SitePoint Podcast #88: BlogWorld Interviews, Part 2

Kevin Yank

Episode 88 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves), Patrick O’Keefe (@iFroggy), Brad Williams (@williamsba), Shayne Tilley (@ShayneT) and Kevin Yank (@sentience) share the second batch of interviews from BlogWorld Expo 2010 in Las Vegas. Listen in as they chat with Don McAllister (@donmcallister), the man behind ScreenCastsOnline, Jay Baer (@jaybaer) and Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra), the co-authors of The Now Revolution, and Paul Thompson (@flyingphotog), one of the fine folks behind Southwest Airlines’ social media presence.

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Interview Transcript

Kevin: November 19th, 2010. Selling screencasts online, blogging for an airline, and throwing businesses a social media lifeline. I’m Kevin Yank, and this is the SitePoint Podcast #88: BlogWorld Expo Interviews, Part 2.

Hello again, it’s Kevin Yank from the SitePoint Podcast, and this week we have for you our second group of interviews recorded live at BlogWorld Expo 2010 in Las Vegas. We’ll be talking to Paul Thompson (@flyingphotog) from Southwest Airlines; he is one of their bloggers. Southwest Airlines, of course, is known as one of the most active airlines in the social media sphere, and we’re going to talk to him about what exactly goes into that and how that benefits Southwest Airlines as a company. We’ll also be talking to Jay Baer (@jaybaer) and Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra), the co-authors of the book The Now Revolution, a really interesting book about social media, how it affects business, but the most exciting part of that book, of course, is the war stories—what to do when everything goes terribly wrong with your social media strategy—and so we’ll be talking to them about that, a really entertaining interview. But first up this week we have Don McAllister (@donmcallister) from ScreenCastsOnline; Don has quit his day job to work on this labor of love and is making a good living doing it. ScreenCastsOnline is a site where you can subscribe to watch video tutorials, screencasts of Mac Software, and every week he reviews and gives you a tour, an insider’s look at another piece of Mac software, and we’ll be talking to him about his strategy and how he has made a one-man business out of selling screencasts online. So without further ado, here’s Don McAllister.

Kevin: Hi, this is Kevin Yank coming to you live from BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas, and I’m here with Patrick O’Keefe and Stephan Segraves, regular co-hosts on the Podcast. Hi Patrick and Stephan.

Stephan: Howdy.

Patrick: Hey, Kevin. Brad, where you at?

Kevin: Brad! I think Brad was out partying last night and we might not see him until noon. We are joined by Don McAllister of ScreenCastsOnline. Don, welcome.

Don: Well, thank you for inviting me on, it’s good to be here.

Kevin: Yeah! Well, I’m from Australia, these guys are from the U.S., you’re from the U.K., what are the chances that we’d all be in the same place at the same time?

Don: Physically very small I would’ve thought, but we can always do it virtually on Skype I suppose but it’s much nicer to be here in person and actually sort of see faces and talk to real people.

Kevin: Yeah. So,, for those who aren’t familiar with what you do give us the 30-second version.

Don: Okay, the elevator pitch, well,, it’s a weekly video podcast I started about four years ago, and basically what I do is create 30 to 40 minute tutorials all about the Mac. So each week people can download fully, sort of, hopefully, professionally produced video, video tutorial, that really teaches people how to use not just the Mac but also software and third-party software as well, so not just OS X and the Apple stuff, but all the best quality software that’s out there as well.

Kevin: Right, so a couple of examples of things you covered recently?

Don: Ooh, all sorts of stuff, I mean things like the Smile TextExpander as a utility and I’ve just done two shows which just went through my entire menu bar and pulled out all the utilities that are on the menu bar, so just Skitch and Alarms and things like that, down to things like Aperture, a three-part series about Aperture for people who want to migrate from iPhoto to Aperture; there’s about 270 shows in the can now, so there’s an archive of tons of material that people can access.

Kevin: And you have a really interesting model where you give a bunch of your content away for free and that changed recently.

