Social Media Helps Build Bridges to CustomersBy Samuel Greengard Print
JetBlue and the UN Foundation are just two of the organizations that use social media tools to engage their customers in personal, creative and holistic ways.
Creating Brand Advocates
One company that has soared with social media is JetBlue Airways, which now serves 84 destinations in 24 states and 12 countries in the Caribbean, South America and Central America.
"The goal is to make sure our customers feel they are being heard," says Morgan Johnston, manager of corporate communication and social media strategist. "We don't ignore problems and sugarcoat things. We strive to have our core values—openness, transparency, honesty and integrity—shine through. The goal is to create brand advocates and evangelists."
The airline has Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and YouTube accounts and monitors them constantly for posts. It has a total of 25 customer support specialists responding to customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The ultimate goal is to go beyond that and create a fully engaged presence. "We consider social media the canary in the coal mine," Johnston says.
Team members address problems as they arise, but they also look for opportunities to promote the brand in creative ways. For example, after a New York Jets fan tweeted his desire to fly the airline's themed plane, executives assigned that plane to his flight. On another occasion, the company delivered chicken wings to passengers on a delayed flight after viewing a tweet from a hungry passenger with a craving for them.
"We look for ways to surprise customers," Morgan says. "We try to find ways to create one-to-one relationships and delight them whenever we can. We can't solve every problem or address every request, but we can do things to show that we're engaged and interested in them."
Part of the company's strategy has been to tie together social media across channels. For that reason, it uses a Website and service called SoFly (#JetBlueSoFly) to achieve social integration. But the firm also relies on analytics to study sentiment, trends and consumer behavior at social media sites.
Connecting People to Communities
Many of the social media tools and technologies that organizations adopt rely on Web or cloud-based services. This makes it easy to switch on niche capabilities or introduce analytics tools quickly, but it also can create challenges and roadblocks over the long run. There's a strong need for business and IT executives to break down data silos and bridge departmental boundaries in order to reap the full benefits of a social media strategy.
"The reality that a lot of organizations don't want to face is that an effective social media strategy requires hard and sustained work," Rubin says.
It's a concept that's clearly understood by the UN Foundation, which strives to address world problems and provide humanitarian aid under the umbrella of the United Nations. The not-for-profit organization works to connect people and ideas to resources and communities, says Aaron Sherinian, vice president for public relations and communications, and social media plays an increasingly central role in building and connecting groups.
"The reality is that we live in an incredibly connected world," he points out. "People may feel passionate about women's issues or children's health, and they want to empower other people from around the world."
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