It is known that brand reputation plays an important role in the development of any organization in today’s competitive environment. Online brand reputation is one of the effective modern tools used in any business, including tourism industry. Some experts in reputation management are sure that today online brand reputation is “a key element of any business” (Hiles, 2011:17). As online brand reputation helps to monitor what people are saying about this or that brand, and control what people see, tourism organizations can benefit from it (Stephanidis, 2001:23). British Airways is one of those brands that are known throughout the world (British Airways,
Official Site, 2012). That is why online brand reputation of British Airways is essential for successful development of this company. In this case, user generated content is one of those elements of effective brand reputation management which influences the success of the company’s brand (Faiola, 2002:71). However, in some cases, user generated content (websites, blogs and social media) can do harm to the development of the business (Johnson, 2012). My goal in this paper is to discuss the role of user generated content for online brand reputation of British Airways.
Social media is widely used to improve the position of this or that company in the competitive market due to its brand image. Travel brands take a special place as travelling is a social experience both as a purchase and a social activity (How are Travel Brands Using Social Media for Marketing, 2011). It is known that in many cases people consult their friends to get travel recommendations as well as they seek their advice for the new places they should visit, and the airlines they should use, and the hotels they should stay during their tour. Moreover, many people prefer to travel with their friends and make new friends during their trips what is more exciting and creates the reason for discussion in the Internet (West, 2001:45)
User generated content is considered to be an effective social dynamics which contains social media campaigns, loyalty campaigns, and social games (How are Travel Brands Using Social Media for Marketing, 2011). However, in many cases, it can create false impression of customers concerning the company. Today different travel brands, including British Airways, bring social experience online for those people who want to get travel recommendations about the company or share their own travel experiences (Ricardo, 2009:176). Video and blogs help to increase consumers’ interest and attract millions of new travelers who will be ready to use services of British Airways (Espejo, 2010:49).
Social media campaigns are launched by the customers in Twitter and Facebook in order to prove the high quality services of British Airways. Millions of people are ready to use this brand advertisement in their future travelling plans (Gretzel et al., 2010:134). Social games are also used to attract attention of people and increase their awareness concerning the role of travelling, and provide information about various interesting places around the globe (Fill. 2009:362).
In order to appreciate tourism application in this area, it is necessary to refer to the company’s detailed strategic analysis in the tourism and travelling market. It is found that the company successfully operates in the competitive market, improving the quality of services and using new planes to attract more and more travelers (Bokair, 2008:1). Besides, British Airways has the major goal – to have active engagement with its stakeholders. They have developed forums for their employees’ communication and consultation, including BATUC (British Airways Trade Union Council) and one more forum – the British Airways Forum. Moreover, British Airways has developed “an active program of communication with investors, including regular Investor Days at which the company’s plans are fully discussed with analysts” (Engagement with Stakeholders, 2012). The company communicates its position concerning environmental and social issues to its suppliers and in many cases “asks them to adopt similar policies” (Engagement with Stakeholders, 2012). Besides, British Airways has close relationships with national and local government and regulators, as well as with local community representatives and some non-governmental organizations. All the stakeholders of British Airways are interested in the company’s brand success. That is why the company’s stakeholders have direct relation to the company’s user generated content which influences the brand reputation of the organization.
It is known that “product and service brands live and die on their reputations for delivering as promised” (Beal & Strauss, 2009:26). In this case the social media provides great opportunities for engaging the company’s stakeholders in ways that will improve the company’s reputation (Galitz, 1997:12). It is known that today the users of the Internet are not just seeking Websites, but they try to participate in the Web, creating their own blogs and sites, video and audio files, many of which are full of information about British Airways (Popek, 2011:4).