Is JetBlue using twitter to spy on its customers…or blow their minds?

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Is JetBlue using twitter to spy on its customers…or blow their minds?

jetblue embraces twitter

So, I’m hanging out with William Shatner at the Jet Blue terminal on Friday…

Well, actually, I am watching him in a mildly-creepy voyueristic kind of way as he saunters up to check in for his flight to Burbank.

My first thought is, “damn, his piece looks good.”

I’m losing my hair fast, so I am seriously tempted to ask where he bought his, but, then I remember…this is NY, we don’t do stuff like that. We’re just that cool.

But, I have to tell someone about my sighting, so I figure I’ll tweet about it. I crack open my mac, pop open Firefox, see Jet Blue’s free wi-fi terms of service page pop up, click on the button that says agree, then start to browse.

I then tweet…

JetBlue terminal. William Shatner waiting in pinstripe suite and shades to board flight to Burbank. Why’s he flying JetBlue? Free, maybe?

A few minutes later, I realize I can get a much better signal with my broadband card, so I make the switch (FYI–not much better), surf a few pages, then check my e-mail to find that…

Jet Blue is now following me on twitter.

What the?! I am instantly freaked out. My mind starts spinning. “Was there something in that terms of service page that let them track my browsing, follow me to twitter, then publicly seek to follow me on twitter?”

I’m over James T. William Denny Kirk Crane Shatner actor dude in a blink as I jump back on twitter to report,

Using JetBlue wifi to access twitter, 10 seconds later, I get a follow request from JetBlue on twitter. Half freaked out, half awed.

I think this is the end of it and vow never to use Jet Blue’s free wi-fi.

But, some 20-minutes later, the saga moves to the next phase

Oh, I should’ve told you, I had strep-throat, a uvula the size of a thumb and I was beginning to sweat enough to freak out everyone around me, so I bailed on the flight and drove home, where I did a quick check of my e-mail only to find…

An e-mail, not a DM, but an e-mail from JetBlue in response to my last message on twitter, reading:

Hi Jonathan,

don’t worry – we didn’t follow you on Twitter because we saw you on the WiFi (that thought scares even me!) – but because I saw your tweet about William Shatner – my intention was to see if I could DM to say something mildly silly about the idea that “well JetBlue IS on Priceline” or that he cold be flying because he likes the SciFi channel.

Sorry to startle (and Happy Jetting!

Morgan Johnston
Corporate Communications
JetBlue Airways

Okay, my first reaction…cool, so they’re not bugging my backpack.

Second reaction…mega jet co has some dude dedicated to monitoring and responding to what’s being said about JetBlue in the twittersphere.

That’s pretty damn cool.

Cool because they care. And cool because have a clue that something called twitter not only exists, but might be a useful way for them to participate in the conversation. Now, I needed to know more. So, I click onto JetBlue’s page on twitter and see Mr. Blue is following some 2,049 people…and 1,923 are following him back!

And, he’s having real conversations with many of them.

For crying out loud, doesn’t Jet Blue know not to get too close to the customers or else they might ask you for something and you might actually have to one day give it to them? I mean, didn’t they even crack open the stodgey old megacorp guide to optimizing returns while minimizing interaction?

This level of conversation from a multi-billion dollar company was just too much to stomach.

So, on Saturday afternoon, I e-mailed Mr. Morgan Johnston, Corporate Communications guy at Jet Blue.

Here’s what I asked him:

  • What exactly do you do for JetBlue? Twitter only, do you help manage other communities?
  • Why are you on twitter? What are you/JetBlue trying to accomplish?
  • How did you know I mentioned JB on twitter? Have you developed a bot or other service to scan the mention of JB in real-time? Do you do it some other way?
  • Are you the only one doing this or or there others?

And, in a reply that same afternoon, here’s what he shared:

I’m glad I didn’t spook you too much.

I’ll do what I can to answer your questions (although I don’t have access to all my links as I’m out and about at the moment) – let me know if you need more info.

I’m Manager of Corporate Communication, focusing on New Media uses for both internal and external communication. Because of existing proclivities toward web ‘stuff’ one of my current roles is developing a social media presence for JetBlue utilizing tools and spaces our customers (and crewmembers) are already using and comfortable with.

