Much has been written about the impact of social media on corporations and yet many still dismiss it as a distraction.
The “United Break Guitars” video has now been viewed more than 12 million times. For those not familiar with this story, United Airlines passenger Dave Carroll had his guitar destroyed by the airline’s baggage handlers during a flight. After a battle with United for reimbursement and repeated rejections, he wrote a song decrying their poor customer service. (See video below)
I have heard a number of commentators suggest this incident has really not made a blip on the radar screen of United’s business. While others have argued it actually cost them a fortune.
I think the answer lies somewhere in between these positions. I did not stop flying United after seeing the clip but at the same time it did further diminish my opinion of them and how they run their business. As competition enters the market such as Virgin America I am more interested in considering these alternatives and what they have to offer. The social media impact of hearing about negative experiences reinforces my perception United really does not care about retaining my custom and makes me open to hear about alternatives.
So while bad experiences like these shared on social media don’t necessarily change short term behavior they do reinforce a negative brand position for companies that is very difficult to reverse. They are constantly swimming upstream against waves of customer dissatisfaction.
For me I see negative social media as more like a “death by a thousand cuts”, it creates a slow but consistent erosion of a Brand’s reputation that increases its costs to acquire new customers and puts at risk its existing customer relationships.
Essentially it is amplified “negative word of mouth” so while the impact and influence of this will vary across the customer base, it is hard to argue it will not have an impact.
The bottom line
It does not have to cost more to do the right thing for your customers. Avoid the slow death of negative sentiment and instead give customers something positive to talk about, it will be like floating downstream…
What do you think the impact of social media has been on business?