The strategy was to use social to define the customer experience through authentic conversations and real-time resolution, however to begin with the team consisted of just two people and queries were only answered during business hours.

The social team was quickly scaled up though, and by 2012 American was answering queries between 6am and midnight seven days a week. Then in January 2013 the company moved Twitter and Facebook to become 24/7 customer service channels.

American now has 17 people in its social team, which probably still isn’t enough to respond to the 1.2m @mentions the brand has seen so far this year. In August 2013 there were more than 28,000 mentions of the brand on Twitter.

In her talk at the event Phillips described the key challenges that the brand faced when it first began its social strategy…


  • Education. The social team had to educate internal clients and the leadership team as to the value of social media for customer service.
  • Resource. American has to build a new team from scratch, but who was going to pay for it?
  • Training. At the time there were few people with experience in social customer service. This meant that American would need to find customer service professionals and then train them in social to set expectations and enforce guidelines.


To help deal with the above challenges, the social team took the following steps:

  • Captured relevant data and information, e.g volume of conversations, who drives the conversations, themes and tone.
  • Took new information and distributed it correctly. Phillips noted that it’s great to have data “but if you’re not doing anything with it then what’s the point?”
  • Ensured they provided new insights to the right person within the company, which helped to define the business strategy moving forward.
  • Used the data to inform content marketing and product development decisions.


These are the steps taken to implement the new social strategy:

  • Education. This included road shows, regular reporting and presentations to teach colleagues about the benefit of the new approach to social.
  • Scaling. The social team began with two members in August 2011 but now has 22 staff in total. As the team expanded, so did the number of hours that social channels were open for business.
  • Training. The social team created a formalised programme, which is in part informed by customer feedback. This has been important for developing the tone of voice and vocabulary used.


Finally Phillips gave her four recommendations for how to achieve success in social:

  1. Determine meaningful metrics upfront.
  2. Establish regular reporting.
  3. Be available on the channels that customers want to talk to you on.
  4. Empower your team for success.