Social Media is one of the fastest growing tools for marketers across all levels of business. Whether there is a local business that wants to reach farther out than the city around them, or a big corporation enhancing their ability to reach out to their customer base, the potential uses and evolution seem endless. While there are plenty of ways that businesses can utilize social media to their advantage, there are also plenty of ways for it to be turned against them.
In 2008, United Airlines quite literally threw themselves into one of the biggest holes the history of the business. Dave Carroll, and aspiring independent musician, had been traveling to Nebraska on United. Once he got his guitar from the baggage claim, he realized that the neck had snapped and was directly the fault of United personnel mishandling his luggage (which I’m sure happens to all of our luggage regardless of the airline). He wanted compensation for his loss, and went through a rigorous 9 month marathon through customer service and public relations of United Airlines. The employees kept pointing fingers and pushing the blame elsewhere, when all he really wanted was compensation and and acceptance of responsibility. He then took matters into his own hands, and created a song on Youtube “United Breaks Guitars”, and the snowball that was United began tumbling down the mountain. Within ONE day, this video ridiculing the airline got 150,000 views. In three days, half a million. Just four measly days after this video went viral, United’s stock price fell 10% which lead to loss of $180 million dollars to shareholders. This video gained traction like no other, and the company saw drastic drops in revenue, customer loyalty, market share, the list goes on and on.
The saddest part about this story for United was that instead of losing $180 million dollars for thousands of people invested in their company, they simply could have apologized and took immediate responsibility, and reimbursed Dave of $3500. I know the airline industry was suffering pretty bad in 2009, but that is still chump change in the grand scheme a huge corporation like United. The one thing that the company did right was asking Dave to use his video as a training video. In fact, I think every airline and almost every other company should adopt this video and the lessons learned on customer service, and the prevention of social media wildfire that caused the corporation millions.
For other Social Media blunders, check out this link with 5 Twitter marketing failures