Growth strategy specialist agency Vivaldi has analysed the performance of 11 airlines in terms of their "social currency", a phrase it introduced in 2010 in an attempt to quantify how effectively brands "fit into how consumers manage their social lives in today's digital and mobile age."
Southwest comes out on top with British Airways and Emirates propping up the list.
The theory behind social currency is different from other social indexes which tend to take a quantative approach - X number of Twitter followers, Y number of Facebook posts. Instead, Vivaldi's social currency score looks at seven different types of interaction or "dimensions" to come up with a single score.
It linked up with Chadwick Bailey Martin to interview 18,000 US consumers and ask questions about brands in the fashion, food, beer and automotive sectors.
Southwest comes out on top because of a strong showing in conversation and utility, while American Airlines was seen as having a high utility ranking by communicating pro-actively with its business class travellers.
Looking beyond the individual airlines, Vivaldi attempts to make a connection between social currency scores and business transformation. It says:
"Business transformation can only be successful when it takes into account the changes taking place in people's lives...Social currency is a powerful way to achieve the level of understanding of consumers required."
If you excuse the mixed metaphor, it is unlikely that an airline is going to change tack because its utility ranking is underperforming its peers. Nonetheless, the idea that a brand's digital relationship with consumers is made up of seven different dimensions is useful to have on file when your social media team starts talking about likes and reach and retweets.
NB: Click here to access "Business Transformation Through Greater Customer Centricity - The Power of Social Currency" which looks at brands from the five sectors and goes into more detail about how the social currency score is calculated.