Here is why JetBlue is the most loved airline brand on Twitter

jetBlue Departure
Image by brentdanley via Flickr

Did you know that JetBlue has over 507,000 followers on Twitter? (as of 13 May, 2009). Yes, that’s more than half a million “fans” of the brand who choose to be exposed to the airline’s 140 character-long short messages. And this is almost 20 times greater than the second most followed airline, Southwest, which has just over 27,000 followers. But why? What is it that JetBlue does that makes it such a loved brand on Twitter?

I did some basic analysis and here are some stats for those of you who like numbers. Of the last 62 messages JetBlue sent out,

  • 42 were replies to others (68%)
  • 33 contained external links (53%)
  • 12 were free tips, like how to overcome jetlag (20%)
  • 10 answered customer service  queries (16%)
  • 9 had sales offers/promotions of some sort (14%)
  • 6 were Re-tweets (including one from SimpliFlying!) (10%)

It’s NOT just about selling on Twitter

The numbers tell a story. Do you realize that the overwhelming majority of messages were interacting with individuals, as they were replies. And there were lss than 10 messages that were trying to drive sales. The key – JetBlue adds value to their “followers” through interaction, and doesn’t only see Twitter as a medium for additional sales.

I’ve seen airlines pop-up on Twitter recently that have only been releasing deals! Well, if they really want to do that, then have they should set the expectations right, like @delloutlet, which only sends out special special offers.

It’s about making each interaction count

I shall let the examples below do the talking. These are screenshots of Tweets sent out from JetBlue’s Twitter account in the last 24 hours. They’re even having fun with their competitors! See what I mean?

JetBlue Twitter

So, what do you think? How should airlines be making use of Twitter? Is it actually a good thing to have a fan-following as large as JetBlue’s? If so, then how to leverage it? Let’s discusss…

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Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is the Founder and CEO of SimpliFlying, one of the world’s largest aviation marketing firms working with over 85 aviation clients in the last ten years. Nigam is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior executives globally, from Chile to China. Nigam’s impassioned and honest perspectives on airline marketing have found their way to over 100 leading media outlets, including the BBC, CNBC, Reuters and Bloomberg, and into leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He writes a dedicated monthly column in Flight’s Airline Business, challenging the typical assumptions about airline marketing. His new book on airline marketing, SOAR, is an Amazon bestseller that’s shaking up the industry and inspiring other industries to learn from the best airlines. Born in India, raised in Singapore, he now lives with his wife and two young daughters in Toronto.
Shashank Nigam
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Showing 25 comments
  • Dan Webb
    Reply

    One thing about the Southwest/JetBlue comparison – from my experiences Southwest often uses DMs to communicate with individuals. So that might change up the numbers a bit. Not sure how often JetBlue DMs though.

    • Shashank Nigam
      Reply

      @Dan: As Morgan mentions, DM was a metric I overlooked, but looks like JetBlue does a fantastic job there too. Over 3000 DMs! That sounds like a full-time job to me =)

  • Morgan
    Reply

    We’re actually quite the fan of DMs Dan – partially because it keeps the main Twitter stream clear for broader communications – but mostly because a lot of customer issues may be personal and might be best discussed ‘off line’

    http://twitpic.com/53e9r

  • yuki hoang
    Reply

    Not only are they (jetblue) a better airline, the blog post is absolutely right. More interaction. If your Twitter seems real most likely it probably is. Who wants to speak and write to a robot. More interaction More business. always.

  • Matt
    Reply

    Agreed that JetBlue’s Twitter-base is as much a lovefest between followers as it is a direct attempt to sell tickets. That definitely seems to be winning them more fans than just trying to pitch deals, as airlines attempting to do that don’t seem to be doing nearly as good of a job of attracting followers.

    It’s also notable that Delta, the world’s largest airline, has only 1067 followers. However, when I checked that number just a week ago it was only 749. That’s a 42% increase despite the fact that DL hasn’t tweeted since 5/15, suggesting it’s more of an increase in buzz among followers rather than anything Delta actually did/tweeted.

    Virgin America is the real threat to JetBlue’s Twitter empire, but that’s inevitably going to change since Virgin both allows and now seemingly encourages passengers to tweet on flights. They’re also still the kings on Facebook, with over 21K fans versus just 7K for JetBlue. Despite Twitter’s current buzz, I still think that Facebook remains a more intriguing and dynamic marketing outlet for airlines.

  • Rob Mark
    Reply

    Consider too, the ratio of followers to the people the airlines follow. At most, the ratio is about 4 followers to each one the airline chooses to listen to.

    If your goal is true customer interaction, to be part of that conversation, why not simply follow everyone that took the time to follow your airline? It can be simply monitoring manpower. JetBlue follows 120,000 people. How do they make that work?

    The anomaly is really Alaska.They follow almost everyone who follows them. We’re missing something here on data gathering for some purpose. What do you all think?

  • Marc Goodman
    Reply

    Hey, great article. You make some excellent points about what it takes to win on Twitter… And I agree, it’s all about making that connection with people.

    Thanks

  • Morgan
    Reply

    Hi Rob

    Believe us, we’re listening to the best of our ability using a variety of search tools. However due to restrictions within Twitter we can only follow 1,000 people a day – which is a great deal less than the number of people who follow us each day (up to 10,000 in some cases).

