Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Smashing Social Media-I mean Guitars

I have been reading the story about the guitar damaged on a United Airlines flight and the choice of the aggrieved party to capture his trauma and broadcast via YouTube… a year later. The implications for those of us in the B2B world who are still viewing a toe-dip in the icy waters of social media as tantamount to a plunge into a shark-infested riptide, are unfortunate, to say the least. Perhaps I have been a little Pollyanna-ish in my excitement and promotion of these media to my customer relationship and reference colleagues. Perhaps my notion that this environment will be self-regulating is too na├»ve, assumptive of the greater good, presuming that most consumers are eager for legitimate credible exchange of information and engagement in open and honest conversation and dialogue with the companies with whom they do business. Okay, maybe a little or a lot of the prefacing comments, but before we run shrieking back into our world of 1-800 scripted customer service models, let's take a deep breath.

  • The United Airlines "Guitar" Story is ONE Story
  • United Airlines could have/should have preemptively struck, even prior to having any corporate social media strategy that contemplated triage and response to this type of incident.
  • The incident could have been quietly handled, as we all hope baggage issues, delayed flights, and missed connections will be OR it could have been "spun" into a marvelous customer service story complete with an acoustic Guitar version of the infamous UA commercials.

Jay Baer's blog expresses these points far more succinctly:

"I certainly believe United would have been A LOT better off dealing with this immediately and turning a negative into a positive by co-opting Carroll and his story. Consider the career-based motives of Mr. Carroll, I suspect he'd have been happy to create a positive video about United, had the $$$ and exposure been sufficient.

My fear in all this is that it will paradoxically have a chilling effect on brands engaging in social media, as they become more and more concerned about the veracity of claims. Carroll may have got his, but I'm not sure anyone will benefit but him. Certainly not United and I doubt he'll help social media customer service as a whole." A Social Media Gun to the Head, July 21st, 2009 | Written By: Jason Baer


Certainly, Carroll didn't keep entirely silent about the damage to his guitar prior to the release of his YouTube? Somebody at United must have been informed, called, shouted at? Was it the lack of response or compensatory action that caused this young artist to act now in such a global way? Who knows, point is that in the B2B world we now can choose to be held hostage by the possible threat of these incidents or we can do what I have advised in the past:

  1. Develop a strategy
  2. Look for opportunities to highlight even the negative Tweets, Facebook Comments, YouTube videos, etc., etc., etc., etc. in an acknowledgement that we all make mistakes but we are willing to address them.
  3. Be upfront, honest, and quick to respond.
  4. Move on.

I know, I know, it can't possibly be that simple. J


Until next time, my regards,

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