Skift Take

Hitting the right tone on social media is key for any airline or airline executive -- rather real or better than real.

No fake or real airline CEO on Twitter engages readers as effectively as United Airlines’ not-real @FakeUnitedJeff. The parody account plays off the wooden, aloof personality of United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek to discuss matters particular to United as well as relavant to the industry as a whole.

Whether he’s offering advice about the grounding of United’s Boeing Dreamliners …

… or commenting on this week’s challenge to United’s fuel purchases

… or issuing fake announcements about United’s fuel surcharges

… or getting frequent flyers fired up for the new year

… FakeUnitedJeff is spot on about the industry, if not spot on about what United Airlines is actually up to.

To celebrate the launch of SkiftSocial, we turned to the person behind the Twitter account for advice about what drives airlines on Twitter and what they can do to pick up their game.

Read more about the launch of SkiftSocial here, and what it means for social media monitoring in the travel industry.

Skift: How much time does FakeJeff spend on Twitter and social media as opposed to running FakeUnited, and how do you think this compares to real Jeff Smisek?

FakeJeff: I lose myself in social media whenever the burdens of running the World’s Most Amazing Airline become too much. Or when things are blowing up all around me. RealJeff doesn’t seem to be aware of social media, although he does seem to enjoy plenty of diversions.

Skift: Which airlines on Twitter do the best job of dispelling the notion that airlines are faceless monsters that don’t care about their customers?

FakeJeff: We’re all monsters. Some of us just hide it better than others.

Skift: How do they do this?

FakeJeff: I honestly don’t know. Somehow, they’ve found employees who are able to pretend to care. We’ve tried beating our employees harder, but all they do is beg for us to stop. Maybe if we waterboarded them… hang on, I’ve got to write a memo to HR.

Skift: Which airlines just don’t get it and why?

FakeJeff: Sorry, still working on that note to HR. Waterboarding — is that one word or two?

Skift: When FakeJeff flies an airline that’s not real United, which one does he fly and why?

FakeJeff: I’m going to pretend you didn’t ask that. Although I do have a secret desire to fly on Air Force One. But that might just be a desire to fly on a 747 that hasn’t been undermaintained for a change.

Skift: Some customers use Twitter in an attempt to get upgrades or special treatment. What does FakeJeff think about this use of Twitter?

FakeJeff: Credit card numbers fit into 140 characters, so I don’t see this as a bad idea. Money talks

Skift: Airline staff members on Twitter spend 90% of the day reading tweets from people that are complaining. What can we learn from their attitude? What cheerleading advice can you offer to these dour souls?

FakeJeff: I think we learn that social media makes people angry. Our customers seemed much happier before Twitter was invented. Maybe the airline industry should buy Twitter and apply our management practices to it, so it goes away.

Skift: Why or why not is is necessary for an airline to be active on Twitter?

FakeJeff: Well, it is a splendid way for us to advertise without paying for it. Facebook and Twitter give us lots of free visibility for the new services we’re pretending to offer. It would all be perfect, if it weren’t for all those people who keep commenting.

Skift: Why did you start tweeting?

FakeJeff: One day, FakeJeff was having a very long, super bad day. All the people in his new subsidiary were warning him just how big a disaster his integration with United was going. He just wanted to make videos and plan service cuts, and they kept reporting dire IT problems and massive labor problems. So, he fled to Twitter, let his inner monologue out, and never had to face reality again.


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Tags: social media, twitter, united airlines

Photo credit: Passengers listen as United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek offers a toast during United Airlines' inaugural flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, November 4, 2012 from Houston Bush Intercontinental to Chicago O'Hare. Michael Tercha / Chicago Tribune/MCT

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