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Friday March 19, 2010 12:49 pm

SXSW 2010: Twitter and an Airline: A story

SXSW Virgin America

My friend Jeff Pulver commandeered a room on the 4th floor at and had several people who he has met around the world present what they believed were success stories about the Twitter service.  This goes hand in hand with the 140 Conferences that he is throwing around the world.  One such speaker, Bowen Payson, was from the airline Virgin America that has been using Twitter to outreach to their customers.

Bowen began his session by speaking about the differences in their airline from a physical experience.  From the black leather Recaro seats, to the mood lighting.  Their on-demand in flight entertainment is just as high tech as their communication strategy.  The Twitter story began without a strategy and unfolded and matured into more than
60,000 followers as I write this.  Their main social contact, Nick Schwartz is the voice of the airline and loves social networking, partially because of his age.  They try to keep a consumer centric voice and mind set, and work to make the experience better incrementally.

Big wins for the team has been their in flight Wi-Fi and free service during the holidays from .  When they turned on their in-plane WiFi they began the first live video streams from flight to ground, and of course Twittering from the sky. As a holiday promotion, Google approached Virgin, asking to sponsor the free WiFi during the winter travel season and it was a great success from a user happiness perspective.

Because of Twitter, the team was able to achieve some good Samaritan kudos as well. They were able to move 15 chihuahuas from the West coast to the East coast, due to over breeding probably due to Paris Hilton’s fascination of the dog as a fashion accessory.  From the publicity of this move, they figure that they received tens of thousands of dollars in advertising from the effort.

Its good to see that the group also has some fun with the service. Entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki tried to get a coke via Twitter, and the team said it would be easier for him to just hit the order button on the interactive screen.  No doubt we will learn of more success stories from this approachable airline as they further their social strategy.

Dave Mathews @ggdm is an inventor, broadcaster and consultant who has helped such companies as RadioShack, Sling Media and . You can find more of his content at www.davemathews.com.

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