How Southwest Airlines Is Connecting With Customers Via Social Media

social media expert interviewIn this video I interview Christi McNeil, emerging media specialist and spokesperson for Southwest Airlines. She handles the online media relations and is the voice behind the Southwest Airlines Twitter account.

Christi talks about how to use social media to connect with customers by sharing behind-the-scenes stories, covering breaking news and seizing opportunities to connect with customers on a deeper level.

Be sure to check out the takeaways below after you watch the video.

Here are some of the things you’ll learn in this video:

  • How the Nuts About Southwest blog was created as a platform to share behind-the-scenes stories
  • Why their blog is manned with one main blog editor and a team of 30 bloggers throughout the organization
  • What type of content the bloggers share to engage customers
  • How social media has helped Southwest Airlines differentiate itself from the competition
  • How to use Twitter to build one-on-one interaction with your audience
  • How to use Facebook to build community conversation with live streaming content and by featuring fare offers and promotions

Christi’s biggest tip: Allow your employees to have a voice and establish this early on in the social space.

Connect with Christi on Twitter at @southwestair and also at @christimcneill.

How does your company connect with customers on social media? What tips do you have to share about creating community conversations online? Please share them below.

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About the Author, Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, founder of My Kids' Adventures and author of the books Launch and Writing White Papers. He's also the host of the Social Media Marketing podcast. Other posts by »




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  • http://startupresources.biz Phil @ Startup Resources

    We look at tar targeting customers rather than trying to gain big numbers because we believe that 10 hot leads is more important than 100 cold leads.  I think the mas strategy may work in some cases but in most you want to inject yourself into your customers conversations. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/angela.hausman Angela Hausman

    Great advice.  Virgin group, which competes in the same space, uses similar tactics to engage customers and discover problems before they create problems.  A student used my advice when stranded in LA before a big snow storm to convince airline officials to wave the change fee.  The airline avoided negative WOM and the customer was happy (and provided positive WOM).  A win-win for everyone.

    Angela Hausman, PhD
    http://LetsBlogforMoney.org

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  • Ben Comer

    Mike,

    Thanks for another fantastic post! I could not agree more with these concepts. The one-on-one interaction is huge because I’ve read that it takes 4-6 times the effort to acquire a new customer rather than selling to an existing customer. Social media is definitely an excellent and efficient way to gain repeat business.  

  • http://akstout.com akstout18

    I did not watch the video but I do have a comment (or two). Everytime Southwest Airlines has tried to run a contest on their Facebook Page that has something to do with going to their website or blog, either the site crashes, or the blog’s settings won’t let anyone post – this is extremely frustrating and the fact that it has happened more than even once means they aren’t taking necessary measures to make sure they can handle what they are asking people to do – a total turnoff.

    Second, the last two times I have flown Southwest I have had questions and complaints that I have tweeted and not once were any of my comments/questions addressed. 

    Prior to reading this post, if anyone had asked me what company is horrible at social media I would have said Southwest, so imagined my shock that they are featured in this post as a “how to” on social media.

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  • http://twitter.com/WillRussellMktg Will Russell

    Wow…just looked at the Southwest Facebook page. So many negative posts it’s unreal. And so few of them are responded to. Need to pull your socks up Southwest, not looking good right now!

  • http://akstout.com akstout18

    Glad someone else noticed they certainly don’t practice what they preach! Social Media Examiner should have done their research before selecting them for this post.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    AK – We recorded this post months ago :) Generally Southwest has done a great job on their Twitter and blog.  Let’s see how they respond…

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey AK – very interesting.  Thanks for sharing.

  • http://akstout.com akstout18

    My bet is they don’t….

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Shilpi Roy – Virtual Assistant

    I feel
    that Social Media is the cheapest and the most effective option of connecting
    with potential customers. It is certainly here to stay. We have got many new
    small business clients and also professionals(doctors), who are using Social
    media to connect with their clients…and to collaborate…It is important
    that the business decides before hand what they want to acheive – Branding,
    Word Of Mouth, or Just Sales…and then take the approach that best matches
    these goals..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_M2RY7JZ72JUQTDWZIL2XBBX42I Tika

    Compared to Southwest, have a look at Citilink on twitter & facebook. This low cost carrier airlines in Indonesia is doing a great job in engaging their existing fans & followers while looking for pontential customers via social media.

    I think they also have a blog but i cant recall the url.

  • eDigitalAus

    At the end of the day, what a consumer wants is to move from a to b in the most secure, convenient and pleasant way. Majority might not care about behind the scenes, or might not read anything. Airlines should spend that “social media” money more into offering better consumer experience, better price or better security. Who cares SW has been 40 years? who cares the company travel all around America??

  • Billyquid

    cost effective, not cheapest!

  • Loisgeller

    It is great to see southwest do this…and for us (the customers) to understand their culture through the stories of their people.

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  • http://twitter.com/christiday Christi Day

    We’ve recently added more members to our team in hopes that we can continue and improve the conversation with the millions of folks who are talking to us each day online.  We are one of the few brands that actually have an “open” wall on Facebook where we allow our fans to have open dialogue, and yes…some of that is negative.  We read every single Tweet, Facebook post, and Nuts About Southwest blog comment that comes to us and try to respond to as many as possible.  Obviously we haven’t responded to everyone, and for that I’m very sorry.  Hopefully with more folks on our team we can provide the outstanding Customer service that Southwest is known for in the online space as well as via phone, email, and of course…snail mail!  Thanks for your comments and feedback!

    -Christi McNeill

  • http://akstout.com akstout18

    Thank you for responding, Christi. I’m looking forward to the improvement. 

  • http://www.web-self-service.com Wesley Wise

    I think that it’s just right that Southwest Airlines start thriving online considering the huge population present there. Well, when it comes to lapses, it may be forgivable if it only happens once in a while because there may be maintenance works going on but if, indeed, it happens most often than not, then probably it’s also best to let the company know about it for improvement.

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