While studying JetBlue’s feed I began to notice one hashtag they used consistently: #JetBlueSoFly. I started looking into the hashtag and realized that hashtags can be a great way to build a community around your brand. Hashtags not only connect the company to their customers, but the customers to each other. If you click a handle (@JetBlue) you’re taken to that particular users feed. If you click a hashtag, however, you’re taken to a collective feed of all the tweets using that hashtag. That makes it easier for all users using a specific hashtag to connect.
JetBlue encourages their customers to share pictures, flight and travel tips, and travel experiences and recommendations using the hashtag, and many people do. The tweets tend to be travel photos, but as you’ll see in my examples the hashtag is sometimes used to give customer feedback about the planes or flight experience. While JetBlue’s hashtag community does not necessarily two-way converse, they definitely seem to be inspired by each other to share their own experiences.
I checked out Kilroy’s to see if they had a hashtag campaign as well but I didn’t find an effective one for building community. One problem was they used widely used hashtags, like #happyhour or #breakfastclub. It would be hard to create a community through a widely used hashtag because the tweets aimed at Kilroys would get lost in the mix amongst all the other tweets using the tag. Another problem was they used random hashtags sporadically. For example, they use #1dollaholla, which could make a good community builder for their $1 drink days, but they don’t use it very often at all. It’s hard to get a hashtag to catch on if you only use it a few times a month. The only continuous and unique hashtag I found was #KOKTrivia, but surprisingly there was barely any use of the hashtag by anyone other than Kilroy’s. Perhaps this is because it doesn’t have a call to action like JetBlue’s hashtag does. (The call to action being to post pictures/tips using the hashtag.) Kilroy’s does not promote the use of their hashtag by others like JetBlue.
Hashtags can be used to bring customers together, but in order to be effective there are some guidelines. Firstly, the hashtag needs to be distinct from others. No one uses “JetBlueSoFly” to talk about anything other than JetBlue, but “happyhour” is used by bars and restaurants across the country. Because of this, it’s hard to create a community around a specific brand. Secondly, the hashtag needs to be used consistently to build awareness and encourage use. Thirdly, a potential guideline is to have a call to action: customers may want a given reason to use a hashtag.
On top of rewarding their followers with exclusive information, Kilroy’s rewards their supporters with retweets. I scrolled through their feed and found multiple retweets, whether they were tweets about people’s good experiences at the bar or their repping Kilroy’s gear on vacation. If followers see other users being retweeted it could potentially up the chance of them tweeting support themselves in hope of also being rewarded. Everyone loves a retweet and it’s even better coming from a bigger company with more followers. It’s more exposure. It’s like rewarding them with social capital.
I was surprised to find that this was not something JetBlue was doing. They retweeted partner companies and a few employees, but I found no retweets of supportive customers. I found a tweet to them saying “thanks for getting me home in time for story time” and one thanking JetBlue’s pilots for meeting with him when they learned he was terrified of flying. I see these as great potential retweets. JetBlue did, however, reply to and have a continuous conversation with the guy who was afraid of flying. Maybe they are more interested in creating a personal connection with their customers. However, I see no reason not to both reply and retweet.
In Ryan Pinkham’s article “25 Things That Make You Look Dumb on Twitter” he says not retweeting supporters is a big mistake. “If people are promoting you on Twitter, show them some love,” Pinkham writes. “A retweet can go a long way on Twitter and so can mentioning someone when you share their article or post.”
Another one of Costa’s four marketing principles was relevancy. I decided to see what JetBlue and Kilroys did in order to stay relevant to their audiences. What I found is that relevancy depends on how broad your audience is. JetBlue has a national audience so they have to stick with things that are relevant at a national level. As I was searching through their Twitter feed I found the way they do this is through holidays and other widely recognized markers, like the changing of the seasons. Below you’ll see some tweets they did for Valentines day, April Fools Day and the beginning of spring. And they don’t just say “Happy Valentines Day,” “Happy Spring,” etc. They find ways to tie it in with their company, like welcoming spring with “open wings” and offering flight credits for those with April Fools birthdays.
Kilroys, on the other hand, is local and therefore they can be more specific with their relevancy. They focus on things they know their specific customers, IU Bloomington students, care about. The examples I found were basketball, Little 500 and returning from Spring Break.
As Costa said, it’s important to stay in touch with what your specific consumers want and need. For JetBlue, tweeting about Little 500 or IU basketball would be irrelevant to the majority of their consumers and that would create a disconnect. However, at a local level it’s good to be aware of the culture surrounding you. Tweeting about things relevant at a local level can let consumers feel you really know them and the community and help to connect with them on a deeper level.
One thing I’ve always admired about Kilroy’s Twitter campaign is their weekly trivia and t-shirt hints. Wednesday at Kilroy’s is trivia night and Thursday is free t-shirt night. Trivia and especially t-shirt night are well known and enjoyed traditions amongst of-age IU students. The hints have been an effective way for Kilroy’s utilize Costa’s relevancy and consistency in their social media. Relevancy because the hints are something their followers want. It’s insider information. It’s a reward for being a loyal fan and follower. The hints exercise consistency because Kilroy’s posts them on a weekly basis. Their followers know they can count on the information being there every week and they’ll often actively seek out Kilroy’s feed to obtain it. Not only do their followers seek out the info, they interact with Kilroy’s, especially on the t-shirt Thursdays. There’s always a long list of replies to the t-shirt hints taking guesses about what the shirt will be or expressing excitement. The t-shirt hints also often get a lot of favorites and retweets compared to others.
To me this shows that a good social media strategy is to offer followers something they can’t get elsewhere. Why else would they want to follow? Kilroy’s often encourages followers to head over for their $2 Tuesdays or .50 cent breadsticks on Mondays, but that’s information that doesn’t change and can be found on their website. You wouldn’t need to follow them for that. Social media campaigns should offer something different and desired. The Wednesday and Thursday hints act as an incentive. Following Kilroy’s on Twitter is like being in on the secret.