Handling a Crisis on Social Media

Instead of using social media as a tool to connect with others, as of late, it seems it has become the home of reactionary posts. On Sunday, United Airlines found itself in a social media crisis when a customer tweeted about the airline not allowing two passengers on the plane because they were wearing leggings. While it turns out the “tweeter” was misinformed, the result was an outburst of tweets from customers on the social platform condemning the company for what they did. When the airline finally issued a statement via Twitter, they gave better context to the situation – the passengers denied access were two 11-year-old girls who were flying on a company pass program for dependents of United Airlines employees. There is a dress code policy for this program (other airlines have similar policies), which the girls were unfortunately not in compliance with.

Conversely, the social media response from the Georgia Department of Transportation on the I-85 fire and bridge collapse has helped Atlanta residents through this crisis. The transportation department and news stations have taken to Twitter to keep residents updated on alternate routes and any news involving the incident. One local resident used his social platform to make a time lapse showing how the quick response from the Georgia Department of Transportation helped resolve the traffic situation and keep everyone safe.

Overall, there are 3 things companies need to keep in mind when handling a crisis on social media:
1. News travels fast
In the situation with United Airlines, one chain of tweets from a bystander near the incident sent the internet ablaze. You never know where or how something will catch on online.
2. Misinformation happens
Unfortunately for United, the news of this incident caught on well before it was revealed that the passengers had to adhere to a company policy. The prevailing narrative became that United was restricting women’s clothing in general. By the time the company came out with a statement, some parts of the internet already vilified them due to the misinformation.
3. Respond quickly and appropriately
While the company did respond quickly to the incident, many felt it was not in an appropriate manner. In the court of public opinion, the reputation of your company may hang in the balance of how kindly your customers felt you responded. When writing a statement, always take into consideration your audience and how the message could be perceived.

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