Elizabeth Bryant, Vice President of Southwest Airlines University, uses Southwest as an example of how companies can benefit from employees’ social media behavior.
At Southwest, we wear our hearts on our sleeves. Southwest Warriors are passionate, and they want everyone to know how much they enjoy working for our great company. Back in 1971, our enthusiasm was streamlined through iconic Flight Attendant uniforms and a rambunctious Founder, Herb Kelleher. Fast forward to the digital age: now, each Employee holds a social megaphone and shares company “LUV” in the form of posts, tweets, snaps, and other popular social networks. To date, there have been nearly 20,000 Instagram pictures shared using the hashtag “#SWApic,” and roughly half of those pictures originated from Southwest Employees.
Nearly 75 percent of all Internet users are active on social media, and we can’t ignore the fact that our Southwest Warriors are technology-savvy and actively participating. With that participation comes great opportunity, but there are also hazards companies need to avoid. At Southwest, we developed a Social Media Policy and training that makes our work force effective and empowering, while also firmly educating guidelines that should be followed.
Our social policy isn’t any different than the policies we adhere to in person every day as Southwest Employees. We’re expected to come to work and uphold our core values of Working and Living the Southwest Way. Our attitudes and actions are a reflection of who we are in person, and they also reflect who we are online. Southwest’s Social Media Policy was developed as a guideline for Employees to follow when using their personal social media accounts. We developed a five minute, animated training course that provides a brief overview in a simple and user-friendly format. We encourage Employees to engage on social media while keeping in mind the internet is public, and they represent our Company. We’re required to embody the same values online as we do at work, including transparency, honesty, respect, and safety. Simply stated, we should always use our best judgment when posting to social media.
Southwest embraces the opportunity to listen and engage with Employees and Customers in real time. In August, we debuted the Listening Center at Southwest Airlines Headquarters in Dallas. It’s the first of its kind in the domestic airline industry and serves as our nerve center, integrating traditional media, social media and operational data to allow us to move quickly and efficiently from insights to action. The Listening Center is staffed seven days a week by Customer Relations, Communication and Marketing department Employees, who are available around the clock to answer questions, engage with Customers and share feedback across the organization that can enhance the Customer experience.
So while changes brought by social media present new challenges, they also provide tremendous opportunity. We all have to balance the many benefits with awareness that as Southwest Employees, we represent our phenomenal brand.
Elizabeth Bryant is the Vice President of Southwest Airlines University. She is featured in Issue 14 of Forefront Magazine.