It’s always good to speak with people who lead execution, rather than just build strategy. Especially when it comes to social media branding, it’s the person Tweeting or Facebook-ing with individuals who often makes all the difference. One such person is Elliot Pesut (@elliottp) who leads the Twittering efforts of Seattle-based Alaska Airlines.
In this exclusive interview with SimpliFlying.com, Elliot details the airline’s Twitter strategy, and talks about the unique challenges of his job, as well as Alaska Airlines’ forays into social media and how it’s all about connections, online and offline.
Volcanic rise of @alaskaair on Twitter
Alaska Airlines’ social media efforts got a real boost after a volcanic eruption a couple of months ago, near Ancourage, one of their hubs. The eruption caused unpredictable delays to flights and the airline needed to inform its customers about changes in real-time, as well as sooth nerves. And they turned to Twitter, calming nerves online while updating passengers of their flight status. Don’t you think that is so much better than receiving an insensitive SMS telling you that your flight is cancelled?
Today, Elliot updates followers of which planes each day are wi-fi equipped and seeks their feedback on everything from new destinations to service levels on Alaska Airlines.
The importance of making real-life connections
In June, Elliot helped organize @alaskaair’s first tweet-up, a meeting of the airline’s Twitter followers. The incentive for the attndees was a chance to be part of the aviation geek night, where they would get to experience the airline’s flight simulator. A large variety of people attended, including me, all the way from Singapore. Though,it was the ability to connect with the locals in Seattle-area and Elliot and his team relished the most.Many discussioned turned into informal, impromptu “focus groups” where ideas about the airline were shared openly. In fact, there was even a large sheet of paper we could pen ideas for Alaska Airlines’ future efforts on Twitter.
Personally, I feel that meeting the “faces behind the mask” is as important as conversing with them online. And having regular real-world meetups is crucial to building strong bonds between customers and airlines.
Social media works when it’s a team effort
It’s difficult to imagine just Elliot managing over 9,000 followers Alaska Airlines has on Twitter. Moreover, he may not have the answers to all the questions he gets on Twitter. Hence, he is constantly supported by others in the Corporate Communications dept. and often reaches out to others from customer service and even IT when the need arises. And this support from subject matter experts is what I believe is the backbone of @alaskaair’s success on Twitter.
For these insights and more, I’d like to invite you to watch Elliot’s 10 min interview with SimpliFlying, Enjoy!