Don: Yeah, it used to be it was a hobby initially when I first started off, and it was a completely free show, but about four years ago I decided to go full time with it and I created a premium model so that it’s a membership scheme that runs the site and people can become members and get access to everything, but if you’re not a member you can still download one show a month. So there’s a full free show each month for non-paying people, but members get everything in HD and lots of extra benefits as well.

Kevin: And those free shows aren’t a complete loss for you, you get a sponsorship for those as well.

Don: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a full show so the viewer doesn’t lose out, but on those shows I will take on board sponsors and do sponsored shows.

Kevin: So, you changed recently, for a while there you were giving every second show away.

Don: Yeah, I tried.

Kevin: What led you to change that balance?

Don: I mean one of the main things with having a membership thing is I always want to be true to the members, I want to make sure that we deliver value to the members, and I just felt at the time that the 50-50 split between free shows and member shows wasn’t quite right, so I decided to go with free shows for the members and one for the non-members just really for equity, just to make it a better deal for the members to be honest.

Kevin: Yeah. So, I subscribed to ScreenCastsOnline for a couple of years and during that time saw the production values really ramp up, and I know you were talking about one of your most recent shows, you had overlaid videos from and iPad an Apple TV and the Mac all at once, did I get that right?

Don: That’s right, yeah, one of the recent shows I did was the New Apple TV, and I’m a great fan of the iPhone and the iPad as well, so I always try and incorporate. So, for instance, on the Apple TV show there was the Apple Remote, the new Apple Remote that just came out, so I sort of demonstrated the Apple TV and I’ve got the gear to proper screen capture as well so I was actually getting a raw feed from the Apple TV itself so it’s high quality feed. I’ve got a jailbroken iPad so I can get the raw video off the iPad and sort of create an overlay so that you actually see the devices on screen and see the real screens as I operate them. But, yeah, it’s a lot of production to assemble all that once it’s all recorded.

Stephan: Yeah, how long does it take you in a normal show to produce it?

Don: A normal show if it’s just a straightforward screencast it’s probably a full two days of recording— prepping, recording and then the post production side and distribution; something a bit more advanced where I’m incorporating the iPad and the iPhone it can be anywhere from three to four days really, so it’s my full time job and it’s the only way I could actually manage it to be honest because I do sort of try and put a lot into each show, so, and I think it shows as well and I get lots of comments.

Patrick: Yeah, the production value is great.

Kevin: So you keep a pretty regular schedule so if you’re going away to something like BlogWorld do you have to cue them up in advance?

Don: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s another main thing that I rely on is that the show goes on a Friday, not a set time on a Friday but definitely there’s always a show on a Friday. And people have half-built a routine around that, I get lots of people saying their weekend routine is Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and sit down there and watch that week’s show. So, yeah, if I’m away I need to prep in advance. Now, February I’m away for three weeks, I’m going to Macworld and I’m also going on a MacMania cruise as well, so I’m going to be away for three weeks, so Christmas is going to be a very busy time for me, I’m going to have to produce like five or six shows in about three weeks.

Stephan: Do you ever do any on the road?

Don: I have done actually, yeah, yeah, I have done. When I went to WWDC this summer and I didn’t get a chance to do one in advance, so actually as an experiment on MacBook Pro and recorded and edited a show in my hotel room and it worked, it was fine, yeah, it was great. It was a fairly simple show, so it was about I think they’d just announced Safari 5 so I did it about Safari 5; the only thing that let me down was the audio, so just the USB mic into the MacBook Pro wasn’t too hard, and back at home I’ve got some decent audio gear. But I bought a mobile rig now so if I did want to do it on the road, technically, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t.

Stephan: Cool.

Kevin: So our audience is web developers and designers, tell us about your website, how do you put that together?

Don: Okay, well, it’s a fairly basic website to be honest, being a bit of a control freak I sort of wanted to do everything myself and it’s sort of grown organically, so I actually use RapidWeaver and I use like the blog page on RapidWeaver to produce the show notes and various HTML pages, etcetera, on RapidWeaver with different types of pages. I did want a decent graphic created, I actually came to SitePoint to get the graphic, I did the design contest to get the graphic designed and that worked out really well for me. But I have that hosted on a separate server, a dedicated server; I also have a forum that runs as well on Yabb, an open source forum and, again, that runs on the same server. So the web services I need to do some more work on it to be honest because I don’t think it’s as accessible as it could be. Because I’ve got so many of the past shows people have a few issues trying to find the old content and I want to sort of look at developing that more.

