Cool, Yet Hot

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ANAHEIM, Calif.-Even if you haven't flown it, you're likely aware the Virgin America brand has a certain "cool" factor to it. What you may be less aware of is the airline's marketing budget is relatively small, especially compared to competitors'.

Bridging the budgetary divide and helping to make Virgin America a hot brand: social media.

Porter Gale, VP-marketing with Virgin America, noted the airline is driven by studies showing people engaged in social media, especially those in the center, tend to be happier than people at the edges. "It's the space that keeps growing. Social media is here to stay."

Gale, in remarks to CO-OP Financial Services' THINK Conference, reminded credit unions that 86% of Millenials have joined a social network.

"How could a credit union use social media?," asked Gale. "Building engagement with members by speaking to topics people are thinking about, many of which are financial. You can build credibility for your brand. It's a way to reach bloggers and influencers. You can create change."

Reaching bloggers has been a priority for Virgin America, whose social media efforts were initially led by an intern. Bloggers promote the brand, said Gale. Moreover, it knows that 53% of its guests carry laptops, and 33% log onto WiFi in-flight.

"People often ask, how can you track it, how do you know if it's working? We have been able to cross-tabulate data and tell who is following us and who are the high-value customers," said Gale. "In your business, you may have people who are high talkers, but they are not using a lot of the credit union's products and services. So it's important to know what types of customers are using these channels and how you can move them from one area to the next."

With 70% of Virgin America's business done online, Gale said the airline plays close attention to anything that is just one click away, including social media.

Virgin America has also strived to excel in other details. Gale said when it was forced to begin selling headphones in order to generate revenue, it opted not to buy something off the shelf . Instead, it designed special pink, purple and silver headsets with its brand name on them that people now "want" to buy.

"Doing things creatively and differently is what gets you differentiation, and what people talk about in social media," added Gale. "There is tons of data and tools and analytics available for your social media. We can see when our social media buzz is high, and we have noticed that when you have more awareness, buzz and blogging that sales sees to be higher, also."

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