Having attended the Travolution Summit this week in London, I was amazed at the influence of Twitter on the way in which we now communicate. Suddenly the hypothetical barriers between the speakers, the audience and the outside world were removed.
‘Tweets’ (comments on Twitter) ranged from pertinent questions to the panel of speakers right down to jokes about the colour of one of the panelists socks and criticisms of individual speaker presentations (a little too far maybe?). The live Twitter feed was displayed on the large screen for all to see and as the summit progressed more and more comments were posted from those tweeting from outside the event.
With all the buzz surrounding Twitter at the moment I thought it would be a good idea to explain for those ‘non-Tweeters’ (or is not ‘non-twitterers’?!) what it is, where it came from and to share a couple of case studies from travel companies who are using it to their advantage.
How did Twitter start?
Twitter was a side project from [podcasting service] Odeo a spin-off company from Obvious Corp. which was founded by Evan Williams. Williams co-founded Pyra Labs, which developed Blogger software for blogging, eventually sold to Google. Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey came up with the idea of being able to share your status with your friends really easily so that they know what you are doing. He and co-Founder Biz Stone made the connection between status and SMS in March 2006. They bought the Twitter.com domain in August 2006. Twitter was launched officially in March 2007 at South by Southwest – the largest music festival in the US and has grown rapidly worldwide since. The 2009 edition of the festival saw an influx of tech savvy attendees and apparently strained the AT&T network capabilities serving the area.
What is Twitter?
Twitter allows you to send a message of 140 characters long to your friends, colleagues, contacts (known as followers) on Twitter. You can access Twitter and send messages via the web or via SMS. You can view messages from all those friends, colleagues and contacts who you choose to follow. Essentially it’s a great way to be kept informed of the latest news from your friends and industry contracts, to keep track of what they are doing and to have up-to-the-minute information on what is happening in your industry.
How are travel companies using Twitter?
Alaska Airlines has a team dedicated to their social media policy. Elliott Pesut, Campaign Management Specialist is the main person tweeting on behalf of Alaska but what he tweets is a team effort. Their company Twitter goal is to listen and help customers with their questions or issues. They also use Twitter to be more accessible. ‘Accessibility has helped us establish a very open and honest relationship with our Frequent Fliers’, says Pesut. ‘It’s a terrific listening post – we can field questions, ask for suggestions and reach out to distressed customers. Bottom line, we’re making ourselves available to help and make travel easier. I love that I’m only a tweet away from customers while they travel. You don’t get more accessible than that.’
An important that many companies are pondering at the moment is who should be responsible for Twitter. At Alaska, the marketing department holds overall responsibility falling under the umbrella ‘CRM & Interactive marketing’. The Corporate Communications and Customer Care departments also hold a long term interest in the success of the campaign.
In terms of measuring success, Alaska measure follower growth and interactions with customers as well as clicks via Bit.ly (short webinks). The full details of the interview can be found here - http://www.socialmediatoday.com/SMC/88461
The Boston Globe reports ‘At Southwest Airlines, the social media team includes a chief Twitter officer who tracks Twitter comments and monitors a Facebook group, an online representative who fact checks and interacts with bloggers, and another who takes charge of the company's presence on sites such as YouTube, Flickr, and LinkedIn. So if someone posts a complaint in cyberspace, the company can respond in a personal way.
For example, when Travis Johnson, known by the Twitter handle, "pastortrav," complained recently about Southwest's check-in process, he received a quick, public response from an airline employee saying, "So sorry to hear it! What don't you like about the check-in process? Did your flight get off okay?"
"We monitor those channels because we know these conversations are taking place there, and we can either watch the conversations or take part in them," said Southwest spokeswoman Christi Day.
Hilton Hotels in Australia recently invited ‘Twitterati’ to their hotel in Sydney for a ‘beach meet’ breakfast discussion. Although one twitterer seems to have summed up the feedback from the event by posting ‘Something fishy about Beachmeet – a PR stunt?’ along with this link - http://howtousetwitterformarketingandpr.com/