JetBlue’s $1 Million Twitter Hashtag.

Two different airlines announced an incredible deal yesterday: for $500, the buyer can fly anywhere the airline flies, with unlimited flights, for one month.

This made a big splash, obviously, in the news. But I found out about it first through Twitter. One of the airlines offering the sale is JetBlue, who frequently pushes exclusive deals on Twitter and is very active in replying to customers who tweet at @JetBlue. I saw the all-you-can-fly deal when a friend starting using the designated #AYCJ hashtag.(1) Hashtags aren’t always useful, but in this case, everyone who’s using #AYCJ is promoting JetBlue for free. The campaign is both viral and easy to share, and that’s a huge win for JetBlue.

But there’s a second airline that’s also hosting an all-you-can-fly package: Sun Country. They also fly nationally, to destinations like D.C., New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas. So why isn’t Sun Country’s deal getting the same kind of exposure as JetBlue’s?

The obvious reason is that JetBlue has hubs in New York, Boston and L.A. — all big cities with major media outlets — whereas Sun Country is based in Minneapolis. JetBlue has more flights, and JetBlue has more name recognition.

But there’s another key factor: social media. JetBlue’s presence on Twitter and Facebook — they’ve got 1.6 million Twitter followers and 300,000 Facebook fans — means that they started to sell out of their all-you-can-fly deal before it ever appeared in a single edition of a newspaper or onto the 6 p.m. news. If JetBlue sells just 2,000 of their $500 AYCJ packages, they’ll make a million dollars, and I’d bet they end up making a few million more. And the kicker? They’ll just be filling otherwise idle seats during a slow time of year. Social media pages that cost nothing to own or operate are generating them millions, and potentially millions more in goodwill.

Now look at Sun Country. They don’t have a hashtag. They don’t offer regular, exclusive Twitter deals. Their Twitter account has 6,000 followers. Their Facebook page has 6,000 fans. JetBlue might end up selling more AYCJ deals on Twitter than Sun Country has Twitter followers.

The point is this: if you’re running a business on Twitter — particularly one that sells things — use Twitter effectively. Offer big, outrageous sales to your followers. Build loyalty. Build followers and fans. Let them advertise your brand for you.

Because even if you do it just once a year, like JetBlue is doing, it could still be a million-dollar idea.

  1. The shortened version of #AllYouCanJet.