Kevin: It seems to me one of the biggest challenges for you content-wise would be that more and more Mac software is not a niche, it’s an entire marketplace. How do you— The people who subscribe to you ongoing, are they Mac fans? What kind of people are they that are interested in everything Mac?

Don: It’s really weird because the actual members range right away across the board from new Mac users to Mac diehards who’ve been using Mac since the Apple II days. And even the people who are really hardcore Mac people they still seem to get two or three things out of every show because you can’t know everything about a package, I mean I don’t know everything about a package but obviously if I’m doing a show about a particular package I need to go in a little bit further than most people would do and people get benefit from that. I sort of work on the basis that I don’t expect everybody to get something out of every show, so because it is a weekly show people can skip a week if it’s something that doesn’t apply to them or it’s something that they’re not interested in they just skip that week and wait for the next week and invariably it’s something that will interest them. I also do a thing called Mac Montage shows…

Kevin: I love those.

Don: …which are a mixture of small, yeah, just smaller clips about small specific hints and tips and things like that, and again, they go down really well, people always get a couple things out of each Mac Montage show.

Kevin: Alright. So we’ll wrap it up with I want to hear your top three picks for little utilities that people should really consider putting on if they want to get the most out of their Mac. I notice you’ve got a TextExpander button on, I’m a real big fan of TextExpander, feel free to throw that in the mix.

Don: You sprung this one on me, right, okay.

Kevin: (Laughs)

Don: I mean TextExpander is one I use a lot. I’d like to use it more, there’s a TextExpander Touch now for the iPad and the iPhone, but because of the sandboxed nature of the iPad you can’t use it in the same way as the Mac but it’s still a great boon. But on the Mac, yeah, I mean I use it for abbreviations, for email templates even, generate email templates, so TextExpander. Probably Skitch as well.

Kevin: Skitch, very nice.

Don: It’s another great application just for doing quick screen grabs.

Kevin: From Melbourne, Australia.

Don: Indeed, yeah, that’s right. And I believe they’re just about to revamp it as well, it’s been in beta for—

Kevin: Ever!

Don: —three or four years. I want to pay these guys some money because it’s such a great package, and I think they’re about to launch it as a new version. As for the third one probably Dropbox.

Kevin: Dropbox, good one.

Don: Dropbox, again, I’ve moved to The Cloud, all my documents are stored in Dropbox, it’s accessible from everywhere, you know lots of Mac applications now are using Dropbox as a syncing technology so if you haven’t got MobileMe Sync you can actually sync stuff with Dropbox.

Kevin: And it’s all about the slick desktop experience with Dropbox. We were telling our marketing manager for months get Dropbox, get Dropbox, and he just saw the web application and went “That’s not that interesting!”; we went, “Install the desktop app, that’s what it’s all about!”

Don: Yeah, it’s so fun. It’s everything that iDisk should be really and it’s not, but it’s a great application. And you can get a free version as well; I went for the premium version for the bigger disk space, yeah, I think you get 2 gig of disk space for free.

Kevin: Okay.

Don: It’s fantastic.

Kevin: So, Don McAllister,, thank you very much.

Don: Kevin, I enjoyed it. Thanks guys.

Patrick: Good having you on the show.

Don: Thank you.

Patrick: This is Patrick O’Keefe from the SitePoint Podcast here at BlogWorld Expo 2010 with Brad Williams, Kevin Yank, Stephan Segraves and our guests Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, together they co-authored the book The Now Revolution. Jay is a social media strategist for, Amber is the VP of Social Strategy at Radian6, welcome to the show.

Amber: Thank you very much.

Jay: Thanks for having us, guys.

Amber: Glad to be here.

Patrick: So you delivered a presentation this morning, “The Now Revolution: Seven Blueprints for Businesses at the Speed of Now” that I enjoyed very much.

Amber: Cool.

