Airport

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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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.

Do Airports and Twitter go hand in hand?

In the last post, we saw how London Gatwick Airport was using social media to provide additional services to its fliers. Are they alone, or have they started a trend? Have the fliers even noticed, and if so has this increased the airports traffic? In this post we will look at other airports and how well they are or are not using social media, specifically Twitter.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA, there are over 19,700 airports in the United States. Out of those only 503 currently provide constant steady commercial service. So far, out of the 503, only about 50 have an official presence on twitter. As we saw with London Gatwick Airport, their twitter presence has a pretty big following, and we can see how they used twitter and other social media, such as SoundCloud, to make their customers happier. Why should other Airports be concerned with their presence on Twitter? Well Twitter really is a great platform for any business because it allows immediate feedback and conversation. This may be especially useful for airlines to be able to send updates on flight times and delays. Maybe not for the fliers in the airports, but it would certainly be helpful for relatives and family members who are supposed to be picking up their fliers. Say a plane is mid-flight and has left an hour late. If you are supposed to pick your friend up at 6 P.M. and you aren’t tracking your flight on the computer, you could get a tweet sent from the airports official twitter telling you the status of the flight.

A more comical, but still useful example comes from Ronnie Garrett, in which a director of an unnamed airport tells the story about a man who was in the bathroom and ran out of toilet paper. The distressed man then tweeted to the airline’s official Twitter and the staff was then able to solve the problem. This story is silly, but it goes to show how effective immediate social media services like Twitter could be to airports. Emergency updates could also be broadcast this way. Most of the time you can’t understand what the announcer is even saying , between the noise and poor speakers.

In Agnes Huff’s article she mentions some other ways in which major airports are reaching their fliers with Twitter. Some of the examples are; San Diego Airport who tweeted about a water main break  to 8,105 followers, and Harrisburg Airport who had a discussion  with an unhappy flier due to a long wait time for 5,725 other followers/customers to see.

As we can see, the airports using social media services like twitter have been met with generally positive remarks from their fliers. So why aren’t more airports doing this? Well once again it goes back to man-hours. Airports aren’t willing to pay someone to update social media sites frequently. David McMullen finds that only 7.4% of all airports invest over 150 man-hours per month to social media. Only time will tell whether or not investing more money and work into social media platforms will pay off for airports or not.