Organization name: WestJet
Industry: transportation/commercial airline
Web references: westjet.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Canadian Marketing Association, Ivey Business School, Western University, Silverman Research, Tactics Magazine, Canadian Business
Award winning and relevant, with an ever-climbing fan base: that’s the WestJet social media program. WestJet espouses its dedication to a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram and LinkedIn), but it doesn’t stop there. Its YouTube channel is on the cusp of 50,000 subscribers, and its most-watched videos rack up views in the hundreds of thousands . . . and millions.
The first WestJet Christmas Miracle video has garnered 41+ million views since December 2013. The result of a trifecta of internal goals, Christmas Miracle was comprised of 1) social media trending, 2) earned media through traditional PR elements, and 3) employee engagement, according to Greg Plata, WestJet Team Lead, Sponsorship. The level of engagement among employees (aka WestJetters) was “second to none,” he was quoted as saying, and proved to be integral to the campaign’s viral success. It naturally led to a sequel in 2014. (Curiously, the sequel-with-a-cause, featuring WestJet elves delivering gifts with “life-changing impact” to people in the Dominican Republic, has garnered only 7% of the predecessor’s total—3.15 million views since its release [#WestJetChristmas].)
But WestJet is not all sugar and sentiment. Taking a page from Jimmy Kimmel’s recurring celebrity tweets bit, WestJet released its own version in May 2014 of WestJetters reading a sampling of customer tweets. And now just the complimentary ones.
This is all part of WestJet employee involvement, which has been studied by wannabes and business analysts. Students at Ivey Business School at Western University have uncovered five secrets to WestJet’s cultural success, which they say is centred around inclusion. WestJetters are an integral part of most every aspect of the business, and truly engaged in the present and future of company policy and programs. Indeed, WestJet culture may be the envy of many corporations in Canada.
In a recent interview with Ivey, vice-president of communications and community relations Richard Bartrem had this to say about WestJet corporate culture:
Fun, yes, and constant engagement between employees and customers. In one four-hour window in June, @WestJet sent out 64 tweets addressing customer queries, complaints, and compliments. They’re highly active on social media, being one of the minority of organizations to embrace social media as a “voice channel.” Part of their success may be owing to the fact that they’ve adopted an inward-looking strategy, one focused on their own people. This puts WestJet way ahead of the curve proposed by Silverman Research: “It is not unreasonable to propose that by 2020, many organisations will be wholly reliant on their internal social network (whether that be a ‘Facebook-like’ internal social network, or something different).”
WestJet’s evolving social media portfolio is already on trend with the two of the four tactics that Bernard Perrine, co-founder and CEO of SocialCentiv, predict will lead to social media success in 2015: laughing it up, and enlisting employees to help share content. The content sharing helps businesses access “a higher organic reach and engaged employees who feel passionately about the company.”
“@WestJet: More shots of #TartanTail Yet another reason im a proud westjetter. Love my company. pic.twitter.com/KIhYrFOsTA“
— michelle (@michbieuz) May 9, 2015
WestJetters are engaged and actively sharing their company’s content, through their own Facebook and Twitter accounts. Internally, Yammer is starting to be used to connect WestJetters to each other. There is also a framework in place to allow all WestJetters to communicate and provide feedback on internal communications and announcements.
When employees repost corporate material on their own social media accounts, the original message’s life cycle increases in tandem with the audience reach. The enhanced sharing can also inspire a sense of personal responsibility to reflect corporate values. In one WestJetter’s opinion, even listing WestJet as an employer on Facebook can have an impact: “I want to be sure that I represent the best that WestJet is.”
When a company consistently lands on lists of Canada’s best employers—as voted by employees—you know they’re making their people feel valued. With WestJet, it’s paying off on social media, where they’ve artfully assembled a social media framework and carefully crafted a credible presence among WestJetters, fans and critics. There’s no airbrushing this airline.
Lessons for others:
WestJet’s social media strategy benefits from the company’s established credibility among customers and employees. Far from being all sunshine and lollipops, WestJet throws sour keys into the mix—a key to establishing authenticity. WestJetters are inclined to share corporate messages and participate in programs based on loyalty and pride in the brand, thereby extending the shelf life of each strategy. WestJetters operate in an environment where their input matters, which leads to the increased participation seen on social media.
Submitted by: Melanie Windover
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