Should brands take a stand over what’s said about them on social media?


By Kristen Paquet, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

We’ve heard the story before: Customer uses brand for a service/product, etc. Brand tells customer they can’t get the service/product in the way they want for any number of reasons. Customer gets upset and posts complaint on Twitter. Tweet goes viral. Brand spends time putting out yet another social media fire.

I just saw a case this morning that stayed true to this formula. A man and his two children were ready to board a Southwest flight. The man was an A-List member and had priority seating. When he tried to board with his two children, the Southwest agent said the children had to wait because they were not A-List members. The man felt the agent was rude and non-responsive to his questions so he posted a tweet about the incident.

Shortly after the man was seated on the flight with his children, the man was told he needed to get off the plane. The man and his children got off the plane and were told (by the same agent who saw the tweet) they were removed from the plane because they felt the post was a threat. The man and his kids were eventually allowed back on, but only after he deleted the tweet.

I’m not going to get into who was in the right here. You can read the story yourself and draw your own conclusions. What I found interesting was that Southwest Airlines sort of fought back a bit. We live in a time where brands tread carefully so they don’t anger customers who might post about their experience. But could we be seeing some brands starting to push back? Do they have the right to protect their online image if a customer is saying things that are wrong? Could it be that (gasp) the customermight be wrong every now and then?

I read a story about a popular NYC restaurant that noticed their reviews were turning negative. After hiring an outside firm to find out why this was happening, the restaurant found that it wasn’t their staff that was causing slow service and long wait times to get a table but it was the customers who were constantly on their phones, reading reviews, taking photos of their dinner, etc. that added an extra 20-30 minutes to the overall typical meal time. The restaurant’s conclusion: post the findings on Craigslist and ask people to be more considerate.

Do you think some businesses are starting to say enough is enough? Should brands hold customers just as accountable? Let me know!