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Twitter Trends: Airline Hotlist August 2009

As Twitter adoption travels from the left to the right of Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Bell Curve, mainstream consumer behavior gathers momentum, manifesting into influential and telling market indicators. This invaluable behavior and sentiment eventually becomes deafening and without actively monitoring and analyzing this movement, we miss opportunities to learn, grow, and help.

We need a prescribed lens into the real-time thoughts, observations, and experiences of real people, unfiltered, to make informed decisions and both lead and evolve along with our markets.

As I recently shared, a new study indicated that 20 percent of tweets published on Twitter are actually invitations for product information, answers or responses from peers or directly by brand representatives.

Consumers are now brand stakeholders and as such, it is our responsibility to listen, learn and adapt.

Airline Hotlist August 2009
brought to you by PeopleBrowsr and Brian Solis

In August 2009, consumers continued to take to Twitter to share their experiences and feelings tied to their favorite and least favorite airlines. Many of the airlines did indeed pay attention, with some engaging directly in the public timeline.

The Players

For the month of August 2009, we monitored the inbound and outbound activity related to 14 airlines.

The players included:

@aloha_airlines (airline defunct, but the aloha spirit lives on)
@deltaairlines (Inactive as of July 2009)
@frontierstorm (Inactive as of July 2009)
Northwest Airlines (Appears inactive)
@usairways (established, but essentially inactive)

Total Followers

Airline follower count was reflective of participation and also outside promotion of the Twitter account in other mediums. Jetblue led the fleet with over 1.2 million followers with Southwest followed in second place with roughly 640,000. The top two accounts accounted for more followers than the other players accounted for combined. The distance between the rank of second and third place was vast at over 600,000. United Airlines trailed distantly with 34,000 followers, but Virgin America followed close behind in fourth position with almost 32,000.

It is fascinating to see Aloha airlines retain a solid group of dedicated followers even though the airline shut down in 2008.

@jetblue = 1,223,459
@southwestair = 644,533
@unitedairlines = 34,307
@virginamerica = 31,644
@aairwaves = 13,684
@alaskaair = 12,240
@deltaairlines = 11,916
@spiritairlines = 8,179
@flyhawaiian = 4,374
@continental = 3,779
@usairways = 2,580
@aloha_airlines = 807
@frontierstorm = 804

Total Following

We chose to add “following” data as the spirit of Twitter is represented through reciprocation and recognition. Many consumers look at this number as a reflection of a brand’s true commitment to community.

Again, Jetblue ranked at the top of the list by following over 117,000. This represents a follower to following ratio of 10:1. Virgin America jumped to the second spot on the following list with just over 16,500. Southwest earned third with 8,800 individuals followed. Spirit Airlines checked in towards the bottom of the list following only one individual @spirit_helper (manager of customer relations for Spirit). Spirit followed one more than US Airways, which checked in at zero. However, it should go noted that the account is basically idle.

@jetblue = 117,444
@virginamerica = 16,522
@southwestair = 8,820
@alaskaair = 6,580
@flyhawaiian = 1,602
@aairwaves = 1,419
@unitedairlines = 1,249
@deltaairlines = 234
@aloha_airlines = 56
@continental = 53
@frontierstorm = 7
@spiritairlines = 1
@usairways = 0

Total Tweets

In Social Media, participation counts for everything. It demonstrates willingness to interact with peers and customers, symbolizes intent, and expresses purpose.

Published tweets were extremely low across the board with Southwest ranking on top way at an average of 7.1 tweets per day for a total of 213. Jetblue took second with 108 tweets. American checked-in with 95 tweets for third. With 76, Virgin America followed closely behind, landing in the fourth spot. American locked the third position with 95 tweets. On the opposite end of the spectrum Skywest sent one tweet, one of only two tweets to its credit. The first alerted us that the company was “setting up twitter page” the second simply said “hi.”

@southwestair = 213
@jetblue = 108
@aairwaves = 95
@virginamerica = 76
@alaskaair = 65
@continental = 52
@unitedairlines = 40
@aloha_airlines = 31
@spiritairlines = 25
@flyhawaiian =14

Share of Voice: Total Tweets @airlines

The tweets aimed at individual airlines serve as the conversations that beckon and govern interaction. Many tweets reach the desktops of brand managers, while a significant portion of tweets fell upon deaf ears – otherwise known as inactive accounts. An interesting observation is the fusion of demographics and psychographics represented by the individuals who are active on Twitter and which brands they use and discuss in public.