Several of us were already Twitter users when we saw the potential for corporate interaction directly with customers. – not necessarily marketing – but a proper communication tool to talk with customers. We learned last February the value of a certain amount of transparency when we posted a video of our founding CEO on YouTube to address customers affected by the ice storm that swept through the Northeast. Our Twitter account is much the same thing; making ourselves available in an environment where are customers already live. -again not focused on marketing – but real interaction: less billboard – more information booth.

There’s also an added advantage in that the community allows for a more casual approach and conversation than traditional dissemination services… And MUCH more immediate interaction so long as you’re able to keep up.

We track Twitter mentions of our brand through various services from the internal “track” function on Twitter to external tools like tweetscan.com or quotably.com that are freely available to all users. Many allow near immediate notification of mentions. Though we’ve learned to be careful on when we approach a conversation we see occuring. There’s a very thin line between being helpful as a company – and being overbearing.

(Things like DMing users who’ve spotted celebs at our terminal isn’t very common – but I was feeling punchy and had a good joke worked out)

We’ve had several crewmembers using the JetBlue Twitter over the last year, but this latest iteration and voice was something I pushed for and currently run solo. Though the attitude is very much in keeping with many of our crewmembers, and our brand as a whole, so I don’t worry about loosing any authenticity should I decide to take a vacation and hand the reigns off to someone else on the team (as I type this, I’m sitting in Barnes & Noble watching my wife scan through travel books)

I hope this answers a few of your questions (and I hope you had a good trip!)

On the heels of just reading a number of articles on whether micro-blogging platforms like twitter have any “real” business use and Chris Brogan’s excellent article on managing a community, I really found JetBlue and Morgan’s efforts eye-opening.

So, what do you guys think?

Is JetBlue on the leading edge of customer service? Is this going too far? Have you heard of any other companies doing anything similar? Or, experienced something similar?

Share your voice?

[PS - Don't worry, last post about twitter for a while, just needed to get it all out of my system! ;-)]

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61 responses

61 Responses to “Is JetBlue using twitter to spy on its customers…or blow their minds?”

  1. [...] Blogger Jonathan Fields (@jonathanfields) recounts that after he tweeted his sighting of William Shatner at the JetBlue terminal in NYC, he was immediately followed @jetblue on Twitter. This freaked him out and he tweeted same. Of course, JetBlue messaged him with an apology and an explanation and this led to an extensive an interesting exchange that details JetBlue’s corporate communications strategy on Twitter. Fields writes, “This level of conversation from a multi-billion dollar company was just too much to stomach.” But isn’t transparency and humanity exactly what we want more of from corporations? Read the story. [...]

  2. Lin says:

    Jonathan, that would completely freak me out if that happened to me. What I also found rather creepy was that she was able to send you an Email (not a DM but an EMAIL) and I’m wondering how she got your email address?

  3. I actually think it’s brilliant and I wish more people would follow JetBlue’s lead.

  4. That would really weird me out! Part of me thinks it is cool as well how closely they’re trying to work with their clients. Makes you wonder though – is anything really personal anymore? I guess we’re just had handing over our privacy more and more everyday.

  5. First of all, I think I LOVE William Shatner. “Ms. Congeniality”? He was hysterical. “Common People”? I thought I would die. TNG? Best show EVER.

    Ok, sorry. Back to tweeting, or whatever.

    Well, I think this is the first practical usage of tweetage that I’ve seen. Go JetBlue. I mean, Google already has all of my information, what’s a little JetBlue tweetage going to do?

  6. All right Jonathan, I hope you’re happy. I am about to join Twitter. This oughta be interesting.

  7. I’m with Tamar. Both blogging and a social media presence are two indicators of a company doing the right thing. This is what we’ve always wanted: communication, not bullshit. Let’s hope they continue to show leadership in this.

  8. Dan Perry says:

    Zappos has also embraced Twitter, with over 250 employees using it.

    http://twitter.zappos.com/employees

  9. Just to echo other comments… I think JetBlue is getting Twitter just right. Good for them, yet another way they’re better than every other airline.

  10. Jonathan, I think it’s great. I’d be really disappointed if JetBlue wasn’t using twitter to connect. How about a contest – “Best JetBlue experience in 140 characters or less?” – ahg3

  11. Gregory Ng says:

    I think this is pretty sweet as well. I don’t see it as being any freakier than receiving DMs or emails from other Twitter users not affiliated with companies.