    So rather than follow all those who follow us (which we used to try to do) we now just make sure to follow those who we see wishing to engage with us.

  • Rob Mark
    Reply

    Morgan:

    Thanks for that note. Are you with Jetblue or Alaska or who?

    Rob

  • Shashank Nigam
    Reply

    @Matt: I think you made an interesting point towards the end of your comment – FB as a central marketing outlet for airlines. I think a smart airline brand will put its eggs in different baskets.

    I’ve been advocating a social media strategy, where there’s a “core” and then outposts of interaction with customers. In JetBlue’s case, the core is Twitter. Everything else they do somehow leads back to Twitter. In Virgin America or even Virgin Atlantic’s case, the core seems to be FB and what they do on Twitter leads back to their discussions on Twitter. Another example is AirAsia – where it’s their blog that’s the central function of interactions with customers and Twitter etc complements.

    So, I don’t think the platforms are mutually exclusive. At the same time, there is the danger of over-committing resources to multiple platforms. Hence, a core-outpost strategy works well.

  • Morgan
    Reply

    Oh my apologies, I’m with JetBlue.

  • Jennie
    Reply

    Well, the way that I heard the story is that many of the execs who started JetBlue came from Midwest Airlines. JetBlue also has many, many Midwest pilots flying for them now. Midwest Airlines consistenly ranks very high with the Freddie Award. So, there you go….

  • Everett Tsosie
    Reply

    I think that JetBlue and Southwest are doing something right to compete. I am not surprised by their successes because both use the same type of airport concept of Point-to-point flights, which was authored and expanded by Southwest. This leaves all other airlines that follow the Hub-and-spoke method behind.

    Following on twitter to me is some what important in expanding technology and will help incorporate WiFi in the air. I would think that JetBlue with the twitter following is starting to think about expanding WiFi in its fleet and is most likely talking with AirCell on their installation capacities of installing in a day and providing a service to the passengers for as low as $5.95.

    Guess what? this following is only communication and loyalty is easy changed because once JetBlue installs and provides the service, Southwest will provide the same service. So, although needed a more solid loyalty base is needed.

  • Steve Mnich
    Reply

    As much as it has to do with the 90% conversation as to the 10% promotional, the fact is that JetBlue is one of the few airlines that has successfully developed a unique ‘personality’. For example, survey 100 people who fly JetBlue about why they prefer the airline, and I would not be surprised if your top answers were: Customer Service and Airline amenities (XM radio, TV, etc.).

    This is innovative stuff for an airline. No longer is it peanuts and Dr. Pepper, but now it is utilizing media to entertain the passengers en route. Is this a sign that people now are too influenced by TV? Maybe. Is that necessarily bad in this scenario? No!

    The question is, how can other companies diversify their offerings to stand out and have a personality of their own amongst their competitors?

  • Marci Diehl
    Reply

    Hi Shashank! I can only relate my own experiences of flying Jet Blue — their staff has been excellent, from the ticket agents to the gate attendants, and on into the flight crew. I’ve always found them relaxed and using humor without being lackadaisical or flip. They’re personal and make connections (at least with me and my traveling companions) in their normal duties — eye contact, smiles, little jokes or comments that say “I see you, you’re not a number, we’re just regular human beings…” I don’t know if it was the particular flights we were on, but the flight attendants took time to chat about our trips (the last one was ultimately to Greece for my friend’s daughter’s wedding). The TV etc. were all nice too.

  • Marci Diehl
    Reply

    Hi Shashank! I can only relate my own experiences of flying Jet Blue — their staff has been excellent, from the ticket agents to the gate attendants, and on into the flight crew. I’ve always found them relaxed and using humor without being lackadaisical or flip. They’re personal and make connections (at least with me and my traveling companions) in their normal duties — eye contact, smiles, little jokes or comments that say “I see you, you’re not a number, we’re just regular human beings…” I don’t know if it was the particular flights we were on, but the flight attendants took time to chat about our trips (the last one was ultimately to Greece for my friend’s daughter’s wedding). The TV etc. were all nice too.

    They weren’t doing anything zany — they were just doing a great job under the typical stressful circumstances of moving flights.

    By the way — I’m @writerdiehl on Twitter and I’ll check Jet Blue out.

  • Bill Byrne (info@bbpublicrelations.com)
    Reply

    Steve is pretty on it. Jet Blue set the new standard in how to interact with customers (some semi-recent issues aside). Corporate image has gotten a little too corporate for many and Jet Blue’s communications, from flight attendants to their Web site to how it interacts with Tweeps is refreshing for consumers.

  • Shashank Nigam
    Reply

    @Steve @ Bill: I think you both have hit the nail on the head. Developing a brand personality that’s distinct, and then ensuring that the delivery meets or exceeds most of the time. And that’s their key to success.

  • Airlines_On_Twitter
    Reply

    Interesting post!

    AirlinesOnTwitter.com recently posted the Top 50 Airlines on Twitter on their blog.

    Pretty amazing that JetBlue has more than doubled their followers to 1.2 million since this article was written only 4 months ago!!

  • Airlines_On_Twitter
    Reply

    Interesting post!

    AirlinesOnTwitter.com recently posted the Top 50 Airlines on Twitter on their blog.

    Pretty amazing that JetBlue has more than doubled their followers to 1.2 million since this article was written only 4 months ago!!

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