Airlines are your typical B2C (business to consumer) company and often have to deal with consumers at their worst when they are emotional, stressed and on a deadline. Their customers are typically either on the way to a corporate gig or heading off for for sun, sand and a frolic and you never want to get in the way of anyone wanting to have a good time. Many reality TV shows have been produced that are centered at an airport because drama makes great television.
So is a blog the right social media platform to base your social media marketing on if you are are a company that has to deal with consumers day in day out? Is a blog a touch too serious for engaging with public Joe?
Well, it appears that Southwest Airlines believe that a blog is the perfect platform to communicate and engage with their customers and have been blogging since 2006. The Southwest Airlines blog was originally launched as a means of giving their customers a look inside the culture and operations of Southwest Airlines and allowing them to interact and build personal relationships with their employees.
What does their Award Winning Blog Provide?
Southwest use their blog as their home hub that aggregates and integrates its content from all their other social media assets such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. This allows them the freedom to provide features and functions that are not easily available or to be readily customized on any other platform.
So what does the blog platform provide for for the airline?
- A virtual focus group (they can get feedback in real time from their customers)
- A place to make and break news (When a PR crisis hits they can be first with the truth rather than be solely at the mercy of the spin or bad press emanating from other media)
- A place to tell the rest of the story (they can continue to quickly update customers and even the press on the blog with the real story)
- An incubator for new ideas (both staff and customers can use it to post new ideas or suggestions that are transparent and immediate that Southwest can take on board)
- A platform for employees to share industry knowledge and connect with customers
- A resource for SEO (Google Juice!). Google loves blogs as they are easily indexed by their crawler and provide up to date news and information and assists the airline in being readily found on search engines results pages.
The Blog’s Features
It operates as the foundation for all their social media marketing efforts and includes
- Personalization options available with a user login
- Video Blog
- Flickr Feed
- News Feed
- Rating opportunities
- Sharing features
- Official photo and video galleries
This social media multi-media hub entertains and informs and aggregates all their social media channels which include Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn
The Hub for Customer Feedback
The blog operates as a hub for discussions that can be posted on Facebook, Twitter or the blog. An example of how it operates as a forum was when they received feedback on their seating policy that was driven by a post from the CEO and received over 700 comments (this is what you call a live and open virtual focus group)
The ‘Go To’ Channel for Managing a Crisis
Companies in the ‘Business to Consumer’ sector (B2C) are more prone to PR Crises especially if they interacting with a large number of consumers such as an airline. Just about everyone knows about the United Airlines baggage handlers breaking guitars incident that was posted to YouTube video that created a PR disaster storm for United (Dave Carroll’s video has currently received 10 million hits on YouTube) .
Southwest Airlines have used the blog to manage PR crises before they arose by having platforms that they can publish immediately and share widely before it blows up in their face. Southwest learned managing a PR crisis required not letting the conversation go on for too long without participating and that the publishing of the negative comments on the blog earned trust.
Social Media Success By The Numbers
The blog is maintained by 30 plus employee bloggers from a large variety of departments both front line and behind the scenes to keep the content fresh and entertaining. The blog was revamped in 2008 and this saw visits increase by 25%, page views up by 40% and visitors staying 26% longer.
- Over 1.4 million Fans on Facebook
- 1.12 million followers on Twitter
- Over 6 million Views on YouTube
- More than 12,000 images and photos on Flickr
Late last year the blog and their social marketing efforts were recognized after winning blog of the year for several years in a row (2007, 2008 and 2009) and being inducted into “PR Week’s Hall of Fame”
Are they the best B2C blog in the world?
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Image by Daniel Henríquez