    That had happened to me with 9Rules. I asked my followers on twitter what the big deal was about 9rules and got a reply from someone at 9Rules explaining to me they were in the middle of an overhaul and that good things ere coming my way.

    Its good to hear that JetBlue seemed to be on brand even in their emails to you. Great story. Thanks.

  12. I have to agree that what JetBlue is doing is quite awesome. In a non-creepy way. To the extent, that I had a choice of carriers to book an upcoming flight to Vegas and chose Jet Blue
    1)I’ve flown them before, and they worked
    2) They take social networking seriously.

    There’s something about flying to a New Media conference on a plane owned by a company that takes New Media seriously that’s just frakkin’ mind-bending.

  13. In the process of reconsidering Twitter I found that terms can be tracked, sort of like a really beta and limited Google Alerts. I think that tracking a mention of your name is a good idea. I hope wireless providers are tracking their rep on Twitter.

    AND, I think they should tread lightly when following someone using an account named for an organization, because that has a different connotation for the one being followed.

    If you’d been immediately followed by someone with the ID shatnerfan, would that have been mildly stalker-ish, but not Orwellian-creepy?

  14. I’m not sure that the more important question isn’t: why haven’t more companies started doing this? No barrier to entry, tremendous upside, great opportunities to communicate and listen. And it sounds like they have someone with the right attitude heading it up. A smart move, I’d say.

  15. Is the question whether or not Big Brother should be watching -vs- interacting? Never minding that our friend Winston Church’s interaction with Big Brother landed him a face cage full of rats – I think JetBlue interacting with customers is a brilliant step in the right direction – I’d be less skittish about handing over my information if I knew it was for communication and not observation…

  16. Lin says:

    Now I’m wishing I had finished my original thought about the creepiness to the whole thing. I do think companies should be using Twitter and other social media, and developing a more personal touch with current and potential customers, and I believe it’s a smart move. The fact that JetBlue took the time to personally communicate with Jonathan helps build trust in the company, and shows they are interested in the “building relationships” aspect in order to build longterm loyalty.

  17. I love this idea that corporate is interacting with customers.. and that they have a sense of humor! I’m not so worried about ‘being followed’ as everyone can find anything about me online anyway – at least I think that is where it is going and beyond my control. Missed you at SOBCon. Hope you are feeling better!

  18. Michael says:

    This is a great example of the real business value of Twitter. One of the largest complaints of customer service organizations is the lack of personal attention to customers’ true needs. If JetBlue can successfully transcend those issues using Twitter, more power to ‘em. Hopefully the companies with whom I do business also start using Twitter.

  19. Chad says:

    I think this is a perfect example of how big companies, ‘should’ be using social media. Actually getting involved and listening to the customers and being proactive to issues. Nice post J.

  20. [...] Fields stellt sich letztendlich die Frage Is JetBlue using twitter to spy on its customers…or blow their minds? und ich muß sagen, dass ich das Vorgehen von JetBlue ziemlich interessant finde. Es wird nicht nur [...]

  21. AskFrasco says:

    Great post! I noticed the same thing with Dvf – Diane von Furstenberg. I wrote a post about dvf and bam, @dvfInsider was following me. I think it is a great way to improve brand loyalty and get out there to a different audience.

  22. Sandra says:

    I actually saw that tweet Jonathan. It was kind of creepy. But after Morgan’s email, I think I really like what they are doing. I follow the Zappos CEO on Twitter. I bet the other employees are just as fun to follow.

    I don’t think all corporations will embrace this type of communication because they aren’t open to transparency. Jet Blue and Zappos are extraordinary companies and it makes perfect sense that they can relate and properly use social media. They will do anything for their customers. At least I personally know that Zappos does. Free shipping-both ways! Non one else does that.

    These companies are using social media the way it was intended-to engage in conversation. And the funny thing is, it sells more of their product as a byproduct. Go figure!

  23. Zena Weist says:

    Same sort of tweet event happened with me. I was tweeting with Geoff Livingston as he was experiencing issues with JetBlue. JetBlue followed me. In Geoff’s instance, Morgan reached out but wasn’t empowered to help out.

    JetBlue is trying to join in the conversation and Morgan is to be commended. I’m looking forward to a post about Morgan or other JetBlue twitters being empowered to not only sympathize but DELIGHT JetBlue customers. See Geoff’s post: http://www.livingstonbuzz.com/blog/2008/04/28/jetblue-delivers-a-systematic-customer-service-letdown/

  24. Stephanie says:

    Wow this is great and I love how I witnessed it happen on Twitter at the same time.

