United Airlines is the latest victim of the consumer empowered video. They’re a particularly easy target given most people’s disgust with the entire flying experience these days, and the video may be getting more exposure in the blogosphere than in the real world as a result of there being no particular surprise in an airline doing something evil.
The video does, however, play up one of the biggest fears most clients have about social media: what if someone says something bad about us? How can I make sure that doesn’t happen?
And the answer I always give them is: Don’t Suck.
Don’t Suck is a catchall, of course, for being a brand that people actually like.
Don't Suck means that people are legitimately surprised when and if something bad happens to your brand.
Don’t Suck means that if you do screw up, people are going to forgive you because they know it’s the exception and not the rule and because they’re rooting for you.
Don’t Suck means that when someone does say something nasty about you online, you’ve got plenty of fans who are going to respond for you and put the naysayers in their place. That’s key: having enough fans so that the voices praising you quickly outweigh the ones damning you.
Don’t Suck is surprisingly easy to achieve, though few brands manage to do it. Don’t suck means making a quality product, listening to your customers, admitting when you’ve messed up and not putting out advertising and other marketing that sounds a lot like lying.
Social media is only scary if you’ve got something to feel guilty about. And not participating is not going to save you from the backlash. But companies who have good reputations and who realize that they have to give to get (e.g. understand that Your Brand Is Not My Friend) have everything to gain from putting themselves out there.