United Breaks Noses: What United’s Latest Really, Bad Day Teaches about Social Media Marketing

As you probably know by now, United Airlines had a really terrible, rotten, no good day yesterday which was not nearly so bad as the life of one unfortunate passenger who had the audacity to think that “his seat” was actually “his seat,” once he’d been properly boarded and sat down. Airlines are funny things – we check our dignity at the TSA security checkin line (dare not say anything back to those gruffy agents!), and the rest of our sanity in the long lines, inexplicable waits, bizarre and continual announcements, and of course the boarding procedures. Most of us (incorrectly) believe that once you’ve boarded the plane you’re “home free,” but this recent United beating and disboarding shows that you have few – if any – rights as a citizen once you’re on board the plane.

To those who know something about capitalism and so-called democracy, that’s not a surprise. The “little people” have few rights in America – that’s not news. It’s the corporations and the computers who run the show.

Enter Social Media

Enter social media! It’s more than a bit insane (take a look at our Twitterer-in-chief), and you can’t believe that it’s unequivocally for the good. It isn’t. It’s a tidal wave of change that’s lapping up against every part of our society, from bookstores and record stores (Gone with the Wind) to politicians like Hillary Clinton who (in a former age) would have easily won the Presidency.

But back to United Airlines. Who reminders, “Fly the Friendly Skies“? Who remembers those sappy commercials with that whatever-it-was classical music? Those were the days – when the powerful created the messages, and the powerless were message-takers and not message-makers.

Those Days Are Gone!

I’m a Berkeley person – not in the sense that I’m a leftist (I’m not), but in the sense that I think that disruption and afflicting the comfortable have merit in a formerly and formally free society. I feel very bad for that United passenger – because I empathize with him as a human being – just another small little person just like me and you in a big, big, ugly world in which when the corporations say jump, you’re supposed to say HOW HIGH?

  • And if you don’t jump, expect to be beaten. It’s not fair, and it’s not right.

But social media – from the incredible, shocking, disturbing and profoundly sad video on YouTube of the incident (Watch it here) to the funny and equally disturbing Twitter #hashtag – #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos – well, social media has a way of leveling the playing field. United Airlines got its comeuppance. Its brand is yet again damaged, its nose smeared in its own arrogance, and the pathetic statement by United on the incident, just more testimony that this is NOT a corporation that ‘gets it.’ CEO Munoz complained that the passenger was ‘disruptive and belligerent’ (See this, here). Watch the video and decide for yourself. He’s an idiot, in my humble opinion – not just because what he says is a patent falsehood, but because he somehow believes that the lie propagated by the big corporation can beat out the truth shown in the video.

Hey Corporations: There’s a New Sheriff in Town

In the old days, the big corporation would have gotten its way. Its spin, its message, its version of the facts and of truth. But in today’s Internet age, there is a different reality competing against the reality of the rich and powerful. Is it more true? Is it the TRUTH with a capital T? I wouldn’t say so. Yes, we have to have boarding policies, and Yes, if a passenger refuses instructions on an airplane – ultimately – the police have to be called. But couldn’t United have done things differently? Both before the incident and after the incident?

Someone once said “Think Different.” In a galaxy a long time ago… Perhaps United might try to “think different” like – a) fix its boarding systems, b) don’t forcibly remove passengers if it’s UNITED not the passengers who screwed up, and c) don’t put your CEO on TV telling lies about a small unimportant everyman who was just trying to get home…

Indeed, isn’t it incredible that the company that first brought us United Breaks Guitars seems incapable of seeing that its arrogance and dishonesty after this incident doesn’t fly anymore? That’s it’s patently absurd, sad, and insulting for the CEO to blame the victim?

#NewUnitedAirlinesMottos – ‘Fly the Unfriendly Skies.’

~ Jason McDonald

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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.