The People of Southwest Airlines are famously known for being the Company’s greatest asset, so it’s no surprise we look for any and every opportunity to highlight them. Over the years, Southwest has highlighted Employees in advertising campaigns and storytelling efforts spanning paid, owned and earned media. As our social media practice evolved, it became increasingly clear there was an opportunity to use emerging technology (in this case GIFs) to put a fresh face on our Social Care Team.
Southwest Employees are known for being witty, energetic, human, and extending world class hospitality to Customers. Whether welcoming Customers onboard or interacting with them on social media, our challenge was to bring those qualities and more to life, oftentimes in 140 characters or less.
Our objective in creating GIFs for use on social media channels was to bring the personality of our People to life in our Social Care engagements, a conversation that tends to be somewhat transactional: ask a question, get an answer; make a complaint, receive an apology. Specifically, we aimed to achieve the following:
Over the last couple of years, our Social Care Team used Southwest-branded GIFs in their social media responses featuring Employees that were highlighted in our Marketing campaigns. Traditionally, these Employees represented Customer-facing work groups such as Flight Attendants, Pilots, and Customer Service Agents.
In 2019, we set out to highlight the actual Employees from our Social Care Team. These Employees work 24/7/365 answering Customer questions, comments, complaints, and compliments that arise on social media channels. They are the real behind-the-scenes heroes talking to Customers on social media for the world to see.
In partnership with Southwest’s in-house Creative Studio, we created a series of 100+ GIF assets for predictable social conversations spanning holidays, seasons, and general goodwill. As the LUV airline, you can bet we have Valentine’s Day themed GIFs. Spring, Summer, and Winter: we have GIFs for those occasions. A wink and a nod from your friendly Southwest Employee: you better believe we created GIFs to highlight those same experiences you might expect in the airport and on the airplane, too.
General Goodwill GIFs
These assets serve to remind people that Southwest is a Company of People and not just planes. They humanize our brand and personify our Southwest Heart maxim, “Without a Heart, it’s just a machine.”
Since we created and distributed the new GIFs, our Social Care Team has been consistently using them in their social media responses to Customers.
In addition to improved morale and excitement among the team, we have found that using GIFs in our replies resulted in a 73% increase in engagement rate with those posts. Oftentimes, Customers even reply to our Social Care Team's GIF responses with comments like "yall are the best" and "this is why I fly Southwest."
We look at the quantitative and qualitative metrics each month and recognize our Social Care Teammembers who had the best use of a GIF based on the Customer reactions. This encourages the great work the team is doing and recognizes our highest achievers.
At Southwest, we take great pride in influencing the domestic airline industry. We also strive to be leaders in how we connect with Customers on social media. So long as this old saying rings true, "immitation is the sincerest form of flattery," we are indeed flattered by many of the copy-cat GIFs that we've inspired within our industry. Many of our direct competitors have created their own GIFs for use in similar social media conversations. We applaud any brand that wants to connect with their customers in fun ways.
We’re on a mission to share the love whether on our planes or interacting with Customers online. We'll continue to add more GIFs to our asset library to humanize the brand and boost engagement with Customers.
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