    The same thing happened to me when I chose to twitter about Jetblue. It is actually why I chose to use a lot of brand terms in my tweets.

    I am so amped that there are these really awesome marketers behind these accounts that are hearing me talk about how much I love the 100 Calorie Lorna Doone crackers that Jet Blue gives out.

    Likewise I am happy that my voice is being heard when I bash a company I dislike.

  25. Stephanie says:

    I wonder if celebrities will join in on the fun. Maybe if I type Brad Pitt enough times…

    On a more serious note. At first I felt a little unsettled reading your post but gradually I adjusted. Twitter users opt to be public. That’s the “risk”. I think it’s a powerful medium. Passive communication available for those who want to seize it.

    I still feel a little odd, tweeting to strangers. Likely because I have not been tweeting long enough. I have however noticed that there are a lot of smart and interesting people to learn from. Companies should certainly leverage that.

  26. Chris Cree says:

    Not only does JetBlue have someone watching Twitter and engaging the community there, but he was savvy enough to click through to your blog, find your about page, pick out your email address and personally send you a note about your concern. In real time. Talking like a normal person, not in corporate PR-speak.

    Corporations desperately need people like Morgan on their payrolls. I hope JetBlue is paying him very well. Some other company might snap him up!

    Thanks for sharing that experience with us.

  27. [...] Is JetBlue using twitter to spy on its customers…or blow their minds? | Awake At The WheelExcellent article on how JetBlue is at the forefront of leveraging new technologies to provide a better experience for their users. We used to call this "guerilla customer service" when we did it with dodgeball. Great stuff. [...]

  28. Wow! I’m impressed and see it as a good move for corporations to seek closer communication with their customers.

    Although I’m sure many of us would at first be freaked out to discover a message fr a company the size of JetBlue, at what other time in history would you have a corporation following you in a good way.

    And, in addition, he actually offered insight and help in his extensive email.

    When companies are open to hearing what customers are saying first hand, it is a fantastic opportunity for them to build good relationships and bring about quality changes faster.

  29. Bryan Saxton says:

    I’m somewhat torn. At first, you said you were a bit creeped out, despite being tech-savvy yourself. However, you did wind up being comfortable with Jet Blue following you. That, and Jet Blue has more than 1,000 followers, so they must be doing something right. I’m just curious if many people get creeped out by Jet Blue and don’t wind up following them.

  30. Natasha says:

    This may seem like an odd question, but you strike me as a very compassionate person. Are you a vegetarian?

  31. [...] Is JetBlue using twitter to spy on its customers…or blow their minds? | Awake At The Wheel | Perso… “mega jet co has some dude dedicated to monitoring and responding to what’s being said about JetBlue in the twittersphere. That’s pretty damn cool. Cool because they care.” (tags: twitter) [...]

  32. [...] sobre o Twitter e as empresas Maio 6, 2008 — FlaviaPM (Fefa-PT) Achei mais um artigo interessante sobre boa aplicação do Twitter como ferramenta de relações públicas das empresas. [...]

  33. Tim Brownson says:

    @Stephanie. Yeh I was online watching Twitter when that happened and I hadn’t a clue what JF was talking about. I just presumed he’d got a very strong pain med, Jack Daniels combo going on.

    I’d forward this to His Royal Sethness if I were you Jonathan.

  34. This is a perfect example of JetBlue doing a great job of engaging the customer in the brand. In fact, due to all their twittering efforts, it’s become part of their brand personality.

    Everything from an informal reply from a real person on a Saturday afternoon, to the whole strategy of tapping on Web 2.0 puts JetBlue in a league of its own in the industry when it comes to seeking and participating customer expressions. Just look at the buzz it creates!

    And all of this not only leads to a more authentic brand which people can relate to, but also creates trust, which ultimately develops loyalty. Other airlines need to learn a lesson here. To get their cash registers ringing, it’s a better idea to deeply engage the customer, rather than charging for a second checked-in bag.

  35. Jim Labadie says:

    This story is TOOOO cool. I’m new to Twitter, but am learning very quickly just how powerful it can be. Thanks for a great read!

