VoC Roars with Social Networking

United Breaks Guitars — Nearing 5 million views

August 12, 2009

I've been infected. No, not by the H1N1 flu virus but by something that has similar epidemic potential — viral video.

About a month ago, I received an email with the subject line "When Your Customer is Not Your Advocate." It shared an example of how one isolated dissatisfied customer can use social networking technologies and become the 'Numero Uno Detractor' to a corporate brand.

The customer was Dave Carroll, a musician from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who was traveling to Nebraska with his band, Sons of Maxwell. He watched in disbelief as he witnessed his prized (and very expensive) Taylor guitar was tossed around by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. He later discovered that the guitar was severely damaged. Carroll says that United didn't deny the experience occurred but refused to compensate him for his loss.

After almost a year with no resolution, he promised the last person to deny his claim that he would make three songs about the experience with United Airlines and share the videos online. Carroll was true to his word, spent a reported $150 and produced the first, unflattering but catchy music video entitled United Breaks Guitars. Carroll spread the word to his friends and network, and so began the "viral" spread of the video. After it was posted on YouTube on July 6, news outlets picked up the story and awareness grew as friends told friends. One month later, it has been viewed nearly 5 million times.

This is but one example of how social media is impacting the way organizations manage their business. Collecting and responding to Voice of the Customer information is becoming even more critical because the VOC is probably the loudest it has ever been. Here are some early thoughts:

Dive in to the energy vortex or be left behind — Learn as much as you can about social media and how it can drive PR.

Reach for touchpoints outside of your control — Expand beyond your historic customer research. Find out what your customers are saying about you by monitoring the buzz via Technorati or other tools offered by Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and BoardReader. Participate in at least one form of social media.

Stretch outside of traditional marketing and customer contact — Think not only of your customers, but your customers' networks. Where are they are likely to get information? How do they want to communicate with you?

Social Media and viral video are becoming the norm, not the exception. That's the pulse, that's where it's happening. Get as close as you can.