This week we’re talking about social media marketing.

For many travel brands, social media is maturing, evolving from a fun novelty into a legitimate customer service tool, sales channel and, occasionally, a PR headache. What do you do when millions of customers automatically take to Facebook and Twitter when something goes wrong?

Based on a variety of recent news, the answer is increasingly to be proactive and creative. For American Airlines, this means launching a new ad campaign with a strong social media element, encouraging customers to share more positive experiences online. For other brands like Skyscanner, this means being more spontaneous and genuine when responding to customer questions.

How are travel brands designing their social media strategies for this new environment? Read on for more details and all of this week’s marketing news.

American’s New Ad Campaign Looks to Rethink Social Conversation
As Skift noted earlier this week, American Airlines just launched a new ad campaign designed to celebrate the airline’s great customers. One of the more interesting aspects of the campaign is its tight integration with American’s social strategy. As more angry fliers take to Twitter and Facebook to vent their frustration, it’s become all the more important for American to counteract this negative, highly-public, feedback with positive customer feedback. Hence the emphasis on highlighting positive customer experiences. Read more

Unexpected Skyscanner Facebook Response Delights Internet
It’s unavoidable: at some point all travel companies are going to make a mistake, and that mistake is inevitably going to show up on social media. Rather than trying to extract themselves from these situations with PR double-speak and canned responses, what if more travel brands committed to offering genuine, two-way conversations with upset customers? Skyscanner’s recent response to a company error offers one example. Read more

Airlines Go Mobile to Sell more Ancillary Products
“Ancillary” products (the extra services passengers buy beyond their seat) represent an increasingly important revenue stream for airlines as they seek to stay profitable. One place that seems perfect for selling ancillaries is on mobile devices: imagine getting an offer for a seat upgrade on your smartphone while boarding a flight. Now, more airlines are partnering with a variety of startups to help make mobile retail a reality. Read more

New Research Suggests Ride-Sharing Isn’t Replacing Cars
The supposed promise of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft is that they are slowly making it possible for drivers to give up their vehicles. Why own a car when you can get an instant ride whenever you need it? According to new research, that vision is not necessarily a reality: many ride-share customers use the service occasionally or while traveling, rather than daily, as a supplement to their own vehicles. Read more

Are Ride-Sharing Services the Future of Public Transport?
On a related ride-sharing note, some cash-strapped city governments are increasingly looking to on-demand transport services as a way to deal with their public transportation issues. But while some see the partnerships as a win-win situation for commuters and cities, others worry that such deals leave less-affluent and technology-challenged transportation users out of the picture. Read more

Belize Tourism Emphasizes Local Culture Over Beaches
The Belize Tourism Board is trying to change travelers’ perception of the Caribbean as place for sunbathing and tropical drinks. Over the past three years a marketing strategy highlighting the country’s culture and experiences, along with more direct flights from North America, has paid off in the form of a significant boost in the country’s GDP. Read more

Photo Credit: American Air has a new campaign that incorporates social media into every aspect of its branding. American Airlines