The #SouthwestStorytellers program was the answer to the question, "How can we leverage some of our biggest social advocates to inform, engage, and inspire our customers in a new way?" We recruited a group of 11 diverse social Influencers across various verticals with a singular passion for travel and authentic love for the Southwest Airlines brand. These Storytellers served as content creators and brand ambassadors to launch our #SouthwestStorytellers program.
Our goals were to:
1. Create a library of high-quality influencer Generated Content (IGC) that could be shared across our paid, owned, and earned channels (blog, website, social, and email).
2. Raise awareness of new programs, products and initiatives (i.e. international travel, Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, Corporate Sales, new route openings, Diversity & Inclusion, etc.)
3. Engage a cohort of influencers whose diversity in background, areas of expertise geography, audience, and social platform engagement reflects the rich tapestry of our customer base.
4. Do influencer marketing "The Southwest Way", staying true to our Southwest Heart and famous focus on being cost effective and providing high value.
The strategy involved stakeholder interviews and market research which informed a vetting system that not only spoke to traditional influencer criteria but also Infused our business needs and brand. Via a proprietary scorecard, we were able to narrow down a prospective list of over 10o+ prospects to the group of 11 that were selected for the Class of 2018.
Our Intensive selection process and vetting resulted In a group of Storytellers that Included a barefoot waterskier, a brother duo of adventure filmmakers, a country music artist, a lifestyle vlogger ,retired NFL player, and more. Despite thousands of miles between them and over 30 years in age, these Storytellers became a small family and community.
Once selected, we engaged these influencers over the course of 2018 to attend events, support digital sales and promotions, and to create original content from travel they took throughout the year.
The pillars of our influencer strategy are as follows:
1. Audience over Authenticity -- Our #SouthwestStorytellers share in common a love of our brand that is reflected in their transaction history and their content. We place a higher value on this than the size of their audiences.
2. Be Different By Design -- Our program seeks to stand out in the travel influencer marketing space by engaging influencers who reflect the diversity of our customer base. Our #SouthwestStorytellers come from different parts of the country, different backgrounds and all have varied interests.
3. Have Realistic Expectations -- Our expectations of our #SouthwestStorytellers are to influencer top of funnel activities such as consideration and awareness.
By The Numbers:
29.4 million people reached through influencer channels (blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and podcast).
1.1 MM organic engagements with Southwest branded content on their channels.
1,100 total Southwest branded social posts created In 2018.
30 events supporting projects from the launch of specialty aircraft and the opening of international routes to the NBA Draft and music events like Live in the Vineyard.
25 placements in owned channels like email and the hero image of Southwest.com which sparked a larger conversation among Brand Team and Social Business as to how we can expand the use of social content in 2019 in brand emails to customers and on other brand channels.
20 digital campaigns with bottom line impact that drove credit card acquisitions, incremental revenue through ancillary products, and air bookings.
11 influencers that became part of the Southwest Family.
We successfully built a community and the domestic airline industry's first long-term social influencer/ambassador program. We were able to garner leadership and stakeholder buy-in and win placement on owned channels and the redistribution of media dollars to whitelist premium influencer content. The program was even so well received externally that folks tweeted in and wrote to our CEO in hopes of also becoming a Southwest Storyteller someday.
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