Jay: It’s like delivering a baby actually is what it felt like.

Amber: I love it.

Patrick: Oh yeah? It was the first time giving that talk, right?

Jay: I have stretch marks from our presentation.

Amber: Well Jay was really stressed out because he didn’t build any of the slides.

Jay: Right. I’m kind of a control freak so I didn’t actually make the slides, so, you know.

Patrick: We’re on a panel later and Jay actually asked me about the slides and I was like, well, I kind of want you to be surprised.

Jay: Surprise!

Patrick: No, but I actually ended up sending him a copy. He’s the only panelist that asked and he was the only panelist to contribute.

Jay: Because I’m a professional. See, Patrick, you appreciate my professionalism; Amber is disdainful of my professionalism, that’s how it works.

Amber: That’s not true. I was telling him last night he’s kind of like my book spouse, really.

Jay: Yeah, we are book spouses, that’s exactly right.

Amber: So I’m supposed to nag at him.

Patrick: I do appreciate it because you added some slides, so it was all good.

Jay: Thank you.

Patrick: But, anyway, so you talk about, again, the seven blueprints; can you kind of give let’s say the cliff notes version of the seven?

Amber: No, we can’t. I’m kidding.

Jay: The overall premise of the book is that companies made major operational and cultural changes in response to all the technological revolutions that happened preceding this one, so when the phone first came out, right, that upended business. When the Web first started it upended business. When email became a major thing that upended business. But companies haven’t in large measure really changed in response to sort of realtime business in social media; we’re still sort of nibbling around the margins. So we wrote the book to sort of help understand, help companies decipher the seven ways that they need to change in order to really succeed and capitalize on realtime business.

Amber: Right. And so we broke it down into seven, we wanted it to be really concrete for businesses to be able to sort of see themselves in the model, so we broke it down into seven shifts, the first one being culture, so we talk about needing to adapt your culture to respond to open communication and people who want to be involved on the front lines. In shifts two and three we talk about hiring the right people and organizing those teams so that it actually, that whole discussion about who owns it, who should be working on it, what should their titles be, that kind of stuff. In section four we talk about listening, and one of the horses that gets beat a lot in social media is the listening thing, but we wanted to talk about really making it operational for companies to adapt to. And then we talk about being able to equip all of your frontline responders so they can respond online, handling crisis, which we hope we never have to do obviously, but it happens. So, I think Jay calls it the chapter of the book we hope you never need, but if you ever need it’s a good thing you’ve got it. And then in the last one we’re tackling measurement and metrics which is that topic people love to hate, so those are the ones we broke down.

Patrick: So you kept it at seven so you could actually remember the seven, right, you didn’t want to add too many.

Jay: That’s right.

Amber: That’s right.

Jay: I tell you what though, it is full of info, right, I mean this book is like 250 pages of just a lot of stuff. We’ve got 22 different QR codes in the book, Microsoft Tag Technology we’ve incorporated, we’ve got 10 or 12 info graphics, we’ve got case studies, we’ve got tips, there is a lot of stuff in the book, there’s something for everybody and we did that on purpose. We want people to say genuinely, this is a book that I got tremendous value out of, we wrote it from the very beginning that way; what we want people to say is every page has a lesson, you know, there’s no fluff, there’s no BS, there’s no filler.

Amber: Jay’s not very fluffy anyway.

Jay: No, I’m not, I’m not; I’m not really a unicorn guy.

Amber: (Laughs)

Jay: One of the things that we also did in the book that I think is maybe unusual in the social media space is that we very intentionally in terms of case studies and things use almost entirely small and medium sized companies. So we don’t have a lot of, ‘here’s what Ford does,’ or ‘here’s what Dell does,’ or ‘here’s what Intel does’. Not that those guys aren’t great, but most companies can’t see themselves in that analogy, right, because they’re not Ford or Intel or Dell or Southwest Airlines. So, what we tried to do is write a book for every business, right, for people who own restaurants, people who own— chiropractors.

Amber: Non-profits.

Jay: Non-profits is a good example.

Patrick: Motels.

Jay: Yes, Motels, yeah. So, that’s what we tried to do is write for everybody.

