We've all heard the social media success stories of JetBlue and Southwest Airlines - so much so, that they sometimes overshadow the other airlines that are also doing exceptional jobs in taking care of the customers throughout the Twittersphere. Here are four airlines that know how much weight a tweet carries, and some are now even paying for them.
If you've been following the recent tech expose' that Gizmodo recently surfaced aboutiPhone 4G Beer the Apple software engineer that lost the company's iPhone 4G prototype in a Silicon Valley bar, you might know the name Gray Powell. While not fired for his transgression, the young 27-year old has probably been drowning his sorrows ever since in that same German beer hall.
In response to Powell's predicament, Lufthansa's marketing director Nicola Lange seized the opportunity to invite the engineer to fly for free to Munich and wallow away his misfortune in a real German beer garden. The following is her "Twitpic" invitation.
"At Lufthansa we also noted with great interest your passion for German beer and culture. We thought you could use a break soon--and therefore would like to offer you complimentary business class transportation to Munich, where you can literally pick up where you last left off," Nicola wrote.
Savvy move by a savvy social-media-conscious airline. At the time of this posting, there was no word that Powell had accepted the offer, or whether Apple would even give him the time off, seeing he's still somewhat in the dog-house. But if Steve Wozniak's recent fashion statement has anything to say about the matter, I don't think Powell's error in judgment is working against him, to any great extent.
On April 20, Virgin America launched its first international destination to Toronto from the West Coast via a tweet. Discarding traditional advertising in favor of the newly-released low-cost promoted tweet program on the microblogging site, the airline promoted an offer to the first 500 people that booked tickets using a personalized Twitter ID. In turn, for taking action quickly, the early-bird tweeters were able to redeem a 50% discount. This campaign not only gave an immediate boost for short-term sales, but the publicity that was generated for the airline was significant, as the story was picked up by Simpliflying, an award-winning airline branding blog.
Clearly - promoted tweets makes the case for an airline replacing their traditional costly online banner ads and print advertisements with this less expensive marketing channel.
Horizon Airlines recently addressed a customer service (CS) issue via Twitter. When meeting planner Dan Parks experienced a missed connection at the Seattle Airport after returning from the Caribbean, he was told he would have to wait up to 10 hours before Horizon Air would be able to take him home. Out of frustration, he tweeted his displeasure with the airlines in these two subsequent tweets.
Within minutes, a staffer monitoring Twitter for mentions of Horizon Air addressed Parks directly; he explained his predicament, gave the representative his details and location, asked for a manager to come speak with him and, and within another couple hours, was on his way. Talk about a swift-recovery. As you can see from Dan's tweet below, this was a case of an airline turning a disgruntled passenger into an "advocate" - all by being attentive to the company's Twitterstream.
It didn’t stop there. Where Dan had been diligently stamping all his tweets with the dreaded “#FAIL” hashtag during his layover, now he was singing Horizon’s praises to his 30,000-plus followers.
“I was VERY impressed how quickly they responded,” he tweeted, just days after the debacle. “I felt I had someone who CARED. We need to see that more often.”
KLM has taken a similar approach to aid passengers. This short-and-to-the-point tweet is a smart way to engage with the airlines' customers, while promoting Twitter as another distribution channel to address rebooking issues. This tweet was issued in a proactive move to attend to passengers that were waylaid in Europe during the most Iceland's most recent volcano ash crisis.
What's impressive here is that once a tweet of concern is sent to KLM, they will then begin 'following' the Twitter user to be able to DM them back to inquire about the details. Excellent use of Twitter by the airline to respond expeditiously to passengers that need immediate attention.
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Airlines, like hotels need to engage in social media today from both a promotional and customer service standpoint, if they are going to stay on par with their competition. Those that fall short in staffing up their social media departments to create in-depth marketing plans on Twitter are losing traction to those that have realized the impact achieved through this channel. A common complaint by many airlines that are cutting costs in a down-market, is that they don't have the manpower or capital resources to staff a proactive and reactive social media team. To those airiness, I say - in today's world, you can't afford not to.
For similar stories regarding hotels and airlines in the social media space, take a look at the "Top Ten Hotel Brands A Tweet Above The Rest," and "'United Breaks Guitars' Viral Video Gets Counterpunched!"