Commentary

Oh Yeah, Well I'm Going To Twitter You!

Do you know who Kevin Smith is? Neither do I. But apparently he is a "beefy" 39-year-old filmmaker ( "I'm fat," he writes. "I don't deny that. At all.") who got bounced off a Southwest Airlines flight earlier this month for allegedly being too fat. That pissed him off and he vented about it via Twitter, complaining about the unfair treatment he felt that he'd received from the airline. Southwest was dumb enough to take the bait and, well, you can read all about it (at least from Kevin's POV) here: silentbobspeaks.com.

Meanwhile, journalist Tom Foremski at Silicon Valley Watcher writes, "Social media is great at promoting social media experts but useless at promoting actual products and companies. I hardly see any product or company discussions in my Twitter or Facebook streams. I see occasional gripes about airlines, cable TV service, and sometimes I'm asked to become a 'fan' of a company on Facebook. But that's about it. The fact that airlines lose luggage, are late, are rude, is not new; it's par for the course. Same for cable TV companies. Social media does nothing to improve airline service or inform me much about things I didn't already know about a product or company."

From there Foremski disappoints by descending into a pitch for his services as a consultant on, among other things amusingly, "social media strategy," so we are left to debate ourselves if kicking the crap out of Southwest via Twitter et. al., is an effective strategy. Let's face it, social media - and the internet itself - has spawned a cottage industry in online customer service management. Now, every time a roach crawls across a fast food dining area floor or a painter leaves behind shoddy work or somebody has a meal that didn't meet their expectations, we read about it somewhere in the social graph. (But apparently you can bury that bad review on Yelp with a high enough ad spend). Call it the revenge of the previously voiceless. There are always two sides to a story (as you will see in the Smith vs. Southwest saga) but corporations/businesses are at a distinct disadvantage in that their responses can't be as vitriolic or snarky as the offended customer who seeks to gather a crowd of likeminded disenfranchised customers so that the company -- fearing a viral crisis -- either apologizes (rightly or wrongly) or ups the compensation package.

Too bad. They should put me in charge of responding to social media whiners.

"Kev, come on dude, we only had one seat and your fat ass needed two, so we tossed you off the flight. You survived, you got home. Stop trying to rally the rest of the lard butts of this world to your cause. If you don't like our fat boy policy, fly another airline. And good luck, they won't want to gross out their other passengers either." George for Southwest.

"Jeff. Do you know how many laptops we sell in a year? Not all of them are gonna work right. We get that. Some low level functionary should have just shipped you a new one before you crapped all over us in the ethos sphere. We'd have saved about $500K of man-hours trying to shut you up. Do us a favor, buy a Vio next time." George for Dell. "Rhonda. The fact that you were sitting on Capitol Hill retelling your sudden-acceleration story about our Lexus, is a pretty clear indication that you survived the incident and lived to drive another day. By the way, how much crisis could you have been in if you had time to call your husband? Get over it. Come on down and we'll put you in a '10 Lexus at our friends and family discount. No harm no foul, huh?!" Georgesan for Toyota.

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6 comments about "Oh Yeah, Well I'm Going To Twitter You!".
  1. Lisa Totino from BGT Partners , February 26, 2010 at 10:18 a.m.

    I think most people that vent on these social networks are trying to be heard. We have had several decades of "automated responses" without any solution to a customer's problem. Heck, most of the time you don't even get the opportunity to talk to a real person. Hence the situation we are in now. People are trying to be acknowledged and treated as humans. What better way to express yourself? Customer service has fallen by the wayside. I am sure there are some great companies with great service but most experiences I have had are pretty bad). Things have become less personal.

  2. Douglas Robideaux from Grand Valley State University , February 26, 2010 at 12:37 p.m.

    Ignoring how out of touch you are with pop culture by not knowing who Kevin Smith is, you also missed the other facet of social media. I was monitoring the chat the day after this incident and the number of people defending Southwest was easily 8 to 1 over those taking Smith's side. I think that's the real power here -- create enough brand equity/loyalty and your customers will say the things that the firm can't -- and shouldn't.

  3. Lloyd Trufelman from Trylon SMR , February 26, 2010 at 1:07 p.m.

    Let's keep in mind that Smith's Tweets were basically 140 character press releases as the story only really earned traction once TMZ and then mainstream outlets picked it up....

  4. John Fredette from Alcatel-Lucent , February 26, 2010 at 3:14 p.m.

    Give Kevin props for figuring out how to be a high profile social media subject in the two weeks prior to release of his new Bruce Willis cop comedy. No one seems to be pointing out that Kevin not only used Southwest but he used both old and new media to gain attention at an advantageous moment. Coincidence, I think NOT!

  5. Alex Juel from seOverflow.com , February 26, 2010 at 3:46 p.m.

    "Do you know who Kevin Smith is? Neither do I."

    That statement almost made me cry... Everybody EXCEPT you know knows who Kevin Smith is. C'mon man! Dogma, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Clerks!

  6. Abhijit Sahay from TipTop Technologies , February 26, 2010 at 6:08 p.m.

    @Robideaux is spot on about the 'other facet of social media' -- it allows anyone to speak their mind, so clear wrongs will get righted just by people expressing themselves.