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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Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

It seems the head of communications for the Vatican has embraced social media. In a news release issued yesterday by the Catholics Communications Network, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, Director of the Holy See’s press office, encouraged communicators to meet the challenge of using the Internet to engage positively to further the Gospel message of the Church.

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Domino’s has created a YouTube response to the issue that they recently faced regarding what we have now heard was supposed to be a “hoax” video on YouTube. There were several videos made by the two young people who worked (past tense) at a Domino’s franchise in North Carolina. (See our previous post on this.)

Domino’s takes a very interesting approach to this issue – and in my opinion, it’s a little over the top. Depending on what kind of policy Domino’s has, maybe these young employees didn’t realize how wrong this was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a stupid, stupid thing to do, but not only have they been fired, according to Domino’s USA President Patrick Doyle, there are warrants out for their arrest.

Here are some of the phrases from the video:

  • We are taking this incredibly seriously.
  • This was an isolated incident.
  • The two teen members have been dismissed and there are felony warrants out for their arrest.
  • The store has been shut down and sanitized from top to bottom.
  • We’re re-examining all of our hiring practices to make sure that people like this don’t make it into our stores.
  • We have auditors across the country in our stores every day of the week.
  • The independent owner of that store is reeling from the damage this has caused.
  • It sickens me that the impact of two individuals could impact our great system.

I want to point out that I was not a part of managing this issue and don’t know all the details. This review of what I see is armchair quarterbacking, but it is also what I perceive as a consumer.

I like that he was taking this seriously; it is a serious issue. It was very important to say that this was an isolated incident and that the teens have been dismissed.

I don’t know what they know and was not privy to how many complaints that they received or what the loss of revenue is but these two teenagers did a stupid thing. They should be fired, but felony warrants? (Mail Online is reporting that the two have been charged with distributing prohibited foods.)

It was important to let people know that the store was shut down and sanitized from top to bottom. (Although using the term “bottom” is kind of ironic…if you saw one of the videos.) I also think it’s important to let people know that there are auditors in their stores ensuring the cleanliness of the kitchens and that this is part of their ongoing policy and not just because of this incident.

I really think they need to look at what their social media policy is—or define one—rather than create hiring practices to make sure people like these two kids don’t get hired by Domino’s. Is this even possible? I expect that employees at Domino’s are like other fast food chains – many of them are young adults. We have all heard of these types of stories at fast food restaurants – so I am sure this kind of thing happens more than we think. I would love to believe that a hiring practice could remove this type of thing from all restaurants. If Mr. Doyle comes up with it, he should share it with the world!

It’s a new world; people do silly things on videotape and upload it to the Internet. Before this sort of thing happens, let’s give employees the knowledge of what is or is not appropriate and the repercussions if something like this was to happen.

Perhaps Domino’s might have said that we are now implementing a social media policy and are going to assist our franchises in working with staff so that they understand the damage that can be done by what they might perceive as a “hoax.”

I expect millions have seen the videos by now. The charges will now have hundreds of millions of people around the world searching these videos out. This will create further damage the Domino’s brand.

To me, it seemed like Domino’s used the heavy hand of “THE MAN” here and it could have used a little finesse. The words used were very powerful and created a strong emotional reaction in me – including fear for these poor, and not so bright kids. In this video, Mr. Doyle sounds angry. Maybe he could have gone to the gym and got rid of a little bit of his anger before taping the video. I get that he is taking it seriously, but I didn’t leave with a positive feeling about Domino’s after that video.

It may have been more effective to have this video done in an interview style or have Mr. Doyle speak directly into the camera. Having him read from a teleprompter didn’t allow for a connection to happen for me.

Compare this to how JetBlue handled a huge issue a few years ago. This isn’t the best produced video and then CEO David Neelman trips over a few words, but he comes across as sympathetic, believable and authentic. This response video works, in my mind. Domino’s…not so much.

I would be interested in hearing other perspectives.

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There seems to be a new issue online every day. Over the weekend, there was the Amazon issue where it seemed the online bookseller had removed thousands of gay and lesbian themed books from their listings and search results. Social media guru B.L. Ochman has a very good post about this issue.

And then there is the Domino’s video that showed up on YouTube yesterday. The company quickly took it down. But you know that sneaky Internet…there is always another copy somewhere that gets put back up.

According to this piece in Advertising Age, Domino’s corporate headquarters was reacting cautiously to the kerfuffle about this disgusting video. It turns out the two Domino’s employees have several videos – check out what The Consumerist has managed to track down, if you can stomach it.

It’s always easy to be an armchair quarterback and say what should be or could be done about the situation. Without knowing what went on at Domino’s, it’s hard to say whether for their situation their strategy is sound. I just have one question – given these videos and the “cautious” response from Domino’s, how quick will you be to order from them? (Even knowing that your local Domino’s store isn’t the one in the video.)

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