Heather Gordon is Legal Director at Martyn Fiddler Aviation. Heather joined the team in 2013 having previously practiced within a leading Isle of Man law ...Contact Heather Gordon
CHALLENGE #4: ACTIVISM ON SOCIAL MEDIA
While it is always frustrating, it is not unusual for business aviation to attract negative media attention in the national and international press. Recently however the industry is coming under increasing scrutiny from social media. Many may not care too much about Twitter – and may not even use it - however, it is the weapon of choice for online activists with an axe to grind.
It is often surprising to learn that Twitter is not in the top 10 of social media networks and has the smallest footprint of any social media network in comparison with its influence. Why is this? Because journalists are on Twitter. The collapse in the size of newsroom and the lack of resources given to journalists means that Twitter is their news source of choice – as a replacement for any ‘real’ research.
Once you combine journalists with clever techies who know how to use APIs and game Twitter’s algorithms, a situation arises whereby just three Twitter handles about business jet aviation usage can gather have over 1m followers. And all of these tweets are automated.
Here are just three examples:
@ElonJet tracks Elon Musk’s Private Jet (N628TS) with a bot = 500,000 followers
@CelebJets tracks flights by the likes of Kylie Jenner and Jay-Z = 127,000 followers
@RUOligarchJets tracks flights by the likes of Alisher Usmanov, Roman Abramovich and Leonard Blavatnik = 383,100 followers
What can or should business aviation do?
Tackling social media activists or journalists head on is not to be recommended – often this can lead to more harm than good by industry members responding emotionally on a platform which is visible to all. A reminder of the problems of using social media came after the Schiphol protests in November 2022; posts from business aviation commentators on LinkedIn were taken as direct quotes from the industry by leading newspapers and media outlets. While the authors of the posts most likely did not think this would happen at the time of writing, this is the danger of the digital age.
Rather than letting the media or activist groups lead business aviation in reactive messaging, business aviation needs to lead and write its own narrative about its relevance and importance to the future of aviation. This is crucial challenge to the industry that will require brave messaging and co-ordination. So, what should business aviation do?
- Be willing and able to communicate the strategic value of business aviation to the community, prospective users, and passengers.
- Emphasise the benefit of business aviation as a whole industry. This starts with knowing the numbers. When the opportunity arises to discuss business aviation or dispel a misconception about the industry, be armed with persuasive statistics.
- Use the NBAA’s example of New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, one of the leading US East Coast business aviation destinations, supports 15,000 jobs and supports more than $2 billion in annual sales activity. We must create exact numbers and statistics for airports in our own communities.
Read the 6 challenges facing business aviation in 2023 in full here.
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