Taking off in Tweets – Twitter Strategies of the Airline Industry

In the Social Media air travel space, I have heard of such contenders as Southwest being noted time and time again as the ruler of social. Being that I love travel and Social Media research I thought I would take a deeper look into how these top airlines compare. Of these airlines I chose JetBlue, Southwest, Delta, American Airlines, and Virgin Airlines. And we’re off…

Stats as of July 8, 2012

American Airline: 390K Followers – Tweets Sent 46K


  • Lots of complaints with little actionable means to resolve issues –  Just an example, but the difference between:
and this….
Do you see the difference?
  • Need to personalize messages to customers:
It is great when a corporation or a brand responds to a customer’s compliments in the first place, however I am pro-personalization. It is appreciated and makes you feel special and after a bad experience everyone needs that extra love.
  • Need to get on board with social, no pun intended:
American Airlines may invite customers to submit sky photos using #AmericanView, but they aren’t owning the idea of sky photos or any photos. For this specific promotion I could only find the hashtag and no Instagram account for them. Knowing your goals is the first step, but next you should take actionable means to achieve these goals. If you want to own “sky views from air crafts” set up a Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, a contest or campaign for the best shots. Better put, it’s like one of my favorite Your E Cards.
Same concept, there is always room for more social.

Jetblue: 1.6M Followers – Tweets Sent 28K


  • Languages + New destinations:

  • Contests- #GetAwayWithItAndWin
So much promotion for this, it seems like the contest is live and engages customers. Only wish I could have checked it out, but perfect example of a campaign I don’t know about but want to check out, that leaves me wanting more.
  • Tweets on updates, events, news, travel deals/sales
  • Replies to customers- Always linking to their own content in a helpful relievent way plus their interactions are more personal
Not only am I a bit of an SEO nerd and think linking to your own content is awesome-sauce but this is more meaty. It’s personal, that little extra step to find your customer’s the correct links and information they need goes a long way.

Virgin America: 333K Followers – Tweets Sent 10K


  • Tweets flight updates, events, news, travel deals
  • Weather updates, and reminders to check flight statuses and delays
  • Partnerships that link to rich media (photos, videos)
  • Aircraft features (On flight TV channels, Food menu)
This is a unique way of using what you got, and I like it. I love knowing what features I can expect on my flight.
  • Show us yours, Virgin!
I want to see your pinboard, I didn’t even know you had one and now I’m a little confused because there is 2 out there under your name on Pinterest! I also want to see more on the Aids walk, the people, the cause, not only where to sign up.  Tell us your stories through social.

Delta: 343K Followers – Tweets Sent 4K


  • Language assistants over Twitter:

  • Self Promotion: (travel deals, travel tips, company updates, partnerships)
  • Linking to other content: 
In these cases I am a firm believer that they could have created this content themselves and then linked to it. Again with the sky view photos; easily could have made an Instagram, contest, campaign, hashtag, article, (I could keep going). You would engage with customers and have your own content to link to, although I’m sure Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and CNN appreciate the business you just brought them. Also the first example drives me coco-nuts, own the travel industry, shouldn’t one of the major airlines in the country be an authority on travel tips? Customers are counting on you! Ask your customers or ask your employees for travel tips, you may get answers you didn’t know existed.

Southwest Airlines: 1.3M Followers – Tweets Sent 9K


  • Customized icons (Very cool):
  • Use and links to other Southwest social outlets – (Example Southwest Air Pinterest account)
  • Talks to customers:
  • TV show self promotion #OnTheFly
  • Customer Engagement: Stories, questions, contests, trivia
  • Travel Tips- Most recent on how to entertain children on flights
  • Travel delays and reminders to check flight statuses
  • Interesting way of Twitter delivery to engage customers:
  • Going above and beyond for their Customers and Community – Make a Wish Foundation and Colorado Donations Examples

With all these examples, it is no wonder why the rumors are true. Southwest is one of the top dogs in the social space. They are social and don’t care who knows it. Above all they are relatable and aren’t afraid to try new social platforms. Social is like a balance of art and science. It’s about your brand while also incorporating your customers who are the reason you’re around in the first place. Treat them well and do the right thing. The last insight from all of this that I could offer would be to experiment, try it all, figure out your goals and then test them.

Out of this little research project, of the 5 airlines I have personally never flown Southwest or American Airlines. I’m impartial since I haven’t experienced either of their services, however my point from all this is social matters because people are looking at it. What I can tell you is that my decision to go with a particular company or brand would not be based on the number of followers you have but the number of engagements you make. I enjoy the risk takers, the ones that go above and beyond for their customer.


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