Agija Kola-Kanča is the head of the new social media department at airBaltic. Although she has been with the airline for only two years, she has lots of experience behind her and great plans for the future.

Her passion for travelling and blogging combined with her sparkling personality have been a great push for launching the new airBaltic blog. Whether you are planning to escape the cold and relax on a sunny beach or jump right onto the ski slopes and relish the joys of winter, airBaltic’s blog can help you with some tips for your next trip.

airBaltic is launching its new blog in November. How did the idea arise to set it up?

airBaltic already had a blog a few years ago, but unfortunately there weren’t enough people and resources to keep it going. Now we again feel the need for a platform where we can place and store our news, mainly to inspire people to travel. We are already creating material with very good content. For example, recently we recommended 10 places to see in Aalborg, Denmark. However, such news items quickly disappear in the broad expanse of our website. In Facebook as well, articles like these draw attention for a short while and then quickly recede into the background. Many of our employees love to travel. They also like to write and take pictures. This is a great opportunity for them to get involved in presenting the airline to the public, and to use this blog as a platform for telling their travel stories and giving some useful tips.

What is the main goal of the new blog?

The social media are mostly used as platforms for sales campaigns. If you want to find out more about your chosen destination, then you have to look for more detailed information elsewhere. The airBaltic blog will serve as a source of information about the places that we fly to. It will give tips about what to do, where to eat, where to stay and where to shop. It will give advice on how to best pack your travel bags, with reminders about what you are allowed to bring to the airport. There will also be all kinds of answers to the most frequently asked questions. The blog will be easy to navigate and will be written simply and clearly. The readers won’t have to sift through long and confusing documents. For example, what you can and what you can’t bring along in your hand baggage. 

You were appointed to your new post quite recently. How did you become the head of the social media unit at airBaltic?

A couple of years ago, airBaltic was looking for a marketing manager. Despite the fact that my background was more connected to social media and digital matters, I was hired to fill the position. The social media were relegated to the background, but I wrote in them whenever I could in my free time. I already said in my job interview that I saw a huge potential for airBaltic to gain extra exposure in the social media, because we have a huge and high-quality base to work with. There are so many opportunities, especially for an airline, because lots of people like to fly and to travel. Ever since I started working here, I’ve felt that we haven’t been making the most of our potential. Then recently all of the right circumstances came together with nearly all of the right people, so that we can now renew the blog. The process came into being really quickly.

What are the greatest challenges in creating a blog for a national airline?

The challenges are many and our goals are quite ambitious. [Laughs.] We are still in the process of completing our team so that we can work full steam ahead and reach these goals. Right now our main focus is on client services. Many social media users ask us questions about their flights as little as an hour before their departure time or while they are on their way to the airport. We have started to provide client services seven days a week so that those who fly out on a Saturday or a Sunday are not left without answers to their questions. The blog provides an additional opportunity for us to advertise not only airBaltic, but also Latvia and the Baltic States – various things and places that we are proud of. We have done quite a bit to popularise the destinations that we fly to from Riga. Now it’s time to show people all of the good things that we’ve got right here at home and to invite them to travel to Riga.

airBaltic has the profile with the largest following from Latvia on Facebook (130,000 subscribers) and is also popular in Estonia and Lithuania. What are the main reasons for this widespread appeal?

The fact that we are the largest airline in the Baltic States is a major factor. The people who were involved with the social media before I took over also invested a great deal into promoting our image. We cooperate with some excellent agencies in Latvia. They help us to come up with various creative solutions. Thus, our internal team at the airline is also complemented by a wonderful team on the outside, which has been working together with airBaltic from the day that we set up our website. This tandem has generated some very good ideas. People have always wanted to travel, and we give them the wings to fly where they want to. Air travel has become much more accessible and is no longer the privilege of the well-to-do. You can find plane tickets for just 29 euros this very weekend!

One might think that placing information on social media is as easy as a walk in the park. What would surprise those who don’t work in the field?

One might think that it doesn’t take much skill to snap a quick picture and post it on Facebook. However, we have to think about how each photo fits in with our overall strategy. Many people and departments are involved in planning our communications strategy, based on the analysis of all kinds of data. This is one aspect of our job that many people don’t even consider. Every click of the mouse on every part of our website is noted in some way or another so that we can glean some statistics. For example, if you are a parent with a young child at home, then you might wonder why the Facebook newsfeed will offer you items with pets and kids in them. That’s probably because you are already watching this kind of content at home! [Laughs.] You know the saying: “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.” The same can be said with Facebook feeds.

What draws you to the social media?

I like the feeling like you can be almost physically present at events elsewhere in the world. Borders have come crashing down and you can practically be in two places at once. For example, recently a friend of mine got married in Turkey, but I couldn’t be there for the wedding. However, with the help of Ustream, I could watch and take part in the ceremony, even though I was in another country! In addition, the social media help you to get things done more quickly and conveniently. On the negative side, they have become an overly crucial part of our lives.

What has been your favourite social media project?

Aside from the airBaltic blog, which is my pride and joy, I am in the process of creating another cherished social media project, but that shall remain a surprise for now. Stay tuned for some more news in December!

You and your husband are both passionate about travelling. Together with your enthusiasm for photography, this has resulted in two travel blogs. How did you start putting them together? 

A couple of years ago, people started to say that the era of blogs is coming to an end and that the social media have become “the new black”. I think that people had started to get tired of the sheer quantity of short news feeds that were coming out every day. Now it seems that blogs are once again experiencing a revival. Last year we did a lot of intensive travelling through Europe. We realised that there is a lack of websites with short and specific information. Most of the information is long and detailed, with all kinds of historical facts, like you would find in a Wikipedia article. As a result of all this, our blog 10 Things To Discover came into being.  

And how did your blog Kola-Kanča writes get created?

This year, our goal was to get better acquainted with our own country, Latvia. I set up a blog (kola.lv) to write about my discoveries in Latvia: old manor houses, beer breweries, restaurants, places to see and tourist opportunities as a whole. This past weekend we were in Latgale [the eastern part of Latvia – Ed.], where we came upon a fantastic manor house. When I saw it, I was simply speechless! Smack in the middle of nowhere. It’s moments like these that make one wonder how many other undiscovered gems lie hidden in various far-off corners of Latvia.

You have travelled quite extensively. What has been your favourite travel destination?

Each new destination that I visit becomes even better than the previous one. But one place that I always want to return to, no matter what the season, is Budapest. This is a city that unites various aspects from all over Europe. BO