Digital Marketing and Social Media Strategy

Communication 2.0 – Southwest Airlines is using micro-blogging to reach consumers – an interview with @SouthwestAir

Last Wednesday I posted my first Communication 2.0 Interview with @comcastcares. The following chat is with Shannon Ferguson from Southwest Airlines. Southwest certainly gets it when it comes to using Web 2.0 to reach consumers.

I recommend you check out their blog, Nuts About Southwest. The blog traffic has increased by 30,000 visitors since this time last year, not too shabby. You can also follow Southwest on Twitter.

D: Who are you and what do you do?

S: My name is Shannon Ferguson, and I’m an Advertising Specialist at Southwest Airlines, and part of the Social Media Team

D: What social media (ie. blogging, podcasting, micro-blogging, social bookmarking, etc.) are you using to engage your clients and promote Southwest?  Of these online marketing tools, which do you find most effective?

S: We engage in a variety of social media at Southwest.  Perhaps our most well-known is our award-winning corporate blog, Nuts about Southwest.  We recently launched our blog 2.0, which allows us to further integrate social media–like with our new podcast, video blog and flickr tools — and allows site visitors to easily access other sites where we have an online presence.  You’ve probably noticed that on our blog we have various RSS feed subscription points, image & video galleries, and links to YouTube, flickr, facebook, LinkedIn, and twitter.  It’s hard to say which is the most effective because they’re so integrated.  At the risk of sounding overly diplomatic, though, they each have their own value and audience, and they’re incredibly useful in both disseminating our messages and connecting with our Customers.

D: How are you measuring your success from new media marketing?

S: We have a variety of tools and platforms we use.  We have the ability to measure tone and reach of specific blogs and social networks.  We compare this with the tone and messages with our traditional media relations, and report all to senior Leadership.

D: Are you cautious about allowing your customers to post about your company? How do you handle criticism online?

S: We think it’s important that these social media forums are a place for Customers to voice their opinions about our Company.  People need a channel to vent, and that’s often less than flattering to our Company.  I hope that what we portray to our Customers and blog readers, though, is that we really care about each person’s experience with Southwest.  With that being said, we welcome opposing viewpoints but we do not view social media as the correct place to respond to individual Customer Service issues.  We have an entire department dedicated to Customer Relations, who have much more authority and information than those of us on the Social Media Team.

D: What is one piece of advice for a traditional marketing company trying to embrace Web 2.0?

S: There are so many different ways to reach out to your Customers online, but you need to find which one is best for your Company and what you want to accomplish.  Whatever you do, make sure your efforts are sincere and believable.   Also, don’t be scared to try new things – explore and educate your leaders on possibilities in the Social Media realm.

I hope this provides you with a little bit of insight.  Thank you so much for your interest, Dave.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any additional clarification.

D: Thanks very much Shannon.

I’ll have my next Communication 2.0 interview next Wednesday with Tony Hsieh, CEO at Zappos. Subscribe for free to my blog by clicking this link and you’ll be alerted instantly when that interview has been posted to my blog. Thanks.

If you know a company who are using Twitter and other social networking services effectively please let me know. If you’re with a company who is doing this I’d love to speak with you for a future interview for my Communication 2.0 series, email me: davemadethat @


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