US Airways Tweet and the Social Assassins

3 years ago by in Featured Articles, Rants, Social Media Tagged: ,

If you haven’t heard by now what happened with the US Airways Tweet yesterday, well, you might be a luddite.

To encapsulate: in response to a customer complaint, the airline Tweeted back a lewd photo that was said to involve a woman and a model airplane. Once an only imagine.

Of course, as soon as this happened the social media police and every expert in the world rushed to not only condemn the airline, but to also pile on and spread the misery for the airline. US Airways, who has recently merged with American Airlines, also has the legacy of its new parent company’s social media attention recently when a teenage girl “jokingly” Tweeted terrorist threats at the airline. The airline’s response was both applauded and decried for its seriousness and use of FBI intervention.

But let’s get back to yesterday and US Airways.

There’s no doubt that companies, due to a lack of clear processes and tools, continue to make rookie mistakes in social media. This is bound to happen at a time when instant communications, with rising customer expectations, drive many companies to respond quickly. There are bound to be mistakes and the incessant “beat the dead horse” approach by many thought leaders is discouraging and, frankly, reminiscent of ambulance chasing lawyers.

Yesterday after this all unfolded, Fran Eliason, director of global social at Citi, and someone I have a great deal of respect for, Tweeted the same sentiment. He also wrote a great post today about the issue and his take on it. Worth the time to read.

As Frank mentions in his post, we need to look at these errors for what they are and also learn about the type of content brands are publishing period. All valid and a good exploration. But I’m a little more peeved at the continued public lashing out by so-called social media purveyors. Some of these folks are bright people who have minions who then create an absolute typhoon of comments and public humiliation campaigns when brands make these mistakes. I think that’s just wrong, cheap and reeks of desperate ways to develop your own clientele.

An academic deconstruction of what happens and how to avoid it, and help brands do better content is clearly the right approach. When we have men and women who get paid lots of dough to speak “on the circuit” ridiculing these brands and trying to pile on, it doesn’t help. All they’re doing is drumming up their crowds and taking pot shots.

What is most ironic about many of them is they’ve never been on the brand side. They’ve never had to deal with the issues a US Airways or another big brand have had to on a daily basis. It’s easy to be a Monday Morning Quarterback and take shots from the outside when you’ve never been in the pressure cooker.

It’s time to realize humans make mistakes – and yes, sometimes egregious and stupid ones. Those brands pay the price but when experts tell brands to be themselves and let go of the fear, it doesn’t help that when mistakes are made they’re immediately tag with the Scarlet Letter from a bunch of consultants who’ve never faced a public company board or a CEO.

Walk a mile in their shoes first folks. Offer constructive ways for the industry to do better. Taking pot shots, making jokes, and calling for people to be fired is akin to a punch below the belt.

I think we’re better than that.



Scott Gulbransen

Scott is Global Head of Digital Content at Haymon Boxing - the world's premier boxing management firm. He's the former Vice President of Digital Marketing at DSI, and ran social media and PR at brands like Applebee's, and Intuit's TurboTax. He's a regular contributor for Social Media Today,,, and in 2011 ranked #21 in the list of “Top 50 Daddy Bloggers” in the USA by Cision. His award-winning social marketing campaigns are known for their engaging content, humor and real results.

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