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Exercise: JetBlue Uses Social Media to Connect with Customers
JetBlue Airways provides a good example of how a company can successfully use social media to better connect with its customers. Marty St. George, senior vice president of Marketing Commercial Strategy at JetBlue, speaking at conference in June 2010, admitted that the airline industry comes in last in terms of American customer satisfaction ratings. However, Mr. George, sees social media as a powerful way to 'bring humanity' back to travel. In September 2006, JetBlue began with a corporate blog penned by its founder and CEO, David Neeleman, but the blog fell quiet by October 2007. However, participation in other social media platforms, such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, were started after an incident in February of 2007. This effort has proven highly effective in helping the airline get closer to its customers.
JetBlue's goal of 'bring the humanity' back to air travel was dealt a serious blow on February 14, 2007, when weather and "…a shoestring communications system that left pilots and flight attendants in the dark, and an undersized reservation system," caused about 1,000 flight cancelations within five days, stranding thousands of passengers on Valentine's Day. This type of public relations disaster is what every airline fears. JetBlue reacted by using traditional and social media to make amends to its customers.
In an effort to reach out to customers, CEO Neeleman, appeared in an unscripted YouTube video, apologizing for the airline's mistakes and announcing a "Customer Bill of Rights," which outlined steps the airline would take in response to service interruptions. The admission of complete responsibility for the incident and an acknowledgement of the pain it caused passengers, coupled with a credible promise to fix it, amounted "to the perfect business apology-in fact, it is likely to become a generally accepted standard for how business errors should be handled." As a consequence, the video apology received a significant number of comments, most of which were positive because it felt authentic and genuine. The YouTube experience gave the company a glimpse of the power of using social media to establish a two-way dialogue with its customers. The recognition of just how effective social media can be in repairing a damaged image and improving customer relations set the airline down the path of crafting an overall social media marketing strategy.
The centerpiece of that social media strategy has become JetBlue's Twitter account, which grew from a mere 700 followers, as of March 7, 2008, to approximately 1.1 million followers by August of 2009. This kind of growth in just over 17 months is nothing short of phenomenal and can be directly attributed to the company's social media strategy of first using Twitter to see what people were saying about them, then responding to questions and finally engaging in full blown conversations with their customer base.
Today, JetBlue has rebuilt its reputation and made enormous strides in improving its relationships with customer through the use of social media. Indeed, Todd Wasserman writes on Mashable, "JetBlue is one of the top airlines associated with the web... When it comes to social media, it's less about direct sales and more about brand building, and JetBlue has embraced it with gusto."
As of the end of October 2011, the airline's YouTube Channel, jetBlue, had accumulated over a million views. Its JetBlue Airways Twitter page had attracted over 1.6 million followers, with more than 12,000 tweets. The company's Facebook page racked over 500,000 fans. The effective use of video, microblogging and social networking has played a key role in helping the company strengthen its brand. In addition, JetBlue uses its social media properties to attract people to its web site jetblue.com, where they can purchase tickets, converting them from fans to customers.
Review Questions for JetBlue Case Study
1. Why do you think JetBlue became active on more social media platforms following the February 2007 incident?
2. The apology of the CEO of JetBlue took place several years ago. Do you think that strategy would still be an effective one for a company today? Why or why not?
3. How does JetBlue's response to the stranding of passengers compare to United's response to the broken guitar (from the earlier case study)? Based on the information here, which do you think was more effective and why?
4. Why has Twitter become the most popular social media platform for JetBlue in helping them improve customer satisfaction?