British Airways Building Home for Small Businesses

A so-so article was posted on the social media news site Mashable yesterday. It’s a roundtable discussion about how small businesses are using Twitter. For savvy social media folk, there’s nothing revolutionary here: yes, it’s time consuming; yes, you have to be prepared to accept negative Tweets, etc., etc.

What was interesting to me was the link at the bottom from the sponsor of the roundtable series, British Airways, which has put together a program to get the attention of U.S. small businesses. In an effort to emphasize to the importance of face-to-face meetings, and presumably to get these Americans to fly British Airways, they are running a contest called the “Face of Opportunity”. To enter, small business owners talk about how a free flight would help them develop their business.

The entries are all posted online, people vote for their favourites, and 250 winners are invited to networking events and industry panels in London and New York. One grand prize winner gets a book of 10 free business class flights.

So how is this different than your typical contest gimmick? British Airways is trying to build a community – small business owners are sharing their ideas about the importance of face-to-face meetings, there’s a landing space to for them to continue the conversation, and to find relevant small business content, including a free book about expanding internationally, in exchange, of course, for your contact information . British Airways isn’t a small business, but it has inserted itself into the conversation by building a “home” for small business owners.

Among the mantras we have at Edelman, where we work with several clients targeting small business owners, are “Public Engagement” and “content is king”. British Airways is doing an admirable job on both those fronts. And is it working? I’ll let you be the judge, but the top three contest entrants have more than 350,000 votes combined.

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