Brad: Yeah, I definitely enjoyed your presentation today.

Jay: Thanks.

Amber: Thank you.

Brad: One of the topics I thought was really interesting was the social media crisis that you were talking about. I think it’s a real concern for companies, what do they do when there is a social media backlash or something because it does spread so fast. So maybe you could kind of talk on that and some of those tips that you shared during the presentation.

Jay: Yeah, and it’s a little bit unfortunate when you say ‘social media crisis’, that’s sort of become the nom de guerre of that sort of concept, but it is a little bit of a misnomer.

Amber: Did you just speak French?

Jay: Well I guess maybe I did, yes.

Amber: (Laughs)

Jay: It’s not as if social media caused the crisis, the crisis manifests itself in social media, there’s a big difference there, right, and a lot of executives are like, well, if we’re in social media then it has this opportunity to become this disaster and it’s like, look, if your company sucks or you land a plane in a river, or whatever, that’s going to show up in social media, right; Twitter didn’t land the plane in the river, you did, right. And so it’s an effect not a cause, so that’s one important distinction that people don’t think about very much, but what we talk about in the book, and we talked about this morning, is the first thing is understanding sort of what is a crisis, right. And you think well that’s obvious, but it’s not because Amber works with a lot of companies who use Radian6 software and they’re like, well “Somebody said that they don’t like our biscuits at our restaurant on Twitter,” and they’re like, “Oh, what are we gonna do, they don’t like our biscuits!” It’s like, look, that’s not a crisis, that’s a comment card in 140 characters, right, so just get a hold of yourself.

Amber: That’s such an important distinction, yeah, that whole one negative Tweet does not constitute your brand crumbling down around your shoulders, so it’s kind of important that everybody in your organization, too, agrees on what that threshold is for this is something that’s unfortunate but fixable versus we are in the midst of something that we really need to deal with at scale. Big difference.

Jay: Operationally, though, it’s really no different than traditional crisis management that’s been part of the public relations discipline for the last 60 years, which is you have to assume this will happen to you. Chances are it won’t but you have to assume that it will, and you have to know, okay, if something happens and all of a sudden we have a power outage, or whatever, and everybody’s tweeting about it, what do we do? Who is in charge of listening, who’s in charge of knowing that people are talking about it on Twitter or Facebook or blogs or what have you, and then who are they supposed to tell? Like who do they call, right? Like if your factory’s on fire who actually gets a phone call, like literally, who gets a phone call? And it’s the same thing in social media, like somebody has to be in charge of that. We have two case studies in the book, one is for Boingo, which I’m sure a lot of people here have used in airports and things like that.

Patrick: I refuse to pay it, but go ahead.

Amber: (Laughs)

Jay: Yeah. But you’re familiar with the brand, yeah, Boingo. Another one is for Cordero which is a webhosting infrastructure as a service company that does a lot of server hosting, those kind of things. And in Cordero’s case they had a power outage at their data center and then the backup generator thing didn’t switch over, which is the whole point of using like a legitimate hosting company, right, so that you don’t have that kind of downtime. So it was like 5,000 websites or something (snaps fingers) out in like three seconds, so talk about a shit storm, right, you have 5,000 websites like instantly down, like uhhhhh, okay, so Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet Tweet, Tweet, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, blog post, email, call.

Amber: Because it’s like the armada of geeks that you’ve now just pissed off.

Jay: Oh, yeah, it’s the worst possible people, right, all the webmasters, the worst possible crowd. So, they did an amazing thing and we document this in the book, they knew they had an internal triage program for a crisis, right? They knew, okay, here’s who listens, here’s who you call, here’s how to get it back up online, and then they had a video from their CEO explaining what happened, here’s where we went wrong, here’s why it will never happen again, here’s what we’re gonna do in terms of a credit, etcetera; they had the video up within three hours. Amazing. And then that same day we actually pulled Tweets out of the stream and put them in the book, people were like, man, if you ever need hosting go with Cordero, they had an outage today but I can’t believe how well they handled it, like several people, they actually won new customers because of how they handled the crisis. Everybody’s heard that, right, it’s not — the measure of a company is not how you do when things are good, the measure of a company is how you do when things have gone horribly astray, and they’re a good example of making that right.

