What SouthWest Airlines (SWA) has done is to consolidate customers and fans for the better performance of its operation in light of competition it is facing. This is a clear case where social media is being used as a channel that supports community building, customer collaboration and sharing ideas and market trends that propel the performance of a company. This strategy should be adopted in an ideal education situation so that university systems could look for ways of engaging and motivating learners to be more proactive. Still on SWA, the Company actively engaged fans on Facebook through posting different items and argumentative debates just to gather opinions on what customers expect from them. This is what Dani and Singer (2008) term as ‘discrete approach to marketing and feasibility study on what people expect’ (p. 192). American University of Sharjah needs to integrate a number of social media tools into the learning process to reflect the success SWA has enjoyed within the shortest period of time it has been on business.
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Beginning with how SWA has integrated Facebook within its platform, it is important to note that what American University of Sharjah should strive to achieve is to have social networking. To contextualize this point, when using Facebook to engage customers, the case (Southern Airlines by Adam Saffer) reports that by posting a video from Air Zealand there were 58 comments and 95 likes. These comments according to the author helped the Company strategize on the best approaches to deal with the demands of its client. Contextualizing this case, research by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI 2007) has shown that at least 87 percent of students in universities have social media accounts and as such, Facebook account for about 90 percent. This statistics shows that social networking websites have become integral parts of students’ live at American University of Sharjah. It is from this perspective that the university should try as much as possible to engage students in decision making process by posting agendas and policies for debate. That is, facebook should be integrated as part of learning process. From the case, it has been noted that SWA communicated with Facebook fans in response to the questions and issues they were having. When there was a query or a problem from their fans, they could respond to the question on time and publicly. This is particularly to the issue that Lala Palelei asked on November 2nd 2009. It is from this approach that it is recommended for American University of Sharjah to actively engage with students through Facebook. As a matter of fact, Alexander Astin proposed a developmental theory that sought to engage with learners (Geyer et al. 2009). In his theory, he proposed that social interaction with learners help them grow psychologically and physically. Just like what SWA did, responding to the issues students are asking should be evidence-based. That is, answers should be well researched so that engagement includes efforts students invest in their educational activities and such empirically connected to the objectives of the university.
Just like SWA, American University of Sharjah is active on Twitter. It is important to note that adoption of official Twitter account is one factor, making it outpace empirical understanding of the use of such technology and the available theories regarding why it (the Twitter account) may alter a number of organizational process is another. It is from this observation that the university should make twitter account serve the purpose SWA’s twitter account is doing. The case reads, ‘of the social tools, SWA has found Twitter to be its primary means of interacting with its public.’ There are inherent reasons as to why the Company finds Twitter to be a source of interaction. Citing a case, it is reported that Jessica Turner had an interesting post concerning newest service location which was geared towards attracting debates on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This post attracted attention of its followers to an extent that the SWA managed to understand dynamics of the market through what is termed as ‘two-way communication between SWA and its publics.’ Basically, this is the recommendation the University needs—a two-way communication between students, teaching staff and the public. This recommendation is evidence-based. Scholars such as Daly (2010) have studied the relationship between social practices and new technologies and found greater utility in the concept of affordance and unity because by positively engaging others through social media forums explain why organizations using same technology are likely to engage in disparate or similar work practices and communication. On 14th December 2014 the University through its official Facebook account posted the 12th NGN10 Competition where engineering students from the university were invited to contribute on the best way to make the lightest tower crane. While this approach is similar to what Christi Day did about his Twitter post on ‘Grab your bag. It’s on’ it is recommended that for effective interaction, the university should integrate marketing campaign when making such posts so that a conversation is generated between interested parties and students.
Flickr and You Tube are other two social media SWA has used to capitalize on the needs of its customers and fans. On Flickr the information provided is that organizations such as the University can use social media to counter unrealistic claims and complaints aimed at tarnishing its image. This is in regard to complain made by Scooteriscracy. However, to maintain transparency and avoid circumstances as the one SWA found itself in, the line between personal business and professional posting should be distinct. It is recommended that the University should be careful in its posting. Nuts about Southwest as the name of SWA’s You Tube should be used as a benchmark in helping American University of Sharjah note that the use of social media also encompasses permitting every employer to self-publish as long as such publication conforms to specific regulations of the institution. It is apparent that the manner in which the University uses You Tube does not allow people, including students to communicate or share their views and opinions across faculties or organizational boundaries. To conceptualize this recommendation, Brzozowski et al. (2009) conducted a research on the benefits of institutional engagements of leaners on social media. After interviewing 425 undergraduate students from the Midwestern institution, is was found that when learners are allowed to share, post or participate in education forums posted through social media there is a positive correlation between student engagement in the affairs of school and success of the school in policy drafting and implementation. In fact it is through this recommendation that SWA has managed to achieve its objective—great customer service (being ranked as the airline with the least cases of complaints per passenger since it started monitoring the data in 1987).
It is important to mention, just like Fuller and Valacich (2008) does that the usage of social media in American University of Sharjah should be about providing meta-knowledge. That is, making the institution understand the type of people in its environ and what they may do so that good relationships and rapport is maintained. Just like what SWA is doing through blogging, the University could let students and employees create profiles pages on different social media where such pages have corporate directories information, photos as well as summary of content that individuals have contributed. It is from such initiatives that people will learn more about the interests, backgrounds and activities of students, workers. It is apparent that what SWA has succeeded in is creativity which as not only placed it as one of the fasted growing companies but also made it become effective. This will be achieved if the University allows participation by all in social media activities. Finally, American University of Sharjah has a reputation to keep and for the usage of social media, maintenance of confidentiality, transparency and respect to the property should note be overshadowed by the quest to adopt the recommendation provided.
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