  36. [...] Is JetBlue using twitter to spy on its customers…or blow their minds? | Awake At The Wheel | …   [...]

  37. [...] I’m your pushermom I’m your pushermom [...]

  38. [...] of twitter, Is JetBlue using twitter to spy on its customers…or blow their minds? is a good read — describing one guy’s personalized big brother-type experience with a [...]

  39. [...] head on in the effort to put those struggles behind them. Jonathan Fields has a great example of JetBlue’s Twitter Interaction that he posted the other [...]

  40. [...] blogger Jonathan Fields was recently “followed” by JetBlue on Twitter. He was initially surprised but soon was conversing with a real person from JetBlue’s Corporate [...]

  41. [...] 15, 2008 by Chris I came across this blog post by Jonathan Fields today. It provides some insight into how Jet Blue is using Twitter to build [...]

  42. [...] you have. Corporate identities are on Twitter, too, to connect with customers (some have said to “spy on customers.”) Go to twitter.com to read the rules of the [...]

  43. [...] and brand protection. A bit of googling, got me further twitter success stories at companies like Jetblue, Fox Chicago and Comcast. Companies and users can very easily do a brand search on Tweetscan and [...]

  44. [...] Jet Blue’s corporate communications department monitors and responds to what’s being said about them in the twittersphere. Jonathan Fields describes this well in his blog post, “Is JetBlue using twitter to spy on its customers…or blow their minds?” [...]

  45. Hannah says:

    Excellent blog post. I am actually going to share this with my colleagues at our meeting today. I recently discovered tweetscan, and saw it as a major opportunity to see if anyone is talking about one of our clients. Not surprisingly, many people are already talking about us on twitter, we just weren’t listening to what they had to say.

    I created a twitter account for our client and began following people who tweeted about us. Later I decided this might be crossing a bit of a line, and decided to send people @ messages. I think twitter could also be a great way to disseminate news and blogs written about my client. I really see it as a means for genuine communication and transparency.

    Let’s face it. Everyone is on sites like facebook or myspace, but twitter is still under the radar, and it is really cool to be getting in on something as it’s rising in popularity.

  46. [...] to what’s being said about them in the twittersphere (see Jonathan Fields’s blog post, “Is JetBlue using twitter to spy on its customers…or blow their minds? [...]

  47. ZaggedEdge says:

    This is really cool, this is definitely a good example of corporations using social media correctly.

  48. I think it seems cool as well. I would like to be acknowledged while in line at some airport counters. He seems genuine as well. I am for it… Zappos might be trying to commercialize and market a bit much (but that is their business and they are good).

  49. [...] BEST– JetBlue–we’ve all heard the stories about JetBlue spying on their customers in JFK .  They really do pay close attention to the people who they follow–when I asked if anyone [...]

  50. [...] back to Twitter. I really was intrigued at getting a chance to meet their team in person here in Reston and see [...]

  51. [...] tapping technology to open up new lines of communication with their customers. (Fair disclosure, my experience with JetBlue and twitter is also mentioned in the [...]

  52. [...] that you have. Corporate identities are on Twitter, too, to connect with customers (some say to “spy on customers”). Go to twitter.com to read the rules of the [...]

  53. Steven Leung says:

    That’s a great insight into how companies are doing social media marketing. It’s a little unnerving that a corporate entity wants to have a conversation with you, but it’s the people that make it work. It’s a fine line between authenticity and too much information.

  54. [...] improve their customer service relationships when I stumbled upon this blog entry about how JetBlue was using Twitter. I thought it was pretty fascinating and not just because the article started with a William [...]

  55. Wow, that is an interesting perspective! I never thought of companies using twitter to watch customers, but what a great idea for brand management if your a company that is on the edge of gossip

  56. [...] Putting in humanity (via Jonathan Fields) [...]

  57. [...] have the most efficient customer service team in the world? By Jo Weston Is JetBlue using Twitter to spy on its customers? This guy reckons JetBlue are stalking him on Twitter, either way, hats off to them for going the [...]

  58. [...] backfires to the social media plan that Jet Blue currently uses, one of them was reported by Jonathan Fields, in finding the behavior of Jet Blue a bit spooky that they would be monitoring the social networks [...]

  59. [...] improve their customer service relationships when I stumbled upon this blog entry about how JetBlue was using Twitter. I thought it was pretty fascinating and not just because the article started with a William [...]