Do you want Kevin Smith talking about your brand?
In case you missed the latest news, Kevin Smith, an actor and director of the film “Clerks” was recently kicked off a Southwest Flight for apparently being well… too fat. He posted a Twitpic, tweeting “Hey @SouthwestAir! Look how fat I am on your plane! Quick! Throw me off!” to which Southwest replied within 15 minutes, offering him a voucher and an apology. Southwest’s new “Customer of Size” policy, “requires passengers that can not fit safely and comfortably in one seat to purchase an additional seat while traveling” which had not been the case of Mr. Smith who later claimed he had been seated comfortably and did not understand.
Clearly, Southwest has gotten a lot of attention.While the debates fly over whether Southwest was justified in its move, bloggers, Facebookers, Twitterers, even YouTubers and more have deluged the Internet with articles about whether they should have such a policy at all, whether celebrities should be kicked off planes (Smith writes “clearly the notion of me going on Larry King scared the shit out of somebody over there”), ad infinitum.
Southwest has ultimately reached out to the director by having a representative call him personally to discuss the matter and clear up the situation. According to Kevin Smith,
“So, Linda: I appreciate the effort you made, the time you spent with me on the phone, and the work you put into this. You, too, were a reasonable cat during our conversation. .. Thank you for that, Linda – and for being human.”
Although the director encouraged people to talk about “other stuff” on Twitter tomorrow, he has no idea of the monsoon of case studies, brand reputational analyses, white books, and slide shares that he has unleashed.Clearly, Southwest was monitoring social media for mentions of its name and had a crisis plan in action, even if it was the person that happened to be assigned to the Twitter account that night.
So what?! He just got special treatment because he’s a celebrity. Southwest’s rapid response is certainly a nod to the current upswing in social media monitoring for online reputation management purposes, and we commend them for responding so quickly. The fact is, though: every online comment is important to a brand, just as every offline comment is. Although it is impossible for brands to cull all conversations that take place about them all over the world, the Internet is one sphere where you can closely observe how people are interacting with your brand.
Regular buzz monitoring is what can help you detect early warning signals like people retweeting Kevin Smith’s tweet (copying it along to people that are following their message feeds), republications of blog posts, increased numbers of inbound links, the growing influence of certain articles, and the influence of who‘s talking. One person all by themself may not be as influential as Kevin Smith, but the fact that they are connected to people that ARE changes the playing field a bit. All it takes is for that influential person to care enough to pass the message along, and the propogation continues. Influencers online are not just celebrities. Monitoring is a crucial daily activity (if not hourly, every minute… 😉 ) that can help brands identify risks and opportunities and manage their online presences and reputations.
How would you advise Southwest for their online reputation strategy? Do you think Southwest was effective in managing their online reputation? Did they do the right thing by reaching out so publicly?
Looking forward to your comments and questions, below and @Synthesio.