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He Said/She Said on the Social Web

argue

You know how movie pitches go? Boy meets girl, girl falls for boy, girl meets another boy, boy leaves, they fight, etc. etc…These movies usually have someone like Jennifer Aniston and Tom Hanks in them or someone like that right?

Well I have another similar story for you. It happened last week. It’s a little better, a little different, it’s quick, and has a good moral in it to boot!

It goes like this.

Mom and infant son go to airport, Mom and son go through security, Mom freaks and claims TSA agents separate her and son, Mom blogs about it in excruciating detail, story goes viral, community up in arms.

Except that… the plot thickens

Apparently, that same day, that’s right- the same day, that the Mom writes her post, the TSA fires back…On their own blog no less, and refutes EVERYTHING that is said. Essentially saying that none of what she had written was true. Not only do they refute it, they have 9 cameras to prove it. Not good for Mom, no matter what might have happened. Video has a way of revealing stuff.

So what are to you to learn from this?

From the woman’s perspective:

1) Don’t ever underestimate the power of what you produce, what you write, where you write it, who it’s about, and its viral capability. Be prepared to get hit from all sides once you hit publish.

2) When it involves social media, don’t ever sell something as the truth when it’s not. Especially when there are others who can call bullshit on it. That is blood in the water. Again, be prepared to get hit from all sides.

3) Your credibility and your reputation and your name are all you have online, make better decisions. The erase button hasn’t really been perfected yet for content that shows up in search.

4) If you make a mistake on the social web, don’t run away from it. Take it head on and then move on. It’s all you can really do. Time to repair the damage, don’t make it worse. Remember, we are the county of second and third chances!

5) Don’t ever, and I mean EVER assume that the stuff/content that you create is not being seen, read or consumed by someone, somewhere. That would be your biggest mistake and the one mistake that could ultimately take you down when you decide to push out something wrong, inflammatory or defamatory.

From the TSA’s standpoint, this was a great exercise in crisis management, customer service and PR. Why?

1) They immediately investigated the claim, they didn’t wait 24 or 48 hours.

2) They didn’t wait to respond. They tried to reach out to the woman with the complaint, that same day. And not only that, it wasn’t just an admin calling her, it was the TSA’s Atlanta Federal Security Director and the TSA blog team. They took it very very seriously.

3) They started to do their homework immediately. After doing so and finding some major discrepancies, they realized that if they did not respond in a timely fashion, their reputation, already tenuous at best, would be worse. They moved swiftly. As well, they should have. Why wait?

4) Their swift response comprised following up with THEIR OWN blog post (fire with fire),  and also posting video elements from 9 cameras backing up their claim that they DID NOT do what the woman claimed that they had done.

Conclusions and the moral of the story

Now I’m not going to get into a pissing match here of what actually happened between the woman and the TSA. And I’m not going to declare a winner either since the reality is that there are no winners here. My point is simply that we have 2 instances of where 2 parties used social media to bolster their case. Both sides had detractors and supporters. Both took their cases to the social web and let public opinion and sentiment decide who was right or who won. Not the best usage, but what would have you done differently?

However, the bigger picture here and the moral of the story is the valuable lesson(s) that bubbled up from this on both sides. These include:

  • How to properly deal with crisis using the social web
  • Reputation management using the social web
  • PR using the social web
  • Customer service
  • Full on transparency in a very public setting using social media as a primary means of communication.

Lessons abound people. Let’s learn from this stuff. Here’s the link to the original blog post TSA agents took my son

Here’s the TSA’s response

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3 Responses to “He Said/She Said on the Social Web”


  1. 1 Jason Breed October 22, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Marc,

    Good stuff here. Too many people sit in a hole and think they are not accountable for they write online. This should be textbook study (i’ll send it to my clients at Wharton) and most of all brings up libelous social claims issues.

    2 morals: 1) be accountable for your actions & 2) Brands need to take a firm stand when they are right. they have a lot at stake.

  2. 2 Tony Faustino October 23, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Nice work. In this age of technology, accountability and transparency are even more tightly linked. I also respect how TSA leveraged their own blog to proactively and swiftly manage a potential PR nightmare – Good for Them! A great example of how new school tech provides additional channels to address old school problems.

  3. 3 marc meyer October 23, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    @Tony agree of all orgs to be proactive, the TSA!


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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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