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.