Big Businesses doing Social Media Right: My Experience with American Airlines

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Consumers tend to think of big business Social Media outlets the same way they think of celebrity feeds. If you see that little blue check-mark, beware! It’s highly doubtful they’ll respond to you. Hell, chances are, they won’t even see you. So why bother?

But if that were true, then what would even be the point of Social Media? Companies set up pages because they’re supposed to (don’t even try and argue with me that they shouldn’t), but that doesn’t mean they know how to use them. But when they do… Oh, bless them left and right. They get that Social Media is the media meant for the masses, and if you aren’t actually talking to your consumers, just go and shut your page down now.

This is the story of my recent experience with American Airlines (@AmericanAir) and how they are absolutely doing it right.

This past week, I traveled to New York City for my first time in over twelve years. I specifically took the trip when I did because I have never seen New York at Christmas and was just dying to (well worth it, btw).

I took this trip with American Airlines (AA) because I’m the daughter of a retired captain with the company. And actually, it’s not just my dad. My uncle was their Chief Pilot for a time, so my history with the company is well-steeped.

Now, being the daughter of a former captain means I get perks, as does almost any family member of almost any company of anytime ever. Nothing fancy, mind you, but they’re there, all the same. Of course, as the recipient of those perks, it’s my duty to be respectful of the company when using their services, and I take that very seriously. They’ve been a good company to my family over the years and I will always cherish the things I’ve been able to do and see because of them.

Like this trip. I mean, come on. New York City at Christmastime. With snow, and Rockefeller Center, and Serendipity 3, and Macy’s, and snow, and Times Square, and did I mention snow? Because there was snow.

So saying that I was a little excited when the plane touched down and there was already snow out my window is probably a bit of an understatement. It was one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever experienced (sorry, dad), and I told the co-pilot as such as we de-boarded. He and I were chatting up the gang plank about flight bags and family and Snoopy Christmas ties (his) and I was missing something very very important.

My heavy-duty pea-coat that was still sitting in the overhead compartment back above seat 36.

And I didn’t realize this until I was well past airport security (the point of no return).

Actually, I already had my luggage and was just about to walk out the door when I realized I’d forgotten it. Keep in mind, I have never forgotten something on a plane before. After all, I’m a seasoned professional at this flying business. It’s simply not something we do.

I quickly found out that there was actually a whole protocol for this sort of thing and that I needed to talk to baggage claim, which I promptly did. Planes come and go fairly quickly at airports and I didn’t want mine taking off with my jacket still on board.

What you should know when I went into baggage claim was that it was busy in there. At least it looked that way to me. And both girls who were occupied were being harassed by passengers. But these girls were handling it with aplomb and were still ridiculously friendly to me when they called me up. I gave them my situation, and while they took care of it, I hopped on Twitter to start sharing my experience.

Now, I like to tweet out to companies when I’m patronizing their businesses. After all, we need to work together to keep conversations alive on Social Media. I don’t usually hear back, and when I do, it’s almost always the next day or a few days later. Not this time. This time I got a response immediately and a conversation was born.

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This conversation took place in the span about fifteen minutes. I messaged, they responded, and so on. This, boys and girls, is how you do Social Media for business. And it’s especially true for Twitter. The good folks over at Twitter have developed their platform for easy conversations, but people don’t use this feature nearly as much as they should. Company employees clock in, respond to messages, and then go about their business. It’s rare to see a company do it in real time, and even more rare when it’s a company this big.

I kept up the string of tweets for a short period of time while I waited for my coat. I talked to my parents (my dad laughed at me), and talked to my friend who was waiting for me (he also laughed at me), and generally just people watched the other passengers and their various baggage issues. And seriously, I heard it all. One girl had a broken wheel on her bag, and AA handed her a new bag outright. Another woman left her bag of about four bottles of alcohol on the plane (I want to go to her party). This one couple lost their bag, but I believe it was found, and there was another gentleman who also forgot his coat on my same flight. That’s not surprising. We’re LA people, we don’t understand winter.

Success prevailed after my wait, and they came in with my coat (hooray), so Stephanie didn’t need to freeze her ass off. I made sure to tweet about that, as well.

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But the story doesn’t end there. My final exchange happened yesterday when I touched down back in Los Angeles after a week of snow and rain and insanely cold weather. This was my final tweet of the trip. Ignore my and/at typo. Even if I did just point it out you.

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Now kids, do you see what AA did right? Do you see it? Not only did they tweet me back in real time again, they acknowledged and remembered me from a week ago. That’s a Social Media conversation at it’s finest.

So when trying to figure out your voice, remember that while it’s important to know what messages you want to push out, it’s also important to talk to your customers. If they’re taking the time to message you on a public forum, good or bad, take the time to keep the conversation going. It can mean the difference between a returning customer or one who’s heading off for your competitor.

Happy Trails!

PS: Happy Christmas from Ghostbusters Headquarters. Don’t even pretend you aren’t jealous.

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Posted by Stephanie Cole

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