Thursday, October 04, 2007

Company Blog Checkup: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines' evangelists are the stuff of legend. In their landmark book Creating Customer Evangelists, McConnell and Huba use as their first example a Southwest customer that wrote the airline shortly after 9-11 informing them that she was encouraging all her friends and clients to fly Southwest Airlines. She included a check for $500, explaining that Southwest needed the money 'more than I do'. Now THAT is evangelism!

So it makes sense in this case that Southwest's blog would break with the norm, and focus on the company and the people that make the airline so beloved by its customers. When arriving at the blog, appropriately titled Nuts About Southwest, you immediately notice that Southwest lets several different employees, from all levels of the company, write for the blog. Mechanics, analysts, customer communication managers and flight attendants are all blogging for the company. I think this is a good move because Southwest's workers are such a big part of why the company is so beloved by its evangelists, and it helps Southwest to keep all areas of its company involved in the blogging process. I even noticed that the airline is letting one customer leave a series of posts. Great stuff.

On the content front, NAS does a great job of not only pulling back the curtain on the company, but the entire airline industry. The blog goes from discussing how Southwest is working with Ronald McDonald House Charities and how it is honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, to how it handles parts that malfunction, and its stance toward overbooking flights. Content-wise, the blog does an excellent job of covering topics that will be of interest to fans of Southwest, as well as industry-based posts that address topics that all travelers are interested in. A recent post on the company's debate over keeping its open-seating policy or moving to assigned seating generated over 400 comments.

Given that Southwest has a stable of writers, you would expect a brisk posting schedule, and that's exactly what you get with NAS. The blog has an almost daily posting schedule, with an occasional dip over the weekend, balanced out with the occasional 2 posts on the same day. Ideally, you would want a company blog to have a new post every weekday, and NAS usually meets this goal.

Now lets move to comments. Almost every post on NAS has comments, and most have more than 10. Not surprisingly, the NAS writers do an excellent job of not only replying to comments left to their own posts, but they also are good about commenting on posts that their fellow writers leave. This is Blogging 101, but the simple act of replying to comments shows your readers that you are grateful for their input. It also encourages more readers to leave comments, once they see that the points that they raise in the comments will be addressed. And as always, more comments is a telltale sign of a blog that has a strong community.

Finally, let's move to the sidebar. All the basics are covered here, archives, search, categories, RSS options, etc. One good and bad point, there are plenty of non-Southwest links, many of which are sites that offer help and advice for travellers, which is a great move. But there's no 'About Us' section, or a link to the writers' bios. This isn't a huge issue, and I mainly raise it because this is about the closest I can find to a 'problem' with the blog.

Overall, Nuts About Southwest is an excellent effort. It brings its fans closer to the airline, the people that make Southwest so beloved, and it even does a great job of addressing common complaints and questions about the airline industry in general. The only area I could suggest for change would be to let more Southwest evangelists post to the blog. I'm sure if the airline offered its customers the change to pen a post, that they would get an avalanche of submissions, and such posts would give even more color to what is already a very bright and attractive company blog.

And now the scoring:

Content: 28 (Out of a possible 35) - Blog does a good job of covering not only Southwest and the airline industry, but the people that work for Southwest.

Comments: 27 (Out of a possible 35) - Most posts get comments, and the bloggers do a decent job of replying to comments left by readers.

Posting schedule: 15 (Out of a possible 15) - Almost a post a day, and very few gaps. Hard to ask for more than that.

Sidebars: 11 (Out of a possible 15) - Extensive blogroll and tags sections, but no pics/bios for writers on sidebar, although each post does link to the writer's bio, which is good.

Total Score: 81 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from Southwest wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both. If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services. And if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me!

UPDATE: Bob Hurst, Southwest's Video Blogger, emailed to let me know that if you click on each author's name under the title of the post, that it will take you to their bio. Thanks Bob!

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Anonymous said...


As always, good review. As I read your reviews and consider my own corporate and entrepreneurial experiences, I think it is good to note that no matter the tool we use to communicate, the areas you highlight apply to all good communications: communicate regularly, a variety of view points, interactivity, listening and responding to readers. These are all things that good communications include, whether or not we review newspapers to magazines to e-newsletters to blogs and so on. Nice job, Mack.

Mack Collier said...

Thanks Lewis!

anonymous said...

Great checkup Mack. I've always been impressed with Southwest's blog and wish more companies had a blog like theirs.

Mack Collier said...

Southwest really has a great company blog. Whenever I do a Company Blog Checkup, I try to give examples of things the company is doing right, as well as areas they need to work on. But for Southwest's blog, I really had to stretch to find any area that needed work, it almost becomes nit-picking to mention anything 'wrong'.

And you're exactly right Easton, many companies would do well to follow Southwest's good example!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments and the checkup. We're hard at work on making improvements, so say tuned.
SWA Blog Boy

Mack Collier said...

Thanks for checking in, Brian. I've noticed several visitors coming here from Southwest's blog, so it's good that Southwest is monitoring the blogosphere!