The Good, Bad and Ugly: Social Media’s Impact on Your Brand
To keep our examples within the airline industry, there's a well-known customer service case study known simply as "United Breaks Guitars," featuring Canadian musician Dave Carroll. While flying on United Airlines, a fellow passenger looks out the window after landing and announces to those around him, including David, "look at those baggage handlers throwing that poor passenger's guitar..." Sure enough, David's guitar was broken.
Attempting to seek reimbursement from United, Carroll faced a mountain of bureaucracy and denials and, ultimately, a rejection. So he decided to take matters into his own hands by writing a song simply titled, "United Breaks Guitars" and proceeded to upload the video on YouTube. At last count, "United Breaks Guitars" has close to 13 million views. Opportunistic, Carroll has appeared on most of the national media outlets, released follow-up videos, saw an increase in his recording business, and even published his first book! And oh, United ultimately offered an apology, reimbursement and now includes "United Breaks Guitars" as a customer service training video.
Subway customer Matt Corby was innocently eating the fast-food chain's signature "Foot Long" sub when he noticed that the sandwich appeared smaller than advertised. After measuring the sandwich, he discovered it was 11 inches long. Corby decided to post a photo of his discovery on Subway's Facebook page, positioning his sub next to a tape measure along with the message "subway pls respond." Corby's photo was seen by thousands of Subway customers, and even resulted in copycat photos all over the social networking site, including one featuring a sandwich compared to a human foot in a sock.
Subway had a PR nightmare on its hands, and had to respond accordingly. Remarkably, some disgruntled Subway customers even filed lawsuits against the fast-food chain, claiming false advertising.
That's where we are with social media today. It's not going away. When I address audiences, I remind them that once upon a time we would lock our rotary telephones so employees wouldn't "steal" company resources by calling their relatives or friends with the 800 telephone line. I also recall the head of legal storming into my office exclaiming, "You're not really going to allow our employees to have access to email, are you? They'll steal our intellectual property." As I reflect back today, it's rather ridiculous to think about these former concerns.