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Social media or viral marketing creates admirable media strategies that can spread brand opinions on a regular basis. Taking into account the number of people accessing internet daily, viral marketing can be classified as a feed-forward and opinionate strategy. When the recipients’ ratio accelerating a message to their friends or family is high, there is a tremendous increase in the message spreading quickly. This marketing type creates the potential for rapid progress in uncovering and influencing the message. Viral marketing can be compared to viruses, as such strategies gain from quick growth to burst out the communication to millions of people. This paper discusses United Airlines responses to a video uploaded by a customer that went viral, and the strategies for corporations to prepare for the challenge posed by user-generated videos.
Corporation Responses and Customer Service
Dave Carroll’s guitar was completely mishandled by the baggage handlers of United Airlines that resulted in his guitar being damaged. Starting from the flight attendant, lead agent, ground crew, and call center executives he went through a nightmare to settle the issue of broken guitar. He had been proactive to get this issue resolved as soon as it was damaged; however, after seven months of struggle when he saw a ray of hope, he was informed that claims must be made within 24 hours of damage, and was denied any claim. Carroll cautioned that he would write songs on his experience with United and post them online; the company did not pay any heed.
United Airlines started responding to hold its reputation only after the videos of Carroll’s pathetic experience with the airlines were posted to social media network such as YouTube, Twitter, and other social sites. The companies provide the best response when social media is involved. Companies know the importance of social media in customer relations and observe social media sites to reach out to the customers and marketing efforts. Social media is a great equalizer; big brands can be outsmarted without making huge investments, and small brands can make big names for themselves .
Handling the Incident
The major mistake of United Airlines was not to provide any response to such earlier incidents of people who used social media to vent their frustration. Carroll’s case was not an exception either, as his case was handled in a non-courteous manner. United did not display any responsibility towards its customers, as the customer service representatives were not trained thoroughly in customer service. The Airlines was selective in the media to discuss about this incident. After the videos, United Airlines was flooded with many such complaints, just because of one person who gave a disturbing experience to the personal relations department of one of the best airlines.
Quick Response to the Video. Carroll’s video got distributed in no time as some of his friends who used Twitter introduced their followers to this video. The friends and family who had similar experiences with the airlines also voiced their frustration using tweets and blogs. United’s poor service had offended many customers, resulting in numerous viewers relating to Carroll's experience. This story was posted to Digg (a news aggregator), and other social sites. After the video was picked by Consumerist.com, there was no stopping this video, as it later got published on NBCChicago.com and HuffingPost.com. People need not outspend the biggest companies anymore; as they can be outsmarted with viral videos .
Propagating idea through Social Network. According to , the two parameters that can propagate an idea on social network are the Viral Coefficient, and Viral Cycle time. Viral growth can initially start from the friends, who in turn circulate information to other friends that forms a network as a business progresses. Circulating ideas also depends on viewing the product, trying the product, inviting others to try the product, invitees viewing the product, trying it and inviting others, which is a continuous cycle, known as the Viral Cycle Time. Carroll used the same method to market his video, picking up on mass broadcast to multicast it on the internet and it was much appreciated and circulated by other viewers as they had similar experiences. As stated by , the video of the mockeries, the cultural kernel of them, the part that’s transmittable has proved surprisingly hardy that is uncomfortable. Carroll’s video was a lesson for the United Airlines that hit its culture of treating customers in a polite and respectful manner, and the shareholders suffered $180 million and shares plunged by 10 percent.
Corporations’ strategy to avert challenges. Company branding is an important factor to maintain in the age of social media, and viral marketing affects both; the small companies and the big companies. Corporations can prepare for the challenge posed by user-generated video and other material distributed on social media by carefully and regularly watching their social media efforts. Observing social media sufficiently and analytics enable the corporations with an ability to decide on the sites that provide them with the most coverage. It is important to have continuous communication with the customers through the social media sites to assist them in the driving force of their achievement with minimum cost. Corporations should also influence the involved social media viewers to endorse their brand image, and let the audience know the modes to reach them, and continue the conversation with social media users.
Discussion. Analyzing the impact of a situation is critical in the present digital environment, where everything is obvious quickly. There can be no second thoughts that many computer users spend a lot of time online in this digital era. Speaking of the impacts the social media can create on the branding, it is essential that the corporations prepare themselves in the best possible way to present themselves in this digital age and react to potential imitations of its brand.
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