Thursday, August 23, 2012

B2B Social Media Overview - Southwest Airlines Social CRM Tactics

There is no question that social media is changing the way that we, as individual consumers, consume information and media.  We have entered a stage in the evolution of media where businesses can no longer dictate what messages we see.  We now dictate when we want to watch a video, where we get our information, and who we rely on for information.  We now look to our network to help us make consumption decisions.  So, from a big business perspective, how should social media be treated?

I recently listened to a Q&A session with Paula Berg of Linhart PR and Southwest Airlines.  She had some very interesting insight to provide on the concept of social media for big business.  As the creator of own of the most prolific social media campaigns to date, Paula has first hand knowledge on how to implement a social media program from a big business perspective.  The following are some notes I found provocative from the session:

Humanize your Business
  • The reality show Airline was created by Southwest to provide a connection with Southwest Airlines employees
    • Job applications tripled after each show
    • Revenues increased 7% during the show's 4 years (attributed to the show)
Organize Your Social Media Strategy and Tactics

  • The Nuts about Southwest Airlines website replaced the show after the show ended
    • The Southwest marketing team picked 30 employees, told them to write when they like, and make it personal
    • The blog is the anchor of Southwest's social media platform.  All the social media channels flow from the blog.

  • Social Media Tactics
    • Southwest uses Flickr, Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin, and Twitter accounts
      • Each channel is assigned to one person to own
      • Southwest marketers are also active on aviation blogs and forums
  • SEO
    • Produce timely content and write about hot issues
    • Content production helps to Influence search, draw readers, lead discussions
  • Facebook
    • Facebook was used for promotion, fans would fall off after a promotion ended, but ultimately rose due to the marketing tactics
  • Twitter
    • Twitter was used beginning in July of 2007.  Southwest was an early adopter of Twitter
    • Promotions were announced via Twitter
    • Fare sales via Twitter and other social media channels has lead the biggest traffic days in Southwest website history
  • Youtube
    • Youtube was used to promote rapping flight attendant, customer service, aviation lessons, etc.
    • Youtube posts, both by Southwest and customers, has accounted for huge PR gains and web traffic
Case Studies
  1. Gary Kelly announced the change to assigned seating via blog post
    1. The blog post received thousands of negative comments about it
    2. By tracking comments and feedback, Southwest to change course and averted a big disaster
  2. A small(er) sized blog posted a customer complaint 
    1. The complaint to a San Diego local news report, and Today Show appearance. 
    2. Southwest chose not to participate, and was unable to impact the conversation
  3. A couple of customers were kicked off of a Southwest flight and banned from future flights
    1. The customers posted a video Too Pretty to Fly on Youtube
    2. The story was picked up by CNN and other outlets
    3. Southwest responded on their blog with a logical presentation of why the "rowdy" customers were banned.  This response mitigated the damage, and turned the tables on the conversation.
  4. Southwest was cited by FAA for safety violations
    1. They used their blog to communicate what Southwest was doing, etc. to fix the issues
    2. Katie Page and other blog professionals were revered for their blog communications
Measurement and Reporting to Executives
  • Capture and measure by day, week, month and year
  • Capture Ah-ha moments
  • Tell a story
  • When reporting, utilize
    • Graphs
    • 2-3 Case Studies
    • Use gut instincts, but use Radian6 and free online tools to supplement
  • PR
    • Do PR for your efforts. Make your efforts known
    • Reach out to reporters, news outlets, etc.
Lessons Learned
  • Educate Leaders and Employees
  • Get an Executive Sponsor
  • Engage positive people first
  • Don't be afraid to join conversations
  • Be decisive, and act fast
  • Don't rely on Numbers alone
See for Yourself
I've just captured the highlights of the interview and Q&A session with Paula Berg.  However, if you'd like to view it in its entirety, feel free to view it below: