SINGAPORE: South East Asia's airlines are flying high on social media, with digital channels considered critical to brand growth in the region's competitive travel sector.

The South East Asian airline sector was the focus of a Digimind study, reported in Marketing Magazine, which looked at the 27 airlines – 7 budget airlines and 20 flag-carriers – servicing the region, assessing which was best at growing and engaging their fans on social media.

Qatar Airlines, Emirates, Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines enjoyed the most followers across the region.

Though the South East Asian-based airlines have significantly more routes in the region – for example, Air New Zealand has just two direct flights into South East Asia, both flying into Singapore – long-haul airlines are investing heavily in South East Asia where increased middle class wealth is seen as a boost for marketing to far-away travel destinations.

Instagram is a favourite platform among airlines – likely due to the drop off in Facebook's organic reach – and also gets more engagement from fans. Photos from travel destinations and giveaways are popular, while Twitter is frequently used by Malaysian Airlines and Garuda Indonesia for customer service announcements such as flight schedules.

Singapore Airlines, usually perceived as a more traditional airline with a 'light touch' digital approach, has re-aligned its strategy in the past year and is now one of the region's fastest growing airlines on social media. In addition to its fast-growing digital channels and new headline sponsorship for the Singapore Grand Prix, its recent viral video "No detail is too small" generated more than 86,800 shares on Facebook.

Air New Zealand generated the most reach on YouTube with more than one million views in the survey period. Viral video is a major asset to the airline with their hugely popular air safety videos – which have starred hobbits, Bear Grylls, the All Blacks and swimsuit models at various points – being shared around the world.

Data sourced from Marketing, Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff