Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

The Future of Corporate Blogging is the social media portal

I’d just intended for this post to be about SouthWest Airlines stepped up its efforts to incorporate social media into its corporate blog and I thought this is a great time to go over what I think is the future of product-user, 2-way communication of the future.


Click on above image to take you to the blog

Before I continue, let’s step back a bit and understand that corporate blogging per se is NOT the end game in itself. It’s a tool to help users communicate effectively with the various elements of an organization. In a software company like LinkedIn, that means ease-of-chat with our engineers, product managers, etc… and in the airline industry that may mean communication with “Mechanics, Customer Service Agents, Schedule Planners, Executives, Marketing Representatives, Flight Attendants, Pilots, and more.”

I think moving forward every corporate social media portal is gonna have a mix of the following three components with future implementations trending towards multimedia strongly

Core Communication

1. Corporate Blog
2. Twitter

Multimedia

1. Flickr
2. YouTube

Social Networking

1. LinkedIn
2. Facebook

SouthWest Airlines’ social media portal takes off

Here are some salient points culled from their old-school press release:

* Over the last two years, the blog’s function has evolved to also serve as a virtual focus group, assisting the Company through crisis and new product launches.

* The blog’s readership continues to grow steadily month-over-month and has more than doubled year-over-year since its inception in April 2006.

* “From the debate over assigned seating to the timeframe in which we release our flight schedules, the passionate comments and opinions shared on our blog have unquestionably influenced several business decisions” says Linda Rutherford, VP of Corp. Communications at Southwest.

* Nuts About Southwest features more than 30 Employee bloggers that represent a mix of Frontline and behind-the-scenes Employees


My favorite part is that they have even included their CEOs LinkedIn Profile – Gary Kelly, although I wish the URL would have his name in it, instead of http://www.linkedin.com/in/southwestairlines. I’d just recommend their starting a group on LinkedIn as well (if they haven’t already). I even InMail’ed Linda about it.

Given that they recently started, I wonder how long they would take to beat Delta in Marketing Nirvana’s Corporate Blog rankings, which I restarted recently.

Filed under: Business Blogging

12 Responses

  1. Mario:

    In 1980, I was involved with a consulting assignment at SWA with respect to hiring new Flight Attendants (FAs). SWA was increasing the size of their fleet and they would be dramatically increasing the size of their staff. Their outcome was to reduce the number of customer complaints. This was a formidable request, based on many aspects of their business model (for instance, no meals, no assigned seats, & 10-minute turnaround).

    The HR staff had some existing FAs to interview using our proprietary process. We would use the resulting information to create a series of protocols for screening future FAs.

    After the interview process, HR identified which FAs were ‘complaint generators’ (passengers would complain about something on the flight, if this FA was on board) and which were ‘complaint suppressors’ (no one would complain about anything if this FA was on board that flight – even if a ‘complaint generator’ was on the flight).

    We were able to isolate the behavioral component which was the difference between the two groups, and working with SWA, we created an interview process which screened out ‘complaint generators.’ Using this process SWA flooded their skies with their complaint suppressing FAs and was able to maintain the lowest complaint-ratio of all USA airlines for the next 25 years.

    This specific behavioral factor was related to an engaging and caring communication style. This shows up in both verbal and non-verbal communication. Over the years, this style has become the dominant culture for SWA.

    Blogs are a great way for individuals and corporations to keep the conversation going with their customers. For me, it is another way for SWA to maintain their own, unique communication style.

    Rodger

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  2. “For me, it is another way for SWA to maintain their own, unique communication style.”

    My personal take is that SWA has always had that approach to things, after flying on enough of their flights, and that’s what sets them apart from other airline companies (well before blogging became popular). The older companies, such as United and Delta, seem very stodgy compared to companies like SWA. A flight on SWA, despite the recent setbacks in the industry, definitely has more humor than flying on one of the legacy airlines.

    Now, and this is dreaming, if only airlines in the USA could could come close to matching the service levels of many of the airlines in Asia (Singapore, Eva, etc.); most of the these carriers are way more pleasant to fly on overseas (I guess having your pensions not wiped out counts for something…).

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  3. Mario Sundar says:

    @Rodger,
    Thanks for that informative update. Didn’t know much about SWA’s history, but that was a good primer.

    @Damon,
    Looks like we have 2 positive posts on SWA. Very soon, SWA may close in on Delta’s presence on the Top corporate blogs list if all their customers are as passionate as you are.

    BTW, I totally agree, Singapore is probably the best airlines I’ve ever flown 🙂

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  4. John Gillett says:

    The success of SWA’s blogging and social media efforts is quite impressive. From the the previous comments on this subject, it appears that they also have a strong commitment to improving the actual customer experience as well as their virtual experience.

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  5. […] Sundar, Community Evangelist di LinkedIn, sostiene che The Future of Corporate Blogging is the social media portal. E cita come esempio di corporate blog che ben risponde a questa missione Nuts about Southwest, […]

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  6. Mario Sundar says:

    @john, customer service is definitely getting the A-list treatment thanks to sites like Twitter.

    SWA seems to also be focused on it, in much the same way as Comcast is (via twitter).

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  7. […] Read more… Bookmark with: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

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  8. charlie says:

    Mario,

    SWA is really participating in the conversation.

    But you point out something that focusing on a blog (and hence my earlier comment on Technorati) might miss.

    A company needs to be where the conversations are. If they are on YouTube, then so be it.

    Our philosophy is very much like you list above, we not only have a blog (which in itself comes in many flavours) but we have media on SlideShare, YouTube, Ovi, FriendFeed, del.icio.us, and Flickr. We’re not trying to get all the conversation to channel through our site, but to flow where it needs to be. And we comment on and point to sites where the conversations are happening. WE ARE NOT THE CENTER.

    While a portal might be good, I prefer a conversation that happens where the people are.

    Ja?

    Tchau,

    Charlie
    Editor-in-Chief
    Nokia Converastions

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  9. Mario Sundar says:

    @Charlie,

    That’s always been my understanding ever since the dawn of social media.

    The social media portal merely consolidates that into a central location.

    Good to see you here. Look forward to many more conversations.

    Like

  10. alhutch says:

    I believe companies should of made themselves more available to customers before the social tools came to be. Your customers are bosses not the investors. The bloggers and the social sites are just software tools that promote social on line exchanges. This is the same as bulletin boards that were on compuserve and prodigy years ago. We still have on line forums to exchange information on topics we share, I still think this is a superior way to exchange info as you have a common hobby or interest. the social web sites are just the same thing but in more general terms. Companies are embracing this arena as a public relations tool and a marketing tool to reach the youthful demographic that no longer consumes television and newspaper media. We to are using it, we have our own blog started etc but we have alway been accessible at the higher levels of the company with an email or a call. The social web sites are now being preyed upon by the big marketers which will then lead them down the path of commercialization. The intertnet started was commercial free that’s no longer the case. Social web sites were commercial free that’s no longer the case. We are living in a world where you can’t go anywhere without consuming a commercial whether on the side of a bus, at a baseball park, on product placement in a movie. Everything is becoming a sales pitch some disguised better than others but nonetheless a sales pitch, where does the cycle end?

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  11. […] their MobileMe blog saga (work in progress) 4. Cisco-Apple blog fight! (where blogging helps) 5. Southwest Airlines is nuts about blogging (oh! […]

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  12. Ok, so normally I wouldn’t really care much about the drama with the airlines (or railroads) in this country because they are always crying poverty looking for state and federal bailout moneys, while spending on payrolls like a drunken sailor on hookers…

    Read More:
    http://www.shawnmichaeladamsonline.com/2011/04/southwest-airlines-epic-fail.html

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