Patrick: Right, it’s not that you made a mistake it’s how you handle that mistake.

Jay: Exactly, exactly.

Amber: And so many companies are running scared because they look at social media, again, as that potential fireball and we buy insurance because we know that the inevitable could happen but we want to protect ourselves against it. We buy fire extinguishers because we’re not planning on having a fire in our house, but just in case one breaks out we’d really like to have something to address that, so companies need to recognize that the social media thing is not going away so the preparation part of this is really important; burying your head in the sand, unfortunately, is not a business strategy, so you’ve got to be prepared for what could possibly happen and worst case scenario planning is part of that.

Patrick: So, I think last question, you talked a little bit about this, about it being for anyone, one-off hotel and motel to — I mean how do you translate this I guess in a little more detailed to a one-man operation or a mom and pop shop or a small shop that maybe sees a lot of tools out there, a lot of places that they’re being talked about and maybe doesn’t have the time, they don’t have someone who’s in charge of this that can have someone go on the computer or, you know, it’s the owner or the founder, that sort of situation.

Jay: I mean from a time standpoint obviously it’s a challenge, right, because you’re making sandwiches or whatever and now you’ve got to try to do this other stuff, but we really think that small businesses actually have an easier time in sort of The Now Revolution because they’re already closer to the customer. It’s easier to create kinship when you don’t have layer upon layer upon layer upon layer of managers in between the actual customer and the executives, so culturally, spiritually, small businesses have a real advantage, right. I mean one of the things that social media does for big companies is make them seem small again, so if you’re a small company you already have a leg up. Now, operationally it’s a challenge, right, and Amber talks a lot about roles and in a lot of cases if it’s sort of a one-man show all of the sort of functions that we talk about in the book become your function.

Amber: Well, and I think realistically speaking if you’re a one-person shop the same way that we have made decisions as we’ve built our businesses about what communication tools we’re going to use to talk to people, whether we’re going to make time for email or whether we’re going to make time for that conference call, it’s the same sort of— you have to triage a little bit. If your customers and community are demanding your response you’re going to have to trade something out for making sure that you’re present where they need you. So, it’s definitely a challenge of personal scale, but I like to look at it as choosing an ‘or’ instead of an ‘and’, so instead of trying to pile 400 things on you’re starting to look at what areas of your business might not be as effective as they once were, and instead you’re trading out pieces of some of the social media stuff to replace it.

Patrick: Excellent. So, Amber, Jay, where can people find you online?

Amber: You can find me on Twitter at @AmberCadabra, my blog is at, my company is at www— forget that part, dot

Patrick: No www and it just presents a 404.

Jay: There’s no redirect, yeah.

Amber: But yeah, really.

Patrick: It’s a matter of principle.

Jay: Exactly, exactly.

Amber: So you have to have that there, it’s the law.

Jay: Most importantly the website for the book is, you can actually go to the site now,, and you can download a free chapter, so you get the first chapter for free, anybody in the world please feel free to do that, let us know how you like it. I’m on Twitter @jaybaer, j-a-y-b-a-e-r, and my blog is

Patrick: Excellent, thank you for coming on.

Amber: Thank guys for having us.

Jay: Appreciate it, thanks guys.

Stephan: This is Stephan Segraves of the SitePoint Podcast, I’m here with Shayne Tilley and Paul Thompson is our guest. Paul, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Paul: Well, I am a Station Training and Compliance Analyst with Southwest Airlines. I help monitor our Twitter account, I’m a moderator of our Flickr pool and creator as well, so I’m pretty active with our social media team at Southwest.

Stephan: Cool. So what brings you to BlogWorld Expo?

Paul: Well, they invited me because I’m an occasional blog contributor, I’m just here to document the experience for our historical purposes, and I do a lot of live Tweeting from the sessions we participate in.

Stephan: Cool. You guys, Southwest Airlines, is known to be very active in the social media side of things, Twitter, blogging especially, the blog’s been around for how long now?

