Case Analysis Social Media Case Study

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Southwest Airlines Social Media

Using Social Media to Optimize Marketing Efforts for Southwest Airlines

Competition in the airline industry is tough as companies scramble to attract and retain their customer base. The rise of social networking as an important tool in customer relationship managing cannot be ignored. Social networking has integrated into nearly every corner of every sector of the business world. The airline industry is no exception and social networking is now an important element in the marketing mix.

Costs in the airline industry are fixed. Profitability depends on the ability to use resources efficiently, as well as obtaining favorable fuel and labor costs. Often, small airlines survive by serving only local or regional routes, leaving the larger market and bigger routes to the larger airlines. The airline industry is heavily dependent upon the health of the economy. When the economy is good, people tend to travel more. However, when the economy is in a slump, people tend to forego travel as much as possible, opting to stay at home or use other means of travel. The bottom line in the airline industry is that empty seats cost money. The ability to ride out a slump in the economy and to increase profits in good times is to attract customers. Filling seats is the key to profitability, aside from operational efficiency. A strong marketing campaign is essential to the airline's ability to remain profitable.

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Southwest Airlines is in the low-cost airline market. Currently, it is one of the largest airlines in the world, boasting of operational efficiency that allows it to keep its fairs low. It also Southwest's quick turnaround and ability to serve a vast number of domestic and international flights is another key to its success. In a push to retain its position on a global scale, Southwest Airlines has retained the services of Shelby and Associates to explore the effectiveness and potential of using this new media to help Southwest to continue to expand its market base. The following will explore the use of social networking at Southwest Airlines and suggestions for helping them to get the most of their social networking resources.

Case Study on Case Analysis Social Media Assignment

How Competitors use Social Networking

Southwest's top competitors are AMR Corporation, Continental Airlines, and JetBlue Airways. AMR Corporation is a holding company for a number of smaller subsidiaries. It is the holder of American Airlines, American Eagle, and American Connection. Continental serves a similar market to Southwest and operates in most of the same hubs. it's key marketing strategy is based on the number of hubs and ease of connections. JetBlue is another low fair carrier. It offers one-class service, leather seats, satellite TV, satellite radio and movies for the passengers. In flight entertainment is a key selling point for JetBlue airlines, a completely different approach from that taken by Southwest.

American Airlines has a Twitter page that allows anyone to tweet on their page. Although many of the tweets are positive, there are a number of neutral, or even negative tweets on the recent list. For instance, several posters complained about delays. In addition, employees posting how many days there are to their next day off, does not paint the airlines in a good light. It gives the impression that employees do not like their job. This is an example of social networking that can have a negative affect on the company and the company image.

When one looks at the posts on the Twitter page for Continental Airlines, it appears that they have found a way to use the banter to their advantage. One can find frequent posts with links to useful information for customers, such as their baggage claim policy, last minute flight deals, and vacation packages. This was a much more effective use of Twitter to support other marketing efforts. However, as one begins to read the posts, some very negative comments from customers can be found. They are not frequent, but they are there. One must remember that people are much more likely to air complaints than they are to post raves and compliments. It is just human nature. Therefore, Twitter can be a place for customers to air the airline's dirty laundry. One cannot assume that customer's will always post positive comments. It would be more likely that one will hear negative comments than positive ones on Twitter. It might also be noted that comments about Continental Airlines were interdispersed with comments that contained the word "continental" in any context, such as continental market and continental breakfast.

When one looks at JetBlue's Twitter page, customers seem to have the reins here too. However, one finds many more positive comments than on the other airline Twitter pages. Many of them were positive comments about JetBlue's comforts and amenities. However, one can still find very negative comments interdispersed in the positive ones. American Eagle Airlines appears to have hired marketers to post frequent tweets that offer positive news about the company. While this would help to control the possibility of negative publicity about the company, it also may not be as effective as raw emotion. Consumers may see it as just another marketing ploy to attract their dollars, it is not known if this type of usage of social networking is any more affective than other forms of advertising media.

An examination of the Twitter pages of Southwest Airline's top competitors reveals many different types of usage of Twitter. Some companies allows unlimited Tweets from customers. This brought out the point that this form of marketing can be positive or negative. Customers tend to complain more than they are willing to post positive comments. This goes back to the old adage that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. If customers are satisfied, they do not have as much motivation to post as those who have complaints to resolve. The other end of the spectrum is American Eagle Airlines that uses only posts by what appear to be hired marketers. It is not known if this is an effective use of social media, or if customers do not differentiate this type of advertising from other forms.

Now, let us examine the Facebook pages of Southwest's competition. Pan American World Airways uses its Facebook page to provide general information about the company. It does not allow posts and only allows people to "like" general posts by the company. It does not appear that many people respond in this manner. Continental Airlines uses a similar home page on their page, which contains general info on the company. However, they appear to have more active posters than Pan Am. Like the twitter page, many comments were positive. However, some posts contained negative advertising, such as an article posted about a dog who died in the cargo hold (Itchmo: News for Dogs & Cats, 2007). Even though the information was old, it still appeared as a repost recently. If one takes the time to read the article, they will find that its credibility is questionable, but if they only see the headline, it will appear as negative press.

Jetblue's Facebook page differs significantly from those of the other two airlines. The Facebook page of Jetblue contains general information, but it is more personalized. For example. Jetblue posts their products and advantages over the other airlines. Their info page advertises Award Winning Service, 36 Channels of Direct TV, More legroom in the coach session and other key components of their advertising campaign. One can see that JetBlue gets an overwhelmingly better customer response than Pan Am or Continental. JetBlue received 216,996 responses, as compared to only 50 or 60 responses worldwide on the Facebook pages of Pan Am and Continental. Jetblue has a wall on facebook. Neither Pan Am, nor Continental had Walls on their Facebook Pages. The wall page is used by Jetblue to post news and travel tips. Consumers get to comment and "like" these posts. When one examines the comments posted to corporate wallposts, they are largely positive. Some contain information that could be used to help JetBlue expand their services. Overall, the Facebook page of Jet Blue allows them to establish better one-on-one relationships with their customers. It appears to be an effective marketing tool.

A look at the Twitter pages and Facebook pages of Southwest's competitors reveals some of the caveats of social marketing, Social marketing, such as Twitter could serve as a forum for airlines to build real relationships with their customers, rather than the one sided marketing that they are used to where they do not get the chance to respond. However, this requires active participation and a staff that is dedicated to offering this type of live response. Social marketing could work to establish a deeper bond with customers, but only if certain controls are established to make certain that it is not overwhelmed with negative comments and complaints.

Southwest Marketing Overall Marketing Plan

One of the key features of Southwest's marketing plan in that it does not use common online booking venues such as Orbits or… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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