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Case Study

American Airlines

Discovering new and innovative ways to visualize social data with Vizia

10 Minute Read

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Case StudyAmerican Airlines


On April 15, 1926, Charles Lindbergh flew the first American Airlines flight – carrying U.S. mail from St. Louis, Missouri, to Chicago, Illinois. After eight years of mail routes, the airline began to form into what it is today.

Today, American offers an average of 6,700 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations in more than 50 countries. American is a founding member of the oneworld alliance, whose members fly daily to 150 countries.

Connecting passengers to destinations is what American is all about, and as a global brand it is increasingly important, vital even, for the airline to be connected to its customers.

Vizia is a data visualization platform designed to bring your social and marketing data to life. It helps marketers across the world get closer to their customers, respond quicker during crises and campaigns and demonstrate the value of their work.

Why Brandwatch Vizia?

After conducting a thorough search, American made the decision to work with Brandwatch Vizia because it was able to fulfill more requirements and needs than any other vendor reviewed.

The end goal for American was to embed visually-engaging displays of its brand conversation in its social hub, providing enough detail to inform its social team 24/7, but also be self-explanatory enough for the passer-by to easily consume.

The business wanted to understand the topics of conversation gaining momentum in order to help the team react, provide better customer service, and protect the brand.

The profile of Brandwatch Vizia’s client base was of great comfort to American. Brandwatch had demonstrable experience in the social command center space, with huge brands such as Walmart, Unilever and Toys R Us choosing Brandwatch Vizia.

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The challenge

As a consumer brand, American is always striving to better understand its customers. Using social listening is just one step that allows the airline to understand the voice of its customers.

Before using Vizia, American had a command center in place for approximately four years.

Although the most important aspect for the business is always the ability for its command center to inform them about what’s going on with its brand conversation, American was looking for new and innovative ways to visualize social data.

“The social and digital space is constantly changing and as a global brand, it is imperative we keep up.”
— Beth Moreland, Manager of Social Media Insights, American Airlines

One of the key reasons American chose Vizia was because they were looking for a vendor who made innovation a priority, and who would always be looking to add new features and evolve.

“Brandwatch Analytics may be the ‘bread and butter’ however it was clear that programming, staffing, funding, and the promise of future innovation were being dedicated to BOTH the analytics and the command center products, which was important to us.”
— Beth Moreland, Manager of Social Media Insights, American Airlines.

The Social Hub

American displays 12-14 different Vizia scenes that run 24/7 in its social hub at its corporate office in Texas.

Some of the scenes are chosen because they are visually appealing and have the “wow factor” that makes the screens fun and engaging. Others scenes display absolutely vital information for American, so are displayed prominently and are monitored all day.

American uses the Hourly Topics Cloud to display conversation for the past hour. This short timeframe allows the business to very easily see what is being talked about the most, therefore allowing the team to react quickly if a situation occurs that could be damaging to its brand.

“Usually, something only has to be re-tweeted or otherwise shared 10 or 20 times before it starts to “bubble up” in the topics cloud for that hour, which enables us to look into something quickly.”
— Beth Moreland, Manager of Social Media Insights, American Airlines.

Its customer service team sees all of the mentions that come into the @AmericanAir Twitter handle, but that conversation only makes up about a third of the brand’s overall social volume.

For the remainder of its social mentions, American needs to be able to see what those mentions are as they come in – making the Mentions Stream in Featured Content an important scene to display.

Many of the social mentions about its brand include photos, videos, or GIFs, so it’s increasingly important for American to also see a live stream of all the images that are being shared online.

First, the business needs to see if something related to safety, security, or compliance is being shared.

For example, if a customer shares a photo of a seat that has the wrong safety card in the seatback pocket, or if a customer sends a photo of their business class seat that has a broken feature, the social team will want to make sure that feedback is sent to its maintenance team so the issues can be fixed as soon as possible.

Similarly, if there is an emergency situation occurring with one of its aircraft, American needs to see what images are being shared – and how frequently – to help inform its operations centers and to assist with swiftly crafting an appropriate corporate response.

Finally, they want to see any images of customer service or sensitive issues that could affect the airline’s reputation.

The sooner American can see the images, the sooner it can address these from a customer service or brand reputation protection standpoint.

Real-time importance

American’s social command center is used primarily as an alert system. The sooner the team can find out about a potentially concerning situation, the better.

