Southwest Airlines expertly uses blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, flickr, LinkedIn, and more to communicate and connect with their customers every day. Southwest has also become a model for how to successfully use social media to address potentially harmful feedback from customers. If fact, many social media marketers and business owners have closely examined the strategy Southwest used to navigate the Kevin Smith incident. TMMPDX.COM had the opportunity to hear from Southwest’s Emerging Media Specialist, Lindsey Reynolds, about how the airline uses social media to strengthen and improve their brand image, increase sales, and how the Southwest team stays on top of the latest social trends. You can learn more about Southwest’s approach by attending the eMarketing Summit at Innotech, where Lindsey will be discussing Southwest’s journey through social media.
TMMPDX: How does Southwest Airlines measure the success of social media efforts? Which metrics are most important to Southwest executives?
LR: Our strategy wasn’t rigid or structured, and I think that’s what has helped us grow the way we have. We haven’t locked ourselves into doing just ONE thing. We are able to move quickly and efficiently to whatever vehicle will help us communicate our message.
We’re lucky in that our social media team is based in Communications, not Marketing. So, we don’t have to show the ROI on every tweet and Facebook status update. What’s important to us is building relationships with our Customers and Employees, and with that relationship comes trust and integrity. People are pretty jaded these days, and spitting out marketing messages all day will turn them off real quick
BUT, source codes are your friend when it comes to proving that social media isn’t all fun and games. We have two examples that we like to brag about: in July and October 2009 we had a tremendous nationwide fare sale that was only supported by PR and social media—no traditional ad buy. The result? Our highest traffic and sales day ever in our history—in fact southwest.com actually shut down for a couple hours due to overwhelming traffic.
And, our executives loved this as well.
TMMPDX: As Southwest’s Emerging Media Specialist, are you currently testing any new media channels for the airline?
LR: We always keep our eyes peeled for what’s new on the horizon, but we’re also careful not to throw ourselves at the next hot trend. Especially in this world, channels can come and go in mere months. The most important thing is staying on top of trends and knowing what’s right for our Customers and Employees.
Like everyone else, we think there’s a lot of potential with travel and geo targeted tools (hello Foursquare and Gowalla!) and as WiFi is gradually installed on our aircraft, we’re anxious to see what we can do with that.
TMMPDX: A few months ago TMMPDX published a list of our favorite social media tools. What tools do you use during a typical day?
LR: Google Alerts for sure! We have one person who compiles our news mentions in both mainstream and online media, but everyone in the Communications team stays on top of tracking the brand getting mentioned—whether it’s on Twitter, CNN, or a blog. Google Analytics are used for our Nuts About Southwest blog, Vocus/Omniture/Radian6 are used for news tracking, and Tweetdeck for Twitter. Still looking for the perfect fit for Facebook….
TMMPDX: What are your favorite resources for staying on top of social media trends and marketing strategies?
LR: Mashable is the best outlet for what’s going on, but we also like Huffington Post, Gizmodo, ValleyWag, and AdWeek.
TMMPDX: Can you give our readers a preview of what you’ll be presenting at the Innotech eMarketing Summit?
LR: I’ll be showing the “history” of social media at Southwest; how we got into it, lessons we learned, mistakes we’ve made, and…the future!
To learn more about Southwest Airlines’ adventures in social media, register for the 2-day eMarketing Summit featuring Lindsey Reynolds on Thursday, May 6th. TMMPDX readers can use discount code TMMPDX when registering to get $20 off!