Last night I was twittering with some friends about JetBlue’s use of Twitter, and while we were chatting, two of us received email notifications that @JetBlue (the company’s “handle” on Twitter) was following us. (”Follow” is Twitter speak for being able to read our “updates,” or posts.)

As consumer advocacy radicals, the two of us immediately reacted that we found this a little “spooky.” Someone else commented that JetBlue was using a bot to do its updates. A few minutes later, I received a comment on my blog from Morgan Johnston from JetBlue corporate communications:

Hi Joel,

Sorry if we weirded you or your friend out by following you on twitter. @JetBlue isn’t a bot, it’s merely me and my team keeping our ears to the ground and listening to our customers talk in open forums so we can improve our service to them. It’s not marketing, it’s trying to engage on a level other than mass broadcast, something I personally believe more companies should try to do.

Because corporate involvement in social media is a new and evolving discipline, I also take a specific interest on conversations revolving around our role here. I’d have DMd you and Lisa directly if you allowed DMs, so please also forgive me for following the link on your twitter page here to send you this note.

You and Lisa are no longer being ‘followed’ as you seem to indicate.

Again, my apologies

Morgan Johnston
Corporate Communications
JetBlue Airways

Morgan and I exchanged a few emails and I learned that Morgan is behind JetBlue’s tweets, and not a bot, and that Morgan is very well informed on social media ethics and aware that corporate use of Twitter can be tricky. I am impressed that Morgan was watching Twitter closely enough to sense an issue, responded quickly, apologized, and removed the two of us from @JetBlue’s list. This served as a demonstration of the company’s active participation in the Twitter conversation, its willingness to course-correct, and of the new speed of social media with which corporations have to contend.

Morgan also assured me that only a handful of JetBlue’s 700+ followers were JetBlue employees and the company was surprised to have so many followers.

I have written often on social media ethics, but don’t want to be perceived as a hardliner. I think it’s better that a company, like JetBlue, dip a toe in the water and give something new and creative a try, rather than being scared away by the threat of protests from social media purists.

Not every corporate social media initiative will be satisfied with engagement alone. JetBlue is in uncharted skies. Morgan and JetBlue have shown a true willingness to engage in a real conversation alongside the company’s promotional tweets, and I think that’s how successful corporate social media has to play out.

If you’re interested, you can follow JetBlue on Twitter.