Paul: Our blog is a little over four years old, almost five now I think.

Stephan: Yeah, so it’s an older blog and you guys get a lot of traffic through that.

Paul: Yeah.

Stephan: Has it been really beneficial for you guys to give stories to customers, I guess that really engaging, that’s the difference?

Paul: Yeah, I think our customers just find a really human side of Southwest Airlines, we have people from all different parts of the company that contribute to the blog, anyone from ramp agents all the way up to our CEO, so it just adds another side that people can really relate to. I just found out this morning that our blog was kind of spun off as a result of the airline show that was on A&E a few years back because there was so much interest from customers as far as the internal aspects of the airline, so even I’m still learning about the methods and way to go about things.

Stephan: Yeah.

Shayne: So, one of the largest fears for corporations is having a bit of a Twitter or social media catastrophe. How do you go about minimizing the risk of that in Southwest?

Paul: Well, the key thing for us is to respond to things quickly and accurately. Like Christy McNeal mentioned in her session this morning, when something like that happens, if there’s an emergency landing for example, we get information out there as soon as possible before anything hits CNN because we want to control that outlet and put out the most accurate information and just be a trustworthy source for our customers.

Shayne: So how do you keep your personal Twitter or social media profiles separate from your one within Southwest?

Paul: Well for myself since I don’t Tweet on behalf of Southwest, I only have one Twitter account, I do a lot of re-Tweeting and things, and sharing Southwest information when things are going on, but Southwest is really open and encouraging to all the employees to just be a voice for the company whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter or just in fact-to-face conversation. We’re treated so well that most all the employees have just a really positive view of the company and want to share that with people.

Shayne: That’s great.

Stephan: So you guys announced a relaunch of the blog here while at BlogWorld, and so you guys are working through some issues still but there’s going to be a new blog design.

Paul: Yes, that’s right. It’s pretty exciting, they’ve kind of meshed all of our information onto one page. You’ll be able to click different tabs; there will be a tab just for video posts from our YouTube channels and there will be just a blog channel as well. And something that’s kind of interesting is the background there’s going to be a day mode and a night mode depending on what time of day you log in to the website. It’s got some really interesting tweaks like that.

Stephan: Cool.

Shayne: Will that be localized so if I’m dialing in from Australia will it be my night and day or your night and day?

Paul: I’m pretty sure it’s going to be tuned to Central Time where we’re based in Dallas, Texas, but I’m not 100% on that.

Stephan: That’s okay. So you guys have Wi-Fi now in what, 40 planes in the fleet?

Paul: I think that sounds about right, yeah, we’re partnered with Row 44 Communications, we have a satellite based Wi-Fi system, we’re still testing out some of the pricing aspects, they haven’t been quite decided yet as far as implementation goes, but we’re really excited and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.

Stephan: Because you guys have moved that direction rather than in-flight entertainment which is interesting compared to other airlines; a lot of other, Continental for example—my airline, sorry—they’ve invested in live TV rather than Wi-Fi and it’s been somewhat of an irritant because people want Wi-Fi, I think, over live TV. So I think you guys, Southwest, is doing a good job in that respect.

Paul: I think we’ve found that as our business model progresses more towards a business traveler, yeah, there’s business guys who want to be able to send email or send documents while they’re in the air, or even for the leisure traveler there’s so many people with personal mobile devices, whether it’s an iPad, iPod touch, they want to be able to just listen to their music or watch a movie that they’ve brought with them or you can download movies or other videos through Wi-Fi.

Stephan: So do you guys take the feedback you get on Twitter and places like that and kind of compile it and show it to let’s say the CEO or the CFO and say, hey, there’s a lot of people that want Wi-Fi or there’s a lot of people complaining that there’s no TVs or whatever it may be, whatever issue it may be, do you guys really — do the CEO’s and the higher-ups really value Twitter and things like that?

Paul: Yeah, they’ve seen how it’s a real driving force as far as our customer interaction goes. Christy mentioned today that Facebook is our biggest revenue source outside of the main website for ticket sales, moreso than Twitter. But we get a lot of feedback from customers as far as ideas and things that we can change whether it’s people’s love for honey roasted peanuts versus salted peanuts and things like that that get changed out seasonally.

