This is part 2 of a 3-part series where we take a look at how big loyalty programs are successfully using social media to engage their members. Check out Part 1 here.

For a site with such a simple premise and strict parameters, Twitter can be a challenging marketing tool to use, and thousands of companies tweet regularly with varying degrees of success. One of the most skilled major loyalty players on the wildly popular microblogging site is American Airlines, whose Twitter activity serves multiple purposes. AA uses Twitter to support the brand’s AAdvantage loyalty program initiatives, but also to support general brand loyalty by entertaining, informing, and interacting with customers.

Cruising at 35,000 Tweets with @AmericanAir

AA’s @AmericanAir Twitter account has attracted a respectable three quarters of a million followers so far. With a social media staff of 22, @AmericanAir has the bandwidth to tweet frequently, and, importantly, address the customer service inquiries that regularly roll in. In terms of creating customer loyalty, AA’s use of Twitter as a customer service hotline has been a great help. The airline has received accolades for its industry-leading response time and helpful, personable Twitter personality.

The airline also shows its lighter side by tweeting regularly on a range of travel- and aviation-related topics that grab customers’ attention — from ‘guess this plane’ challenges, to tweet your favorite airport reunion photo, to (most exciting of all!) Downton Abbey on select flights. AA uses striking or inspirational photos that appeal to travelers’ imaginations, and engages them directly by asking them about their favourite in-flight reading material or dream destination. It also uses Twitter as a platform to announce sales and promotions, including opportunities to earn, and occasionally win, AAdvantage miles.

What we like about it: AA is excelling right now in the Twittersphere with its snappy, customer-centric content designed to appeal to a range of flyers. Promotional content is there, but is broadcast alongside helpful updates, FYIs, and entertaining content. One of the most appealing things about AA’s feed is how they contribute original material to the conversation, like behind-the-scenes photos of aircraft being painted or loaded up with cargo.

Three takeaways for social media success:

  • Contribute something. A Twitter feed composed of re-tweets or links to other users’ content gets dull, fast.
  • Be present. Like loyalty, Twitter should feel like a two-way conversation. If you’re reaching out to customers, make sure you’re rewarding them for taking the time to interact with you.
  • Stay focused. Avoid the temptation to comment on any and every topic. Concentrate on what you can add to the mix that’s specific to your industry or area of expertise.