Virgin America launched four years ago at the cusp of viable social media marketing. The airline appreciates that social media is not an overlay; it’s at the core of the company’s culture.

I’ve previously cited Virgin America as great example of a brand leveraging every element of the customer experience, combining media platforms with events, keeping the fun level high and benefiting from risk-taking.

What follows is at least one idea you can add to your social media marketing playbook.

Context Optional worked with Virgin America to create the engagement experience for Facebook and Foursquare users checking in at Virgin America’s new home at San Francisco International Airport. Terminal 2 Takeover is a leaderboard created using Context Optional’s Check-In Leaderboard product, an application that dynamically aggregates and displays mobile phone location check-ins by Facebook and Foursquare users.

I asked Virgin America and Context Optional to provide Social Times with a look inside the Terminal 2 Takeover campaign.

How does Terminal 2 Takeover address Virgin America’s overall marketing objectives?

VA: We’re always striving to create fun and organic ways to engage with our guests and travelers and social media has been a big part of meeting that objective. As the only airline based in Silicon Valley and the first to offer fleetwide WiFi and plugs near every seat, we’ve built a loyal following of very tech-savvy guests who are oftentimes drawn to mobile and social activities so we saw this as a fun way to get them engaged with our brand and to explore our new terminal at SFO.

We’ve tried our best to re-invent the air travel experience by not only making it more enjoyable and relaxing, but also more social with features like seat-to-seat chat, so by introducing Facebook and Foursquare check-ins into the travel experience, we’re hoping to create another way for our guests to engage with us and socialize with their fellow travelers. We hope that the T2 Takeover Leaderboard will help people to discover all that the new terminal has to offer, from the unique art installations, to the red butterfly chairs, to the Hydration Stations available for guests to refill their water bottles.

What other elements are being used to address those same objectives and how does Terminal 2 Takeover integrate with them?

VA: In November we announced that we would offer Elevate Frequent Flyer Points through Topguest in exchange for virtual check-ins — which has proven to be another great way for our guests to engage with us online using mobile devices and location-based services like Foursquare and Facebook Places. Travelers who sign up for Topguest.com and connect their Elevate accounts can receive 25 points for checking into T2 or any other Virgin America venues.

CO: Virgin America is known for being a “cool” airline. They put a lot of thought and effort into making Terminal 2 an enjoyable experience for all travelers. By integrating mobile and social into Terminal 2 Takeover, Virgin America is holding true to its hip brand image. Terminal 2 Takeover was soft launched on the day of the Community Open house of Terminal 2, building extra buzz and driving visitors to visit multiple areas of the terminal by rewarding them with status badges based on number of check-ins.

How did the idea for Terminal 2 Takeover come about?

CO: Virgin America sought a means to get its travelers to explore the new terminal.  Virgin America has a very tech and social savvy fan base and its fans were checking in to Virgin terminals, gates and flights long before the Terminal 2 Takeover, so Context Optional and Virgin America collaborated to come up with an idea to encourage fans to explore T2 while rewarding fans for already doing what they love doing, checking in. Travelers are given incentive to check-in to multiple areas of the terminal via status badges.

What do the location based services (LBS) allow Terminal 2 Takeover to accomplish that only a few years ago would not be possible?

CO: LBS allow people to use their mobile devices to let their friends know where they are and what they’re doing as it happens. A few years ago people would have to wait until they got to a computer to recap their day, but with LBS it’s instantaneous. LBS increases word-of-mouth — every time someone checks in to a location, they are publishing that information to their News Feed for all of their friends to see. If someone checks in to one, two or even all 12 Terminal 2 locations, they’re publishing those check-ins to the News Feed and are marketing for Virgin America, the new Terminal and Terminal 2 Takeover.

Why were Facebook and Foursquare chosen over other LBS options?

CO: Facebook hosts the Terminal 2 Takeover application

VA: Given that Virgin America already partners with Topguest to deliver Elevate points in exchange for Facebook and Foursquare check-ins, it made sense to include Foursquare in the mix as well.

What are the unique features offered by Context Options to Terminal 2 Takeover?

CO: Terminal 2 Takeover aggregates many different LSB options/features into one: it rewards check-ins via badges, it supports Facebook check-ins and Foursquare check-ins, it showcases a live leaderboard that updates in real time, allowing users to see their names and faces next to their check-in on the Virgin America Facebook Page, not just as a story in the News Feed.

What are the measures of success for Terminal 2 Takeover?

VA: We have seen an increase in Facebook Likes and lots of positive feedback on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Neil Glassman is principal marketing strategist at WhizBangPowWow, with a track record of success across linear, digital and social media. Join his conversation on Twitter or email Neil to talk about marketing or swap recipes.