An organization with a strong emphasis on its social media strategy is likely to experience positive results in its efforts to improve its visibility and strengthen its message to the consumer population. For United Airlines, a public relations disaster in early 2017 has made it necessary for the organization to consider how to improve its social media platform to facilitate positive responses to different events related to customer service as they occur. It is expected that the organization has learned from this disaster and its leadership can learn from past mistakes to improve future performance outcomes. The organization must also take its social media strategy very seriously from the top down, as its leadership team, including the CEO, must learn how to embrace social media effectively and with greater consistency to achieve the desired results and to prevent serious complications from poor responses to events which can occur on its flights.
The primary objective of this proposal is to provide greater insight regarding an organization’s responsibility of its leaders to develop social media frameworks and to measure them against the competition. Furthermore, the organization must understand how social media allows its leadership and team-based culture to realize its vision and achieve its primary goals and objectives.
Importance of Social Media
Organizations have a responsibility to use social media to achieve greater competitive advantage among their industries and to improve performance outcomes over the long term. Social media connects different population groups with the organization and enables them to have a voice in identifying goals and priorities. Social media can gauge consumer interest, strengthen relationships with consumers, along with testing and supporting new marketing strategies which could provide the organization with successful results. It is important for organizations to evaluate their options in advancing social media and to be mindful of the key factors in leveraging social media to advance organizational success. Since social media is a quick and relatively simple marketing tool, it should be considered as a viable practice in advancing the needs of an organization and in meeting its targets for the foreseeable future.
For an organization such as United Airlines, a public relations disaster from early 2017 involving a man who was forcibly dragged off of one of its planes quickly became media fodder and an embarrassment for the organization (Ross, 2017). Another story involving prohibiting a teenage girl from boarding because of the leggings she was wearing was also controversial and sparked much discord among social media users (Ross, 2017). Finally, when its Chief Executive Officer responded to the first issue without the desired response regarding the wellbeing of the passenger, he alienated many consumers, who turned their nose up at his response. As the leader of the organization, it is unacceptable to respond to a public relations disaster in this manner. These issues demonstrated that the organization has a long way to go to become more acceptable in the eyes of the consumer population, as its reputation was already not strong in customer service and limits its capacity to be successful for its passengers (Ross, 2017). Therefore, its long-standing reputation is at stake and requires the organization to reevaluate its customer service practices and how it can present itself on social media in a more positive light.
United Airlines has faced many difficult challenges over many years; however, the public relations flops of 2017 demonstrated that the organization is less than satisfactory with the general airline passenger population and has not responded effectively to customer needs and complaints regarding its services. Their behavior on social media in the first part of 2017 will reverberate for the foreseeable future, as many would-be customers may consider other airlines whenever possible to better meet their needs and to prevent similar experiences to what occurred during this period. Although this problem occurred in 2017, it sheds light on the priorities of its employees, all of which require further examination to ensure that customer service needs are met appropriately for the foreseeable future. When customers experience dissatisfaction at this level, it is likely that this will impact the ability of United Airlines to secure customers who seek this airline for their needs and may only use the airline as a last resort if no other options are available.
II. Proposed Solution
When a public relations disaster for a corporation as large as United Airlines unfolds on social media, the challenges of this form of expression may be questioned by the organization because it puts them in a bad light. Their poor actions in these examples are on full display and demonstrate that the organization must learn how to better manage its customer service activities in response to different events, along with its response to these issues when they emerge. There must be a greater understanding of how to use social media effectively and to consider how to use social media to its advantage in different ways which will positively impact the organization and its customers going forward.
The proposed solution involves adopting a more responsible approach to social media, which includes recognizing that when negative events occur involving customer service, there will likely be instant exposure and backlash on social media, which challenges the organization to consider its responses to these events, starting from the top down. For a heavily customer-oriented organization such as United Airlines, a greater emphasis on customer relationship management (CRM) is important in improving customer insights and using social media as a platform to improve customer service and related performance outcomes (Haenlein, 2017).
On social media sites, the concept of brand image disruptions have become increasingly common and demonstrate the importance of expanding knowledge regarding events which occur in both positive and negative ways (Barhorst & Wilson, 2017). These events, known as electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM), must be accepted and well understood as part of an organization’s social media platform going forward (Barhorst & Wilson, 2017). In this context, there must be a greater emphasis on the discovery of new insights to improve social media visibility and successful use, exploring how eWOM messages can be impactful in positive ways and also as lessons learned for the organization from which to build a positive response for the future (Barhorst & Wilson, 2017). At this stage, United Airlines must take eWOMs very seriously and respond to them in accordance with customer needs and expectations to ensure that the organization is prepared to manage its needs effectively and consistently (Barhorst & Wilson, 2017). Furthermore, a basic communication strategy via social media will have a desirable impact on the organization and strengthen its resolve going forward to improve customer service satisfaction and to prevent future public relations disasters which could bring the brand down (Taylor, 2017).
IV. Implementation and Evaluation
Implementation of a more focused and well thought-out social media strategy requires an effective understanding of the key issues which impact decision-making and which drive its leadership team to consider how to respond to different events in a carefully executed manner. Evaluating the success of the chosen strategy requires an understanding of the key elements which impact organizational performance in a positive light rather than to cause further risk or harm to an already fractured and largely dissatisfied customer base.
The public relations disaster of 2017 put United Airlines in the news for the wrong reasons and demonstrated the power of social media in promoting how poor customer service does a disservice to an iconic brand. An organization such as United Airlines must be careful in how it responds publicly to different events and how they can use social media effectively to mitigate a public relations disaster rather than to exacerbate the problem even further. It is important for the organization to consider how it can be successful in its efforts to promote positive customer service experiences and how to manage problems effectively so that the public can have a reason to believe in the brand going forward. This begins from the top down and requires its leaders to be proactive when using social media and to not share tone-deaf responses for the public to see.
- B Barhorst, J., & Wilson, A. (2017). Retweeting brand experiences: factors motivating receivers to proliferate brand image disruptions.
- Haenlein, M. (2017). How to date your clients in the 21st century: Challenges in managing customer relationships in today’s world. Business Horizons, 60(5), 577-586.
- Ross, K. (2017). Social media matters: how United Airlines could have avoided this mess. Kansas City Business Journal, retrieved from https://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/news/2017/04/14/social-media-matters-united-airlines-david-dao.html
- Taylor, C. R. (2017). How to avoid marketing disasters: back to the basic communications model, but with some updates illustrating the importance of e-word-of-mouth research.