Southwest Airlines has long been a leader and innovator in social media. They do things differently and are not afraid to step out to try new things; to be the first guy on the dance floor, if you will.  They are known for their antics and humor online, in the terminal and in the air. But how do they deal with serious issues? With style and grace.

Does every complaint matter on Twitter? @SouthwestAir says ‘yes!’

The above article outlines the story one man’s response to a major renovation in the airline’s rewards program. This one man made a stink and he was not shy about publicly letting Southwest know that he was not happy about it.

Who was this guy?

It wasn’t Scott Statten, who’s lead some very successful campaigns about how airlines treat their customers, with only a few tweets and his army of almost 77 thousand social savvy followers of his @unmarketing twitter account.  It was @SJCsouthpaw With is 106 107 followers that were genuinely upset with the company’s new program. He wasn’t the only one, but Southwest chose to answer him. Why? Because at Southwest “Our strategy is every customer matters, every customer’s opinion matters.”

Was that the right move?

Critics wondered.  Frank Eliason,  senior vice president of social media for Citi, says the airline made the right move, viewing Twitter as a customer service venue, not a PR podium.

“The number of followers is meaningless,” he says. “Today, every customer is an influencer.  If your concentration is follower count, then all you’re doing is managing a PR situation.  In this case it would appear to me that they are servicing their customer.  Nice job, Southwest.”

Are you responding to influencers?

Frank couldn’t have said it better: every customer is an influencer. If your company ism’t monitoring and responding to your brand on twitter, you are not responding to an influencer.

Many companies today use only Facebook campaigns to promote their brand. They delete negative feedback to protect the brand. What they’re missing is that all social media can be used as a powerful customer service tool. If your brand is one that practices the above and uses it only as a promotion tool, or your brand is on twitter, but it is linked to your Facebook, and you’re not responding to comments or complaints on twitter, remember @SJCsouthpaw and @unmarketing – If you delete them on facebook, they are still influencers on twitter, where they can carry on the conversation about you – good, bad, and ugly.

You have a choice in how you use your tools in your tool box… use them wisely.