For the monthly Austin AMA Power Lunch series, marketers from all over Austin converged on the Hilton to hear the lessons Southwest Airlines had learned from their social media experiences. The speaker of the hour was Paula Berg, the Manager of Emerging Media for Southwest Airlines. In Paula’s mostly Social Media presentation, she shared where they’ve been, where they’re going, their biggest successes, and their biggest failures.
Here are some of the key take-aways:
Social Media can help you reach a new demographic. The Nuts About Southwest blog started as a replacement for A&E’s Airline. The show allowed Southwest to reach a different demographic by giving customers an inside look at their culture. All you need to know is who you want to target and where they hang out.
It’s OK to not have a strategy as long as you have a strategy?!? Paula mentioned she didn’t have a strategy when they started the blog, but I think she was just being modest. The strategy, or maybe we should call it a goal, was to give customers an inside look at Southwest. What they didn’t anticipate was all the things the blog would become. Social Media is so new, don’t try and put too narrow a scope on your strategy. It’s very much like a box of chocolates…
It’s good to have a presence in Social Media before you have a crisis. Blogs in response to bad press are not seen as authentic. You need to create conversations using Social Media before it’s too late.
Immediate, passionate feedback exists at no cost. Southwest was able to avoid using too much ink when customers print boarding passes, and discovered the real reason people don’t like their open seating policy. Paula has been able to create an open relationship with customers where they offer feedback because they know they will be heard.
You need thick skin. Criticism, warranted or not, hurts. The lesson is to be prepared to take the good with the bad.
When the media won’t listen, take your message directly to the people. Paula and her team “fought fire with fire” when responding to a couple of young ladies claiming they were treated unfairly because of their good looks. Since the media was only interested in one side of the story, Southwest created a video response that went viral. The only videos viewed more that week were of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Listen. Some of the most valuable information Paula received was from listening to what people where saying- especially on Twitter. Southwest first discovered their “rapping flight attendant” through a twitter post. It’s amazing to think you might learn something about your own company reading your Twitter feed!
Never stop the conversation. When people comment on your blog posts, respond. This goes right along with listening. Social Media is a two way street. Don’t ignore people when they talk to you.
Social Media causes sleeplessness. Someone asked Paula what the ROI is for Southwest’s Social Media efforts. From Southwest’s point of view, it is huge. The only cost for them was paying Paula, and, over the past three years, she has worked many hours of free overtime. Social Media never sleeps, and neither does Paula. If you decide to immerse yourself this world, be ready with a case of red bull and a trusty mobile device.
Interested in more marketing programs and networking? Visit the Austin American Marketing Association website (www.austinama.org) for coming events and the AMA blog (www.austinama.org/blog) to be a part of the conversation.