As part of our class assignments last week, one half of the students were assigned to write about companies that were engaging with customers well, and the other half of the students were to pick companies that weren’t. Two students decided to write about Southwest Airlines digital media engagement. After meeting Paula Berg a few years ago at Social Fresh Nashville, It thought that I would take the shot in the dark, so on Saturday I shot her a DM:
@jfloyd: Hey, I’m teaching an MBA class re: digital marketing. this week many students blogged @ Southwest. curious would you FaceTime my class?
@PaulaBerg: Just name the date. Happy to assist!
I was really excited about this special treat, and Paula made my weekend by agreeing to join us.
Of course, Paula is now with Linhart Public Relations, and she made clear that while she still worked on the Southwest account, she would be glad to make a connection with someone on the current Southwest team. However, since she was at Southwest in the early days of social media engagement, I really wanted to hear her perspective. My wager was right, she brought great perspective to the class.
Here are are few nuggets that Paula shared:
- Let go. In this particular case, Southwest had aired Airline on A&E for three years before starting their blog. TLC allowed Southwest no editorial control, so when it came time to find the next level of customer engagement–blogging–letting go of the editorial control was not as difficult.
- Put ambassadors on the front lines. When the team at Southwest began to engage in social media, they had more than 90 years combined experience with the company. They knew the brand; they understand the culture; and they knew how to be brand ambassadors.
- Knowing technology is not enough. Related to the previous point, just because someone knows “how” to use the technology does not necessarily equate to knowing how to communicate.
- Be the Brand. Southwest Airlines has one of the best core ideologies of any company, and I frequently use them as examples in client retreats. The core values, purpose and brand promise are known and lived by everyone in the company–at every level. Therefore, you don’t have to write a tome of rules and policies about how to conduct yourselves online–be the brand.
I think it’s awesome that a tweet on a Saturday afternoon brought Paula half way across the country for our class on Monday. I love technology, but most of all, I love that the social economy is built on “what can I do for you” not “what’s in it for me.” Thanks Paula!
updated 9/11/12 11:35 PM – Corrected the original series name from On the Fly to Airline.