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How Southwest Airlines Won Social Media

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Sometimes a company uses the power of social media to brighten someone’s day, put the icing on the cake of a great customer service experience, or quickly resolve an issue that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. But seldom does a marketing team channel the power of social networking to really blow the lid off a customer’s experience. That’s exactly what Southwest Airlines did for a couple en route from Nashville to Phoenix. Here’s the story of their flight attendant, Holly, and the whiz PR team that turned one online comment into an unforgettable event for everyone involved.

It All Started at Cruising Altitude...

Thousands of miles up in the air, a passenger named Rowland and his girlfriend had the good fortune of meeting Holly, an aircrew member set on going above and beyond the call of duty when it came to making her passengers comfortable and happy. When she learned that Rowland and his girlfriend were fans of Taylor Swift, she gifted them with some guitar picks that Swift’s father had given to her on a previous flight. Needless to say, they were elated!

One Post Spurred it All

Rowland was so taken with Holly’s generous gesture that we had to share it with the world. Here’s what he shared via Facebook:

“If someone in the Southwest Airlines corporate HQ can see this – I’m on flight 913 currently en route to Phoenix and I want yall to know that our flight attendant Holly is perhaps one of the most remarkably kind and helpful people my girlfriend and I have ever met. If you can meet us at the gate with something remarkable for this remarkable woman (a promotion, a raise, a chipotle burrito, anything), I will sign a document pledging to only fly Southwest from here on out (unless you do not fly where I need to go). Of course – I request a “Keyman Clause” in this agreement stipulating the contract terminates if Holly ever leaves. People like her are why I fly SWA.”


A Golden Opportunity

Seeing a golden opportunity before them, the marketing team at Southwest Airlines devised a plan. Their response included a well-earned sash and giant commemorative cookie for Holly (who had certainly proved herself to be worthy of her new title), and a freshly minted contract for Rowland, where he could follow through on his commitment to only fly Southwest Airlines. With a big to-do at the gate, the Southwest team was able to turn one great customer experience into a fantastic photo-op and viral story that was bound to gain some traction as it made its way across the web.

What’s the biggest takeaway from Holly and Rowland’s story? Interactions with guests and customers are at the heart of every business, so it's vital to shine a spotlight on them. With a sharp eye for what your followers are saying about you on social media and a willingness to spring into action when a great PR opportunity shows up, you can create a really memorable event that sums up what you’re all about as a business: building relationships and creating great customer experiences. What are some other big takeaways from Southwest Airline’s response? Stay tuned for part two of this blog post, where we delve deeper into some lessons learned from Holly, Rowland, and Southwest Airlines.

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