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Holly and Southwest Airlines: Lessons Learned

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Last week we shared the story of Holly, who earned the title of “Most Remarkably Kind Flight Attendant in the World" with a little help from social media. It’s a case study in how a company of any size can seize on an online interaction and turn it into an exciting and memorable real-life marketing opportunity. 

Contrary to what you may believe, you don’t have to be a huge company like Southwest Airlines to pull off a well-executed display of marketing savvy. Let’s take a look at some lessons learned from Holly’s story and how you can make Southwest’s approach work for your own business.

Monitoring is Key

Without good monitoring, it’s hard to see how Southwest could have concocted the plan to meet Holly and her admiring passengers at the gate. A sharp eye towards their ever-changing Facebook page helped them spot Rowland’s message in time to craft a response. Having constant awareness of online conversations about your business opens the door to creating personalized interactions, so make sure you have a comprehensive monitoring strategy in place.

Putting Out Fires is Only Half the Job

Dealing with disgruntled customers through social media is an important aspect of your social strategy, but don’t become so concerned with negative interactions that you forget to build on positive ones. Sometimes you need to put out a fire, but other times it’s important to sow the seeds of your next great customer experience. Look for opportunities to grow small interactions into lifelong relationships!

Response Time Matters

Without a rapid-fire response from Southwest Airline’s marketing team, Holly and her passengers would have likely been safely back home and sound asleep by the time someone got around to checking Facebook. Besides good monitoring, responding quickly also means going with your instinct, cutting through red tape, and trusting that you already have the resources to wow your customers with your creativity.

Little Details Go a Long Way

One of the best things about the story of Holly and her passengers is the detailed response they received from Southwest Airlines. They created special sash for Holly and presented her a giant commemorative cookie. Southwest even took Rowland up on his offer to sign a contract he himself had stipulated in his original Facebook post. That kind of thoroughness will leave your customers with little doubt that you are really listening to them!

How have you managed to create real life surprises for your customers that follow you online? Chances are, if you have, it’s had a big ripple effect, as delighted customers share the story and become evangelizers for your brand. At the end of the day, there’s no better ambassador for your business than a satisfied customer.

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