers carefully, when localizing content and planning a social media strategy, is cultural and religious difference.

A team effort
Skyscanner’s social marketing team is relatively small and includes Paoli, as well as “the Sams” Baldwin, Skyscanner’s experienced travel editor and author of For Fukui’s Sake, as well as Twitter guru “Poullain.” The firm also has a team of market development managers who are responsible for the various markets’ development.

The social team may be small, but Paoli points out that they also have “amazing international expertise” with over 28 nationalities already in house. “We try to use this expertise and cultural knowledge at our best.”

Skyscanner is expanding fast, and Paoli expects more interesting people to come on board soon. The criteria for employing social team players include:

• Open-mindedness, cleverness
• Sense of humor
• Multi-cultural and preferably multi-language approach to life
• Sense of respect
• Travel lovers

The inevitable question: how important is ROI?
As Paoli is well aware, the return of investment of social media is a complex but essential factor no matter how many markets you work in. “But if the ROI of social media is strictly related to engagement levels – as we think – and brand mentions on a local level, then yes, it is even more important,” she said. And why is that? “Well, [what] we want is to reach the local audience proposing an exceptional and free travel comparison service, but speaking the language and engaging the humor of the locals,” she responded.

Social Media is a fairly recent adoption by the majority of the small to medium companies. “Given its lack of a simple, clear model of revenue attribution, it is challenging to sell to management when all they want is money,” said Paoli.
She added, however, that Skyscanner’s management team is far-sighted and progressive and has grasped how social media has affected people’s habits and communication style across the globe. “It would be silly to just ignore it and not see this as a massive opportunity to speak directly to our targeted audience, with effective visual and interactive concepts,” said Paoli. After all, it is so much better “flicking through a warm, colorful album of Portugal places to visit than seeing a cold Google adwords advert…”

So what are Skyscanner’s top tips for creating a strong multinational social presence?

• Be honest and fun
• Be respectful of different languages, cultures, and opinions
• Expect the same of your fans who will value you as a good brand as a result
• Create cool trends – watch this space!

To hear more examples of how Yara Paoli, Skyscanner’s Social Media Manager, is engaging with a multinational audience, join us in Amsterdam for EyeforTravel’s Online Marketing, Mobile & Social Media in Travel, Europe 2012 on October 3 and October 4.

About the author


Editor in chief for eTurboNew is Linda Hohnholz. She is based in the eTN HQ in Honolulu, Hawaii.