Lessons learned from United Airlines
If you happened to be out hiking in the wilderness for the past week, you may be the one American who hasn’t heard about United’s brush with a public relations disaster as team members forcibly removed a passenger from the plane after they had oversold the seats and needed to move a crew to a new location. What’s the lesson for all businesses here?
Simple. In many ways, George Orwell’s 1984 predicted a reality that we live with today. Oh, not a dystopian world scenario. Just that everything you do as a business can and may be shot on video and shared with the world. And when you do something really, really egregious it may become a viral video.
So what happened over at the “Friendly Skies” company? Well it seems that it’s the airlines’ practice to sell more seats than it actually has on a flight. Usually what happens is, if everybody shows up, they offer a bonus to folks to take another flight. Generally this is effective.
In this case there weren’t enough volunteers who wanted to be inconvenienced by the airlines’ overselling practice so they chose four people at random and gave them the bum’s rush off the plane. Or tried to. One passenger claimed his medical practice needed him back on schedule and he refused to leave the plane, so airport security and United team members, basically, forcibly removed him from the plane.
And you wonder why I don’t fly any longer.
The Orwellian situation here is that most of everybody nowadays has a video camera in their pocket in the form of a smart phone. Even folks who are not fond of digital technology are adopting new smart phones as they become more ubiquitous in society. So when you forcibly remove someone from the seat they paid for on an airplane, the phones come out and misdeeds of corporate America end up on social media.
Social media is a very powerful communication tool. While there are certainly downsides to it such as fake news, the spreading of misinformation and such it also connects almost 2 billion people around the world and any message can almost instantly go viral and spread like wildfire.
This is just what happened to United. The repercussions of this included United’s losing almost $900 million in stock value as a result and the company experiencing a public relations beating of epic proportion. Fly the friendly skies - if you can get to them.
Every business should keep this in mind as it’s both a chance of getting bitten hard or also a way to spreading some great news. Lots of businesses successfully use phone videos as a way to promote themselves.
For example, did you know that YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world? This means opportunity. And Facebook is really, really promoting video as a unique opportunity for anyone. In fact, if you do live videos Facebook does everything it can to tell the world that you’re live - a great promotional opportunity. We’ve talked about how Facebook curates content in the past but, when it comes to live video, they bend over backwards to promote the heck out of it.
Think about a restaurant where they shoot a live video cooking tip from the kitchen, or a car dealer that shows live videos of customers who just picked up a new car. A retailer can do live videos of people enjoying their products or you could wish customers a happy birthday or anniversary with live video. There are so many opportunities to use video and, today, it’s really, really easy to do so.
For Facebook, in particular, live video is as simple as logging into your Facebook app, choosing Live video, pointing the camera and shooting. Done. YouTube hasn’t made the process nearly as seamless yet. Facebook even has a website about Live.
Here’s a short video I shot from a live musical performance.
So it’s important to remember that you can take advantage of the power of video in your social marketing and you don’t have to be a world-famous director to get your message viewed.
I think we can all be united in using video in our promotion. You really can’t beat it. Oh, sorry, too soon?
What can you do with video to promote your business?