Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, generating more than eight trillion dollars to the global economy. Airline companies stand to gain a big piece of that pie, with demand for passenger travel increasing seven percent annually. Yet, airline advertising is routinely dull, supposedly seducing customers with low fares and non-stop routes. (Yawn.) Shouldn’t the concept of racing around the world in a jet-propelled capsule tickle our senses a bit more?

Emirates Airlines sure thought so. Already the largest airline in the Middle East, the company put a provocative, new spin on travel that left an international audience begging for more. Check out this unbelievable social media success story.

Nearly every airline promotes cheap, fast, and easy flights, and this creates a bit of an identity crisis. Without a brand story, as Forrester Research travel-industry analyst Henry Harteveldt told Ad Age, “You’re just one generic airline competing against another.”

Emirates Airlines broke free from the norms, creating an amazing social media hashtag strategy that captivated millions. Here are three ideas from the company’s #BeThere marketing campaign you can use, too.

1.Inspire people to want your product

Emirates recognized the best way to sell a product is to get to the root of why people want it. While other airlines were busy pushing miniscule perks, Emirates understood that customers don’t book flights to enjoy more legroom. We purchase because something about the destination excites us, and, at that moment, we believe nothing is better than being there. Suddenly, the airline business is about pursuing adventure, thrill, and passion.

Emirates ran with the concept. In launching one of the first content-marketing campaigns of its kind, the company invited employees to audition for positions as “globalistas.” Selecting seven lucky winners, Emirates teamed up with National Geographic to film mini travel shows about each globalista’s dream experience. By helping consumers picture themselves in new destinations, Emirates’ marketing team set out to inspire travel but also evoke a sense of excitement and friendship around the brand name.

2. Position your brand as the leader

Based in Dubai, Emirates is one of the fastest growing carriers. Celebrated for luxurious amenities like personal mini bars and 1,800-channel entertainment systems, the company also benefits from access to subsidized jet fuel, making service to 151 destinations across 80 countries more affordable. However, many consumers simply did not know these routes were available. Through the “Be There” social media marketing campaign, Emirates found a unique way to showcase its position as a global airline. After all, who better to educate consumers about your company than the employees who know it best!

3. Humanize your brand

When competitors share a similar process and product, the brand’s personality–their people–will set it apart. Emirates Senior VP Boutros Boutros put it this way: “When we ask ourselves, ‘why we travel,’ we don’t have to look very far for the answers. The close to 500 submissions for ‘Be There’ by our talented staff, and the tremendous response across our company in support of participating colleagues, speak to our shared love for travel. Our people and our spirit of adventure play a big part in our success as an airline.”

Emirates globalistas included a pilot, IT manager, and cabin crew with insider knowledge of the company’s massive operations. Traveling to over 30 destinations in a six-month period, the company’s ambassadors starred in 130 videos, ultimately reaching 120 million people on Facebook and 50 million on Twitter. Since social content felt more like reality TV than airline advertising, fans loved it. Tens of thousands of images were shared across social media channels like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, and lifestyle, travel, and trade press even covered the campaign.

Emirates captured the full breadth of the conversation in a social content aggregation hub. With ambassador videos, #BeThere hashtag content from social networks, and simultaneously advertised special fares to promoted destinations, customer engagement skyrocketed! In the end, cohesive, compelling story-telling breathed new life into the aviation industry and won Emirates Airlines applause – and conversions.

For more ideas on how to promote shared enthusiasm around an idea, product, or community, check out our solutions gallery. Then, kick off your own success story with a free 30-day trial of TwineSocial. Let us know how we can help!