Airline

Southwest Soars Above the Competition

Southwest has always held a top spot for airlines that are using social media, as you read in my last post, but what is it that Southwest is doing that is setting it apart from the rest of competition? Simply put, it is the entirety of their social media presence. The amount of time and resources that they push towards maintaining their predominate presence on social media is what sets them apart. This endeavor has paid off, according to Keynote, a global leader in internet and mobile, cloud testing and monitoring. They named Southwest.com the best in overall customer experience in any US air travel booking websites. In order to measure the effectiveness of the website and the quality of customer support, a series of tests were conducted on each website. Panelists chosen were asked to spend a few minutes on the website and to gather first impressions. After this, they were asked to preform a few routine flight checks and booking checks. They were asked to search for specific flights from the home page and external search engines. The panelist provided additional important information into why Southwest.com is so attractive. The main points were: the ease booking flights and the flight search option, as well as the website looking pleasing.

Aside from a practical website and a Twitter presence, Southwest also has another big social media presence on the web, Nuts about Southwest.

Nuts About Southwest's Home Page

Nuts about Southwest is Southwest’s blog, with a growing team made not only of Southwest employees, but also customers and partners. Here they post regularly about the happenings of Southwest Air. Whether it is major changes in the way the airline operates, or something funny that happened, this blog is completely immersive. Not only is it updated several times a day, but it also allows customers to write in with comments, complaints, and suggestions. In the corner, there are tabs to take you to any other online presence. Southwest has, made this blog a one-stop shop for anything Southwest.

As you can see from the video above, Nuts by Southwest and its contributors aren’t all business. It is videos like this mixed in with interviews with the Founder and Chairmen, and behind the scenes airplane maintenance that provide the viewer with a sense of genuineness. Because of this and the fact that readers can write into the blog and ask questions are what makes this blog such a strong media-marketing tool. I think that Southwest really nailed this one and are is a perfect example of how successful a blog can be when you: realize how to reach your target audience, have a committed and diverse team, and have the reputation of a great brand behind you.

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Southwest Makes Friends Using Twitter

Since more and more airlines are adopting social media, Twitter in specific, to accomplish things and interact with customers, the fliers are realizing the increasing ease at which they are able to interact directly with the airlines. Southwest Air thinks so, after the 2013 holiday season, the rate in which fliers interact with the industry via social media skyrocketed. This trend will only continue in greater number in the seasons to come. Fliers are realizing how much voice they have in these companies who are almost constantly monitoring their online presence.

By using records that were set in 2012 from the holiday traffic, Southwest has come up with the most frequently asked questions and have posted them on most of their online profiles, and have also prepped responders to respond to these question quickly. In January of 2014 Southwest launched its Listening Center which is powered by Salesforce Radian6, which is a social media monitoring platform that will allow Southwest to engage its customers in almost real time.

Southwest doesn’t stop at using its online presence to reach fliers and potential fliers. In February of 2013, Southwest engaged in a conversation with JetBlue over Twitter. A frequent flier named Phoenix Robles tweeted that “It’s an aviation geek thing, but it SERIOUSLY annoys me when people abbreviate @SouthwestAir as “SW” and @JetBlue as “JB” *….”. This then continued on in a lighthearted conversation between the two airlines. The two airlines continued on in a light hearted conversation over Twitter, throwing around aviation jargon, and making jokes. A third user, Alexa Rae, tweeted both airlines saying, “You guys friends or something?”

 

JetBlue's Reply

JetBlue’s Reply

 

Southwest's Reply

Southwest’s Reply

It’s nice to see that not only are airlines interacting more with the fliers, but also with each other. Interactions like this speak more for the brand of a company than any amount of advertisement can do. In this interaction, we see the respect and lighthearted genuineness that come from both of these companies. I can only hope to see more interactions like this in the future.

JetBlue Leads the Way with Tweets

So far in the previous post we have looked at how Airports have began using Social Media and using it to better convenience their fliers. Now we will shift our attention from Airports to Airlines. Airlines are one of the best industries in today’s world that are trying to use social media to solve problems and benefit their fliers. The first company we will look at, and visit again later, is JetBlue. We’ll look at how they are using Twitter to help their fliers and see what else they are doing to best utilize the ever-growing tool called social media.

JetBlue has become one of the biggest corporations that uses Twitter the social media website. They are the largest Airline to use it and have the largest number of followers out of all other Airlines on Twitter. As of now they have 1.8 Million followers and over 175,000 tweeted messages. Their Facebook presence is also growing, with 894,884 likes on their Facebook page; this is used to tell potential fliers of any major changes to the Airline. Things like seating upgrades, specials, and they also do give away contests where you can win anything from discounted flights to free trips. JetBlue’s attention to twitter takes 6 people from their corporate communication department to monitor the page from the start of the day to the end of the day. It is this constant monitoring that makes their use of twitter so successful and efficient.

With six people whose jobs are to monitor a twitter page and JetBlue’s other social media presence, there is a good amount of manpower being used. How effective is this in terms of boosting profits for the company? An interview with Marty St. George the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Commercial at JetBlue reveals how important this is to the company whether or not the presence on social media sites is directly related to sales or not. “The utility is not what it does to the bottom line but how it works as a marketing tool, real-time customer feedback is a gift.” Marty realizes that not only is he building JetBlue’s brand image with his use of Twitter, but is also building brand loyalty, which is how you increase in profit. Marty goes on to talk about how JetBlue, being a successful company, is getting bigger and bigger everyday. How can they go about staying small and holding onto the customer service values that the company was built on? The answer for JetBlue was social media: “One of the things that has been a factor in our pursuit and embrace of social media is our customer base, JetBlue has a customer base that skews more affluent, younger, and much more tech-savvy than the traditional airline.” While Marty is not quite sure what the next steps are for JetBlue, he knows they will include the use of new technologies and social media to reach their fliers.

