31 March 2009

Will The Airlines REALLY Use Social Media For Consumer Interaction?

Everyone is all a-Twitter these days. Wonderful and wild stories are circulating of Airlines being eagle eyed and capturing and more importantly responding to messages that are dealing with real time issues via Twitter, FB or blogs. Alaska, jetBlue and Southwest are frequently named for doing just that.

OK everyone ...
Stand back.
Get your noses out of the Koolaid trough.
Take a deep breath.

Is there anyone out there who honestly thinks airlines are going to have armies of people who are sitting around waiting to read every Tweet on some little problem? is it just me or is this a completely MAD notion?

This is NOT the right use of Twitter, nor is it an expectation that anyone in their right mind should even think is realistic.

The airlines have never - repeat never - engaged in two way communication with their consumers except at the coal face - boarding gate and onboard.

Don't get me wrong - there are some good uses of Twitter, Facebook and Blogs for the airlines to communicate with their customer base. But let's be realistic, this is not 1:1 it is 1:N where N is many - as in thousands or millions.

Forums and message boards have been managed by airlines and other suppliers for many years - this is not new. Social Media is just a spiffed up version of these tool sets. Just read the blogs put out by the suppliers. Some are refreshingly honest and even helpful. But most are still put out by - well PR Hacks. Even Southwest's efforts in Social Media is managed by their PR department.

I am slamming their efforts - far from it - I think this is a very positive trend. But let's not kid ourselves that this is not an open and frank dialogue and customer interaction tool.

If you believe that this is the case and you disagree with me - then clearly you believe in the tooth fairy and I have some choice ocean front real estate in Nevada you might be interested in.


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