The Social Media Storm Surrounding United Airlines
By now, we’re all too familiar with the controversy surrounding United Airlines after a passenger on an overbooked flight was literally dragged off the plane this past Sunday. Of course, like all noteworthy events in the modern world, the incident went viral on social media. It began when passengers on the plane shared videos of their firsthand accounts of the violence on Facebook and Twitter. Once the Internet got ahold of the news, witnesses gave “interviews” to media outlets through Twitter to describe exactly what had occurred. And so began the online outrage at United’s treatment of the passenger. The situation definitely did not improve when United CEO Oscar Munoz thought it was a good idea to post this response to Twitter:
The message only escalated the backlash, resulting in unique responses from just about everyone on social media. Here’s a look at what’s out there:
The Internet (Rightfully) Shows No Mercy
Unsurprisingly, United’s social profiles are currently serving as a place for critics to air their grievances about the company’s behavior. While some tweets and @replies consist of very angry text, others take a more creative route by turning to memes:
Others found United’s slogan “Fly the friendly skies” to be especially ironic given the circumstance. As a result, hashtags such as #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos exploded on social media, giving the Twitterverse another opportunity to offer its unfiltered thoughts:
Twitter wasn’t the only platform talking about United. #UnitedAirlinesforcespassengeroffplane was also trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo, where users were buzzing about the role that racism may have played in the event (the injured passenger was of Vietnamese descent). The story was also plastered across the front page of reddit and quickly became a trending topic on Google. Even Jimmy Kimmel got involved by uploading a sketch criticizing United from his late-night talk show onto YouTube. In less than 24 hours, the video already has over 2.5 million views.
Competitors Make The Most Of United’s PR Disaster
Even other airlines have taken a jab at United on social media. Emirates released a commercial on Twitter that called out United’s previous comments against its airline. The ad ended with the statement “Fly the friendly skies…THIS TIME FOR REAL,” as a direct criticism of United’s slogan. Royal Jordanian also tweeted out a so-called “anti-smoking” message to its customers, reminding them that on their airline, “dragging is strictly prohibited”.
What Should We Take Away From All Of This?
Well, to state the obvious, treat your customers with respect. Beyond that, your brand must recognize that social media allows everything, good or bad, to escalate globally in the blink of an eye. Former airline executive Mike Carrivick advises companies to educate themselves about social media and how it has a very tangible effect on the success of their business. The best way to do this is by preparing a strategy in case of a crisis. Basic staff training can help you keep control of your brand’s reputation on social media in order to prevent a potential PR disaster. And when positive social media attention comes your way, take advantage of it because you never know if and when the next storm will hit you.
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April 12, 2017 at 07:22AM
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