Key Lesson From The US Airways #Fail: Marketers Need Help Managing Risk

Nick Hayes

Everyone makes mistakes, but for social media teams, one wrong click can mean catastrophe. @USAirways experienced this yesterday when it responded to a customer complaint on Twitter with a pornographic image, quickly escalating into every social media manager’s worst nightmare.

Not only is this one of the most obscene social media #fails to date, but the marketers operating the airline’s Twitter handle left the post online for close to an hour. In the age of social media, it might as well have remained up there for a decade. Regardless of how or why this happened, this event immediately paints a picture of incompetence at US Airways, as well as the newly merged American Airlines brand.

It also indicates a lack of effective oversight and governance.

While details are still emerging, initial reports indicate that human error was the cause of the errant US Airways tweet, which likely means it was a copy and paste mistake or the image was saved incorrectly and selected from the wrong stream. In any case, basic controls could have prevented this brand disaster:

  • US Airways could have built a process where all outgoing posts that contain an image must be reviewed by a secondary reviewer or manager;
  • It could have segregated its social content library so that posts flagged for spam don’t appear for outgoing posts;
  • It could have leveraged technology that previews the full post and image before publishing.
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