How many viewers does it take for it to matter?

There is a good customer dissatisfaction video on YouTube about a band member that had his guitar damaged when flying United Airlines. According to the video, there were witnesses to baggage handlers throwing the guitar and taking absolutely no care with it. Currently, there are only a few hundred views of this video, but many, many comments – most of them saying they are appalled at how United has handled this issue.

Apart from being an interesting (and entertaining) video made by a dissatisfied customer, this also brings up something that we have recently been discussing here at AHA Creative Strategies: social media measurement – in all its forms. We provide evaluation on projects, media coverage and other initiatives to quite a few clients and the accuracy and credibility of that evaluation is very important to us. Social media is a challenge because the natural reaction is to use traditional evaluation methods, and that’s a little like comparing apples to oranges.

I had this discussion with my friend and colleague Stephen Hodgdon of Beaupre and I thought his response—while specifically about blogs—was worth repeating and could be applied to many forms of social media. He said: “Blog traffic has a number of advantages over traditional media reader metrics, including that it tends to drive more customers directly to your business website, enables you to engage with your customers directly, and increases your search engine visibility, to name a few.”

In the case of the United Breaks Guitars video, it is interesting to note that there are companies that specialize in the transportation of band gear (full disclosure, one of the top companies out of the U.S. that does this is an AHA client.). Think about the gear of big name acts like The Rolling Stones, Britney Spears, U2, Matchbox 20, Kelly Clarkson and Nickleback and the hundreds of other acts flying around. (These acts aren’t necessarily connected to our client). They tour globally and for the most part – they take a lot of their gear with them. The shipment of guitars and drums and other instruments and equipment needed to put on a world-class show can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars per band. So, not only has United put off this one particular customer, who happens to be in what appears to be a smaller band, it may also be showing other much larger clients that United can’t be trusted with this kind of cargo. What do you think would happen if someone had to explain to Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi that their favourite guitar was damaged in transit? That wouldn’t be good for anyone.

So, from this video – not only do I now believe that as a single passenger, United Airlines will do nothing to help me, I have also sent it to my client, who runs a company that promises that a band’s gear will get to the next city on time and in one piece.

In this day and age, it’s not how many people hear the good or bad about your organization, it’s who hears about it and what that means to you.

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