16 July 2009

Social Media and Airline Customer Service (Continued)

If I may – I want to weigh in (again) on this subject.

I think it is now very clear that the control over the public image of an airline by one party alone (the airline and its PR hacks) has irrevocably passed. The recent UA Guitar incident has demonstrated the power of the Social Network Community to blow up a single incident into a cause célèbre. However there are implications that many seem to have ignored. The speed with which this incident caught the web’s attention is just as easily aroused as it is diminished. What goes up must come down. Like many things – there will be a spate of copycat incidents that will catch the attention of the “network” and then they will move on something else will happen as it invariably does.

One item I did not previously comment on is the long term residual value. I speak some times to college and school graduates. I am constantly reminding these new entrants to the work force that they need to be very careful what they have on their social networks. A Facebook entry is not just for the short term – once its out there – it can be there forever. The same therefore can be said of a customer service incident. The UA Guitar incident is now immortalized in web annals.

There is something now fundamental that has occurred with regard to brands. Brands are now even more volatile and obviously much less controlled in this environment. Personally I do not subscribe to the notion that brands are dead. However the principle of airline product obfuscation that I have oft written is going to be a dying art. Now that makes, in my humble opinion, a more just and transparent market. Airlines are learning the lessons like everyone else. Let’s just hope that they learn the good lessons like the users of Facebook.


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