Liang Hwei  |  Singapore
Published 2014-04-16 10:30:09

Twitter, everyone’s favourite microblogging service, is fast becoming one of the most popular marketing tools for companies everywhere. Through Twitter, companies such as Dell, Starbucks, and even travel services like Southwest Airlines have improved their branding and customer service by making use of this platform to speak and listen to their customers.

However, with these benefits comes a cost – a new source of vulnerability.

Which brings us to the US Airways tweet on April 14th. It started out with a typical use of twitter to address unhappy customers, in this case a delayed flight. Instead of a reply that was sensitive and effective, one of their responses to an unhappy customer was an extremely graphic image that would make you twitch in disgust. This image was on the twitterverse for 20 whole minutes, which is definitely long enough for everyone to see it.

us airline tweet

There is no explanation yet as to why the graphic image was there, but whether it was an internal mistake or a hacking case, but the point remains that the very tool intended to improve their branding may be a source of bad PR.

When reached for comment, a US Airways representative said that they were “aware” of the situation and had no explanation for it at the time.

The airlines later sent out another tweet to apologize for the inappropriate image used, but the damage was done.

us airline tweet


It seems that social media is not only a new contentious point for the public to elevate issues to a point of crises, such as the Thai Airways incident, but also a source for communications crises to originate from. Straight from the horses’ mouth, as they put it.

Perhaps companies should implement stricter social media procedures and crisis management plans, or adding more layers of security on their various channels. In a way, gaining access to a company’s social media outlet is having control of a person’s voice, and unless you want to be treated as someone else’s dummy, it should never be taken lightly.

Also read: Does Malaysia Airlines instill confidence in its handling of MH370 incident? 

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