United hates guitars (and social media)

I woke up the other morning, to Radio 4 as usual, to catch the end of a story about a nice sounding Canadian chap who had flown on United Airlines and had his guitar damaged in the process.

I didn’t hear the whole story, but heard a clip of a song that had apparently received 3.5m views on Youtube so far.

I came into work and found a few links on twitter to articles about the man (Dave Carroll), who had received such a bad customer service experience that he had written 3 songs about it, the most popular being “United breaks guitars.”

It made me think about the power of social media and how some enourmous brands just don’t see the value of it. Dave Carroll saw the value of it, his song has 3.5m hits on youtube, and he will probably launch a successful music career off the back of it.

Taylor, the guitar company who made the guitar that Dave was singing about, also saw the value of social media. They posted a video response to Dave’s stating their support for him and also offering other travelers advice on travelling with their guitars.

But unfortunately United had not realised the value of social media. How brilliant would it have been though if they had posted a video response song apologising to Dave? I personally think it would have turned a negative PR situation into a very positive one.

It’s easy to scoff at United airlines, but it is important to remember that is much more difficult to change culture when a company is so big. It’s easy to use social media when you’re a 4 person band, or even a 400 person hand made guitar manufacturer, but things are different when you have 50,000 members of staff.

That isn’t to say however that it can’t be done, and there are plenty of large companies doing it. If you think you should be doing it too, here are 5 important things to remember when changing your culture to encourage social media.

  • Start sooner rather than later – Chances are social media isn’t going away. The sooner you start to incorporate it into your business, the sooner your culture will start to change and make it easier in the long run.
  • Have a social media policy – Have a clearly defined policy of what social media you will use, and how your company will be represented on each platform. Will you have a company twitter account or multiple staff accounts? These are questions that need to be answered by you.
  • Let your staff know where the line is – So you decided to unblock twitter and Facebook but now your staff spend all their time talking to their friends. Remind them that although you encourage the use of social networks during office hours, they still have other work.
  • Encourage staff to get involved in conversations – If your staff are spending time on social networks anyway, encourage them to get involved in conversations about your company. Social media is about 2 way communication. So why not join in the conversation?
  • Remember everyone can see you – Social media is about being open. Don’t give yourself positive reviews, don’t pretend to be an amazingly happy customer and don’t think you’re too clever to get caught out doing these things. You’re not.
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