While it may seem that JetBlue has had a loving relationship with social media, they have been at the other end of the rope. On August 9, 2010 a flight from Pittsburg to New York was landing, where a flight attendant by the name of Steven Slater was involved in an altercation with an unruly customer who accidentally hit Slater in the head with her luggage. Slater then replied by yelling, “I’m done” and taking a beer before he slid down the emergency exit of the airplane. The event went viral and Time listed it at number two in the Top Ten Travel Moments of 2010. The company decided that they needed to respond quickly, yet not so quickly that important were facts are ignored. They waited a few days before first responding on its blog, BlueTales, and with a memo to its employees. The memo released by CEO David Barger stated, “Let me just say this: JetBlue will always seek to prosecute people who physically harm or threaten to harm a crew member or customer. Period.” Slater was put on suspension from the company and then later removed.

JetBlue despite having a viral negative message has not focus on the past but instead looks toward to the future, continuing to develop their online presence and think of new ways to conveniently use social media for their fliers.

How Important do Industry Leaders Think Social Media is for Their Company?

We’ve seen how airports are using social media in order to further convenience their customers, but do the industry leaders, the other CEO’s, and directors of these Airports think that social media is benefitting their business? With only 7.4% of airports contributing a considerable amount of man-hours per month for social media, one would think that it is not valued in today’s air industry. That is merely a statement coming from an outside observer.

David McMullen, writer for Simpliflying interviewed Paul O’Kane the Director of Public Affairs for Dublin Airport Authority about how he created  Dublin Airport’s online presence on social media. Starting with, their Official Twitter account, which took four months to get the handle, (username) @DublinAirport, because someone who was unaffiliated with the airport was using it. After setting up the account, Paul began to realize it’s true potential. One way that they are utilizing social media is with crisis management.

DublinAirportCrashMarch13_large

The blown tire of the small jet that forced a closure of the main runway in 2013

Go back to winter of 2010; Dublin Airport was hit with several feet of snow causing runway delays and closings. While other airports were having the closing listed on flight boards and being read over the speakers, making the fliers have to stand in front of them anxiously waiting to see the status of their flight, Dublin was tweeting about it. In July of 2013, a small jet landing at Dublin suffered a blown front tire upon landing in which the main runway had to be closed. Paul decided the best way to alert fliers and the media would be to tweet about it. Because of the immediate information output via twitter, they were able to say that the incident had happened and that the airport was still operational with no injuries. Because they got the information out so quickly, the press reported the story from the tweets. This cut down on exposure, and the media making this a bigger deal than it was. In the video below, the full interview with Paul O’Kane from Simpliflying, Paul tells the story of how they used twitter to get UEFA Euro 2012 Championship tickets back to a flier who left them at the airport.

Paul O’Kane and the rest of the Public Affairs Department at Dublin Airport are doing an excellent job at using social media in a smart, effective way. Twitter was only the beginning for Dublin; since then they have made an official Facebook page that has 43,000 likes, and a four star rating from the 840 people who have reviewed it. One of the reasons that Dublin has been met with such success is the way in which they are posting updates on different social media platforms. Paul believes that it is necessary to find the right tone in which to deliver the information. In the interview posted with Paul, he talks about how one of the tweets about the blown tire was revised from “a plane suffered a burst tire” to “there was a tire deflation on the runway.” Paul also says that it is necessary to understand what you are trying to accomplish through social media, and that support from someone higher up in the company. In terms of whether or not Paul thinks that social media is important in the aviation industry, Paul has this to say; “There are two types of aviation people in the world -those who’ve got social media, and those who are about to get it.” It will be interesting to see if the number of airports using social media to reach their customers will increase in the years to come.

How London Gatwick Airport Uses Social Media to Stand Out from the Rest

Through this blog, we will take a look at different airline companies and see how they are utilizing social media. What better place to start than by looking at the Airline industry as a whole, and seeing how airports are using social media to reach fliers. With more and more fliers connecting to social media airports as well as airlines need to be connected. Due to an increase of fliers using smart phones and being constantly connected to a wireless network, Airports need to be able to recognize these trends and capitalize on them; however, as David McMullen finds in his “Harness the Power of Social Media article that only 14.8% of airports are committing 100-150 man-hours per month towards social media. The norm is fewer than 50 hours per month.

It appears that unlike airlines, airports are lagging behind in terms of social media usage and effectiveness. The exception being London Gatwick Airport, whose digital communications manager, Mandie Armstrong began to put it into practice. SimpliFlying takes a look at Gatwick Airport and how they are using social media to redefine themselves as a more family focused airport.

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An example of a sign that would be posted near a line in the airport. The user would then scan the QR code with their device to hear the story.

The aim of their reinvention is to be an easier airport to fly in and out of if you have a big family with little children. In order to take stress away from the parents, Gatwick teamed up with SoundCloud, a music and audiobook streaming website, to use stories written by unpublished children’s authors. These stories were then uploaded to SoundCloud and were available for free download while in the airport. The airport went even further to make a channel on SoundCloud dedicated to these books called the Gatwick Fairytales. These downloads took the form of QR codes, that once scanned, they would take the viewer to a recorded story.

These signs were placed in key ‘line spot’ such as baggage check and claim and boarding party waiting rooms. Then they recorded the downloads. 70 authors contributed work and the most popular stories were downloaded more than 200 times. Gatwick didn’t stop there; after this in order to gauge the effectiveness of the project even more they asked for feedback on their official twitter account. They also hosted a FAQ through their twitter account in which followers could ask any question they liked about the airport and the CEO Stewart Wingate would answer. Since the first of three FAQ segments, their official twitter page has 109,000 followers.