Case Studies

July 20th, 2012

Southwest Airlines Is Flying High on Twitter

This post is part of the Twitter for Brands Series, which features winning strategies from the top brand pages on Twitter and provides tips on how to emulate their successes.

Southwest Airlines is one of the most prominent brands on Twitter, clocking in at over 1.3 million followers.

Christi Day McNeill is Southwest’s Twitter manager, posting multiple times daily on the account.

When McNeill and her team aren’t replying to fans’ questions and customer service issues, they post exclusive deals and new promotions. They also get in touch with “bloggers, brand fanatics, avid travelers and employees to help contribute content to [the] Twitter.” They host contests as well.

Recently, they posted, “Okay, Denver. Looking for something to do tonight? See our buddy@EricHutchinson! First 3 people who reply with “#LiveAt35 Rocks” win tix!” The winners received in flight tickets to the concert.

Responding to customer issues

Southwest clearly prizes customer service across all of its social media channels.

“The social media team includes a chief Twitter officer who tracks Twitter comments and monitors a Facebook group, an online representative who fact checks and interacts with bloggers, and another who takes charge of the company’s presence on sites such as YouTube, Flickr, and LinkedIn,” writes Boston.com’s Carolyn Johnson. “So if someone posts a complaint in cyberspace, the company can respond in a personal way.”

The twitter site advises that the airline “will not address specific customer service issues on this site,” but it is a frequent mode by which it finds out about customer concerns, and it does post some more general customer service replies. When user @_MichaelKelley tweeted about a delayed flight, for instance, the company promptly responded, “Our Gate Agents will have the latest info. Sorry for the delay!”

Personalization

Southwest Airlines’ Twitter team posts using their initials, whether it’s the company’s Communication Specialist Laurel Moffat or Christi Day McNeill herself.

Moffat said, at the Kansas City American Marketing Association in 2011, that along with team members signing their updates, the company “tries to share ‘real’ content on topics customers are thinking about relative to flying.”

In an interview with Social Media Examiner, McNeill said that customers also receive a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s happenings. To personalize the Twitter further, she said that one-on-one interaction is key. She related a story about a celebrity tweeting a tip about how to get an aisle seat, which the team subsequently retweeted.

“That one to one interaction is important and fun,” she said. ”You don’t have to be huge and influential to get that. You can also just be Joe Schmo that flies us once a year. We want to see your winglet picture out the window and we want to see the great experience you had with your flight attendants.”

Be authentic

By sending out personalized tweets and responding quickly to customer issues, as well as apologizing when it makes a mistake, Southwest proves that it is a company made up of humans.

When Kevin Smith complained that he was kicked off a plane for being too fat, Southwest responded with eight tweets and a blog post. They showed their true colors, admitted fault, and earned admiration for it. Not to mention, the frenzy caused their blog to shut down because it was overloaded with traffic.

“Allow your employees and allow your company to have a voice and establish that early on in the social media space because authenticity pays off huge in the event of a crisis or issue where you need people to trust your voice in the online space,” said McNeill.

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