Airline social media done badly, Hawaii-style

Ride-sharing service Lyft launched their operations in Hawaii yesterday. And they partnered with Hawaiian Airlines to get the word out. As part of that effort the airline tweeted about the deal and a promo video they made:


No big deal there, really.

It was 8 hours later when they decided more people needed to know that things turned ugly. The basically picked a bunch of travel folks (HuffPo, Conde Nast, LA Times, WSJ and more) and tweeted at all of them, including the link to the video.


There were 16 such tweets sent in under 30 minutes. And when people started unfollowing them the response was, well, interesting.

I get it. They want the video to go viral. And sometimes you have to push a little to make that sort of thing start. But this seems like a really, really bad use of the brand to me.

In the end they deleted a bunch of the tweets, so maybe they’ve seen the light on this one. And I doubt it actually hurt the brand much in terms of how many actually acted based on the interaction. There’s actually another story I saw today (about United and guitars) which suggests that social media probably doesn’t really matter all that much anyways.

The most provocative question is not whether United was transformed by social media, since it clearly was not, but why not? As social media pros hype the transformative powers of [Word of Mouth], one of the things they conveniently omit is that offering better service to customers costs something. In many cases, investments in better service and improved WOM will provide a return, but that opportunity is far from universal for every brand in every category.

The fact United has not changed its practices is not because it does not care but because we do not. Social media changes nothing by itself; if consumers are not willing or able to change their spending habits, then social media crises like “United Breaks Guitars” will always be more smoke than fire.

So maybe it doesn’t matter. But it sure seems like maybe they should still try.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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