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Promoted Influence: One Man’s Complaint Hits British Airways Where It Hurts

Social media complaining has reached a new level.

In an unprecedented move, a British Airways customer, Hasan Syed, took advantage of Twitter’s “Promoted Tweet” capability to blast British Airways for their customer service. Syed, dismayed that the airline lost his father’s luggage and responded slowly to his initial complaint, purchased a Promoted Tweet to broadcast his disapproval:

 

airline tweet - 1

Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, typically used by advertisers to increase exposure to their brand, appear at the top of people’s Twitter feeds. Syed designed his tweet to display to followers of the airline itself, and his exposure was further increased when the move was picked up by major news outlets and hailed as a revolutionary form of customer defiance.

Syed’s action, which reportedly cost him around $1,000, demonstrates the value of social media influence. He understood its importance and concluded that he didn’t have enough influence to match his anger. In searching for a creative way to turbo-boost it, he may have changed the way customers use social media.

Because Syed was thinking like an advertiser, it makes sense that a brand’s goal would be similar to his. It’s easy to envision marketers copying Syed’s lead and making damaging remarks about competitors, similar to the political mudslinging we see every four years. Ideally, however, brands want to reach a stage where they don’t have to pay for each bit of incremental exposure—particularly if actions such as this become commonplace and lose their novelty.

It’s unclear just how much blame British Airways deserves—perhaps their customer service is truly inferior, or maybe Syed’s experience was merely a case of unavoidable human error that didn’t merit the reaction it caused. But such distinctions tend to get blurred in the fast-paced world of social media conversations.

Brands, thus, must remain sharper and more active than ever in providing quality customer service, maintaining a strong identity, and responding to concerns. Now that anyone can have access to a virtual megaphone, the stakes are higher than ever.

Images: Twitter, Flickr

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