Travel marketing: Southwest Airlines shares its social media flight plan.

The Southwest social team uses a collaborative approach with internal and external partners.

A Southwest social media team member shares 6 strategies from their social media playbook.

Southwest Airlines communications specialist Laurel Moffat spoke recently at an AMA event in Kansas City.

Laurel shared 6 cornerstones of the Southwest social strategy every leisure marketing specialist focused on social media should study:

1. Listen first, talk later. The Southwest team has found that if you listen first, you can discover what content is meaningful and relevant for your audience.

2. Personalize the experience for your audience. Southwest team members sign their names to Facebook posts, share content customers are already thinking about, and localize content.

One example of localizing content:  Southwest maintains different Facebook pages devoted to fans at 20 different airports.

Southwest sends content like this to passengers on topics they are already thinking about.

3. Staff appropriately to manage your online community. The Southwest has a social media team of 5 people. Together, they monitor and communicate  with:

  • Visitors to their website, which receives 12 million monthly visits.
  • A Twitter feed with 1 million followers.
  • A Facebook page with 1.3 million Likers.
  • A YouTube channel that’s had over 5 million views.
  • An online travel guide.

This team monitors Southwest’s online presence 24/7, including hourly check ins at night, with two people trading responsibilities on major outposts.

The social team worked with Southwest's internal marketing group and an external agency partner to design this Facebook app.

4. Use a collaborative approach to your social strategy. The Southwest social media team collaborates in five ways:

  1. Internally with marketing, who create the look and feel for their social pages, the communications team who drive content,  and the legal and investor relations departments.
  2. Internally with customer service; emerging media team members are cross trained in customer service so they can address customer service questions directly, as they arise.
  3. Internally with Southwest employees, through a social media club, and the BlogCon conference to train them in social media and content creation.
  4. Externally with partners like Buddy Media for their social media platform and  VML for their external digital marketing needs.
  5. Externally with key influencers including travel bloggers, brand fanatics, avid travelers.

5. Let your social community decide what they like. The Southwest social team doesn’t try to predict or control what kinds of content their online community will like, and are constantly surprised by what their community looks at.

One example:  A video on the Southwest ground crew cleaning an engine is one of the most popular videos on the Southwest YouTube channel.

6. Fix your brand first, then launch your social media. When they first got into social media, Southwest had a few stumbles.

But it was ok because they had a strong brand with loyal customers. If their brand had been weak, some of those stumbles could have been disastrous. Learning:  Fix your brand, then dive into social media.

What have you noticed about Southwest’s approach to social media that Laurel didn’t address in her talk? What are they doing right? What would you like to see them change?

Thanks to Mike Brown from the Brainzooming Group for his excellent summary post of this event on Social Media Today, and the example Southwest email, which Mike used in one of his recent talks.


4 Responses to Travel marketing: Southwest Airlines shares its social media flight plan.

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