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How Companies Use Twitter to Bolster Their Brands

Microblogging lets an airline, for instance, monitor customers' gripesand tweet back. Is this a creepy trend?

When Jonathan Fields spotted William Shatner waiting to board a JetBlue flight at New York's JFK in May, he did what any other self-respecting blogger would do. He popped open his Apple (AAPL) Mac, connected to the Web using the free Wi-Fi provided by JetBlue, and used Twitter to share the sighting with pals. "JetBlue terminal," Fields wrote on the blog service that lets users send short messages of 140 characters with status updates to groups of friends. "William Shatner waiting in pinstripe suit and shades to board flight to Burbank. Why's he flying JetBlue? Free, maybe?"

But he was caught off guard by what happened next. Within 10 seconds he got an e-mail informing him that JetBlue (JBLU) was following him on Twitter.