In today’s politically-charged society, things can, and do, erupt on social media very quickly. American needs to be able to see a potentially damaging issue immediately, so it can react and protect its brand. The real-time capability of Vizia allows the business to spot potential issues and work together quickly, to resolve problems.

"The visual alerting system is my favorite aspect of Vizia, because it enables us to provide better customer service, and helps us with brand reputation management."
— Beth Moreland, Manager of Social Media Insights. American Airlines.
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Always-on crisis response

In October 2017 a piece of cargo-loading equipment at the Hong Kong airport caught fire while sitting next to one of American’s aircraft. Thankfully there were no customers onboard and none of its team members were injured. There was luckily minimal damage to the aircraft, but the situation drove a sudden spike in online conversation.

"Our Vizia screens helped us monitor the volume of conversation and keep an eye on the images that were being shared, allowing us to ensure any media reports or other stories about the incident were accurate."
— Beth Moreland, Manager of Social Media Insights. American Airlines.

In April 2017 American was involved in a high-profile incident between a customer and a crewmember onboard a flight. The Vizia screens enabled American to monitor the overall volume and tone of social conversation associated with the situation, along with any related images that were being shared.

“Having this visual representation was an important part in helping us keep our finger on the pulse of the situation.”
— Beth Moreland, Manager of Social Media Insights. American Airlines.

Communicating insights to the business

The visual power of Vizia means it easily communicates the importance of social listening to the rest of the business.

Day-to-day insights are shared amongst American’s social team and their global communications colleagues, and also with other internal business units, such as Marketing, Cargo, and its AAdvantage loyalty program team.

However, when the team are dealing with a more serious situation, the feedback is shared among its top leaders – including C-suite executives.

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Increase awareness of social presence

American has some team members who aren’t aware the brand has a presence on social media, and there are others who are aware, but aren’t really sure how the company is involved in social.

In addition, team members who work at HQ can also sometimes feel a bit disconnected from the frontline airport operation.  American’s social command center can help bridge all of those gaps.

When team members from other locations visit the social hub at American’s HQ, the Vizia command center is the centerpiece, visually drawing observers in and capturing their attention.

“People stand in front of the screens and become a bit mesmerized. It’s a little like a reality TV show in that it can even be a bit addicting to watch.”
— Beth Moreland, Manager of Social Media Insights. American Airlines.

The command center is perfectly placed to inform others about what’s going on with American’s brand.

Used by the team at HQ to educate others regarding how the brand is perceived on social media, as well as the tone people are using when talking to American on social media.

“We find it generates thoughts, sparks questions, and encourages engagement with our social team. Ultimately, it helps make social “real” for our colleagues who don’t live and breathe it like the global communications team does.”
— Beth Moreland, Manager of Social Media Insights, American Airlines.

Keeping a watchful eye on brand reputation

During American’s quarterly earnings conference calls, the global communications team watches a live stream of brand mentions from prominent media and bloggers who may have joined the call.

By doing this, American ensures information from the call that’s being shared by influential parties is accurate, and is able to correct any potential misunderstandings before the call is completed.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria caused terrible devastation in 2017.

The weather conditions had a substantial impact on American’s operation, particularly during the closure of its Miami hub, and understandably drove heavy social chatter.

The Vizia screens helped make the trending topics related to these situations stand out for the team at the HQ in Texas. These insights helped identify where and how American needed to focus efforts from a customer service perspective.

The visualizations also helped the business to drive the narrative about the humanitarian assistance its company was providing, as well as share stories about its team members who were involved in helping its customers, their fellow colleagues, and others in the impacted communities.

Discovering user-generated content

American is fortunate that aviation in general and airplanes in particular are fascinating to a large number of people. Because of this interest, there’s a hefty population of aviation enthusiasts who frequently take photos of its aircraft from locations near airports.

In addition, American’s customers traveling on its flights take photos of its airplanes from the airport terminals, or they take photos looking out the window during their flight.

All this combined means American has hundreds of photos of its aircraft, customers, and team members that are being shared on social media every day.

This presents a lot of opportunity for American to utilize the user-generated content either proactively from its social media channels or in other avenues, such as its weekly internal Arrivals e-newsletter (which is sent to over 120,000 team members every week).

This also helps bring the voice of the customer into the heart of the business, through multiple touchpoints.

"We love our industry, and we want to nurture that same love of aviation. Re-purposing user-generated content is one way we can encourage our followers to continue engaging with our brand specifically and the aviation industry in general."
— Beth Moreland, Manager of Social Media Insights, American Airlines.

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