American earned the largest share of voice with 6,180 tweets. Southwest closely followed with roughly 5,428 tweets. Although inactive on Twitter, US Airways ranked third for share of voice raking in almost 5,000 @ tweets. Jetblue trailed with 4,084.

@aairwaves = 6,180
@southwestair = 5,428
@usairways = 4,712 (inactive account)
@jetblue = 4,084
@virginamerica = 2,144
@unitedairlines = 3,356
@deltaairlines = 2,560 (inactive account)
@continental = 1,372
@alaskaair = 1,220
@frontierstorm = 832 (inactive account)
@flyhawaiian = 504


The opinions and emotions voiced in public reflect upon the brand and its stature. As such, sentiment is a critical indicator that communicates the state of the brand, industry, and overall consumer satisfaction levels. Indeed many monitoring tools provide the ability to analyze sentiment, but what we’re about to show you is that there’s a difference between automated sentiment analysis and hand-curated sentiment analysis. In general, tweets are mostly positive, but notice how the ratio between negative and positive shifts after applying a human touch.


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 720
Negative: 160
Total: 6,196

After Human Sorting
Positive: 1,816
Negative: 712
Total: 6,180


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 144
Negative: 24
Total: 1,228

After Human Sorting
Positive: 484
Negative: 100
Total: 1,220


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 112
Negative: 68
Total: 1,376

After Human Sorting
Positive: 464
Negative: 332
Total: 1,372


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 292
Negative: 180
Total: 2,580

After Human Sorting

Positive: 872
Negative: 680
Total: 2,560


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 472
Negative: 88
Total: 4,104

After Human Sorting
Positive: 1,840
Negative: 192
Total: 4,084


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 40
Negative: 8
Total: 516

After Human Sorting
Positive: 220
Negative: 44
Total: 504


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 40
Negative: 12
Total: 832

After Human Sorting

Positive: 324
Negative: 92
Total: 832

@NorthWestAir (Account gone)

Before Human Sorting
Positive: 48
Negative: 12
Total: 1,664

After Human Sorting
Positive: 272
Negative: 172
Total: 1,652


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 700
Negative: 112
Total: 6,456

After Human Sorting
Positive: 2,976
Negative: 648
Total: 6,428


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 364
Negative: 160
Total: 3,364

After Human Sorting

Positive: 896
Negative: 796
Total: 3,356


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 320
Negative: 168
Total: 4,724

After Human Sorting

Positive: 1,176
Negative: 1,084
Total: 4,712


Before Human Sorting
Positive: 468
Negative: 68
Total: 2,148

After Human Sorting
Positive: 1,104
Negative: 176
Total: 2,144

Positive Sentiment Keywords (Source: Dolores Labs)

Top 10 Frequently Used Words:


Negative Sentiment Keywords

Top 10 Frequently Used Words


For more information, please contact me at brian (at) peoplebrowsr [dot] com

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18 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Twitter Trends: Airline Hotlist August 2009”

  1. Brian Solis applies the diffusion of innovation model to airline twitter usage.

  2. adamjackson says:


    Well, first of all follower count is also based that both JetBlue and Southwest were and may still be on the Twitter Suggested user list which can count from 2K-5K a day in new followers on average.

    Second thing, those amount of tweets from the companies is very low! Assuming 1 person is on Twitter full time, that's 15-25 minutes of work. I'm doing Twitter marketing for a dozen people and can commit an hour per day per company and do about 20 tweets a day per client w/ reporting and logging of activity no problem.

    If I was doing full time work for southwest it would be somewhere over a hundred a day just replying to people mentioning them. Maybe even more.

  3. rskin11 says:

    I did something akin to this but much smaller and more humble for the shipping industry (generally less savvy on twitter than airlines), which you'll find here:
    The next generation will adopt some of your techniques and visualisations.

  4. Ryan Skinner says:

    I did something akin to this but much smaller and more humble for the shipping industry (generally less savvy on twitter than airlines), which you'll find here:
    The next generation will adopt some of your techniques and visualisations.

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