Conquering the Awkward Line Between Social Media Marketing and Customer Care

Brands often have a difficult time, especially when handling hundreds of thousands of customers a day (even if only a small percent is on social media). Their social media teams have to straddle a very thin line between marketing and engagement.

Take the @AmericanAir account on Twitter. It can't possibly be easy to act fun, friendly (and civil) while unavoidable delays leave customers stranded and then fling a stream of abusive obscenities at the brand?

I've been watching the last hour of their stream. American Airlines has handled Tweets from customers uncomfortable in their seats, upset about having to check a bag gateside, a plane being too warm, a worn out traveler complaining about the amount of people in the Admirals Club and an Executive Platinum flyer thrilled with his upgrade.

Anyone remember the days when there was no one with whom to vent? When you just wanted to scream at the top of your lungs? Now at least there is someone listening to your pleas for service, and they are also answering.

Aside from handling cranky travelers, they partake in conversations, share information, fun facts, promotions and incredible photos 24/7. They have a target response time to comments of 15 minutes. They seem to be doing this all very right, because according to a report from Sprinklr, American is the world's most social airline; "American is not just relying on its large audience, but is also producing content that effectively triggers a consumer response."

Their social media specialists tweet from the AA #TweetSuite and respond over 1000 times a day. They are a tight knit group of employees devoted to customer care. Unlike other brands, American has chosen not to have each team member include their names in the company Tweets. The preference is that the airline speaks in one brand tone of voice. They train their members for consistency.

I personally think the Twitter team is #AAwesome. They once helped me out when I was making a connection and accidentally walked out of security. They've also kept me company with funny tweets
So when I got an email from American saying they would like to interview me as a featured AAdvantage Member in the August 2014 "American Way" Magazine, I was (admittedly) over the moon. I responded right away - and was sworn to secrecy!

Marsha Collier American Way Magazine
I wasn't allowed to talk about it online, even with my Twitter friends or @AmericanAir. This was tough because (as I said in the article) I love tweeting with the crew when I'm flying (although I am convinced that someone from the social media account suggested me for the piece).

Thank you to everyone who is posting picures of the article on Facebook and Twitter and tagging me. It's so much fun to meet you and see when you travel. (I haven't actually seen a hard copy of the magazine yet).

If you'd like to see the article, it can be found online at the American Way emagazine here on page 94 or to see a magnified version, please visit this page.

Since we can't mention names, on the top of this article is a photo of my favorite team of Twitterati  #winning!