Shayne: So you mentioned a little bit before about your Flickr presence. I’m interested to hear a little bit more about how you’ve progressed that, a little bit of the history and what role that plays. We hear a lot about Facebook, a lot about Twitter, but not so much about Flickr in terms of what businesses are doing inside that system to benefit their customers and themselves.

Paul: Well, Flickr is special to me because I started our Flickr page for and a few years ago they asked me if they could adopt it as our corporate photography page, so I was pretty honored by that, and at the time we had a few hundred contributors, now we’ve got about 1,100 or 1,200 people that send us photos regularly. I’ll go on Flickr myself and search for Southwest Airlines photos that people tag with while they’re flying and I’ll invite them to contribute those, and we have a lot of regular contributors too, people who shoot photos and videos while they’re traveling.

Shayne: Fantastic. And what’s been your biggest surprise in terms of what you’ve seen appear on your Flickr group?

Paul: There are some really creative people out there. One of our most interesting photos was there was a woman who was flying and back when we had these little crackers that were shaped like airplanes she held the cracker in front of the window like the little airplane cracker was flying outside, and I Tweeted that photo and it went from 100 views to several thousand views within a few hours just by Tweeting that on Twitter and linking that directly to her Flickr page, so we have a lot of creative responses from our customers. Just the other day I found a photo from a gentleman who photographed his son I think with a Southwest Airlines model plane that it was the same boy about a year ago that his dad had taken a photo of him outside watching a Southwest plane fly over, so you see the kid who’s aged a year but he’s still a big fan of Southwest and you see how it starts at such an early age being a fan of a brand or just a fan of aviation.

Stephan: Yeah, and it’s good to see you guys really pushing the brand and really taking your customers’ feedback and pushing it out there and saying, hey, we’re glad to serve you, I think it’s a good thing to do. Any more questions Shayne?

Shayne: I’m interested again with Flickr, have you used any of the images from your customers in any of the more traditional print or TV or mainstream press or used the voice of your customers in that social media space and present it to those that aren’t necessarily so involved?

Paul: I can’t recall any specific instances where we’ve used other people’s photos in terms of marketing; we do link our Flickr photos directly to our blog, so anyone who presents that it’s another outlet for those photographers to have their work seen outside of Flickr. I mean since I do a lot of corporate photography I have some stuff published in our internal magazines on occasion, so that’s another way that we tie in the brand.

Shayne: So what’s been your highlight so far of the Expo?

Paul: I think it’s been great just to see the people’s interest, seeing us being excited to be here and the photo booth we had set up yesterday with the costumes people could try on and the props and just the fun that people were having with it and making it interactive by allowing them to change their Twitter profile and win a free roundtrip ticket, so that was a lot of fun.

Stephan: Have you all announced the winner yet?

Paul: No, I think that’s going to happen on Monday, the 18th.

Stephan: Cool, we’ll have to watch the Twitter account for that.

Paul: Yes.

Stephan: You guys are flying Southwest back to San Francisco, right?

Shayne: I don’t think we are. I think we flew here from L.A. to San Francisco.

Stephan: Cool. Well, thanks for coming on, we’re glad to have you. Paul Thompson, where can people find you online, I know you have a Flickr account and a Twitter account.

Paul: On Twitter I am @flyingphotog, on Flickr I am pt737swa, so feel free to follow me or check out my photos if you like.

Stephan: Cool. And the website of course is for the airline.

Paul: That’s right, and the blog is

Stephan: Cool, thanks again.

Paul: Thanks for having me.

Kevin: And thanks for listening to the SitePoint Podcast. If you have any thoughts or questions about today’s interview, please do get in touch. You can find SitePoint on Twitter @sitepointdotcom, that’s sitepoint-d-o-t-c-o-m, and you can find me on Twitter @sentience. Visit to leave a comment on this show and to subscribe to get every show automatically.

We’ll be back next week with another news and commentary show with our usual panel of experts.

This episode of the SitePoint Podcast was produced by Karn Broad and I’m Kevin Yank. Bye for now!

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