Silent Bob & Southwest Airlines: 7 Lessons Learned

Kevin Smith on SWAIt’s been quite the week for Southwest Airlines and Kevin Smith (aka, Silent Bob).

If you haven’t heard about the drama, do a quick search in Google and you’ll soon be caught up. You can also check out articles from CNN, two responses from Southwest (1 and 2) as well as a few posts from Kevin Smith himself (1 and 2). He also recorded a podcast that really details the entire story … from his side (Note: vulgar language).

As many of you know, I’m a big SWA fan. Also, I’ll admit that while I’ve followed the story as close as I can – from various angles – I don’t claim to know the full details. I don’t know what happened outside of what is public information. I do know what I read in CNN, the SWA blog, Kevin Smiths, blog, Twitter…as well as a few other sources. But really, only Kevin Smith and the few Southwest employees involved really know.

Facts aside for a moment…

I’m more interested in how Southwest handled the situation from a social media perspective. I can’t speak to all channels, but I’ll start with one of the most visible – Twitter. It started with a tweet from Kevin on Feb 13th at 6:52PM:

Dear @SouthwestAir – I know I’m fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?

@SouthwestAir replied 16 minutes later with this:

@ThatKevinSmith hey Kevin! I’m so sorry for your experience tonight! Hopefully we can make things right, please follow so we may DM!

I’ll spare the full details as they are (mostly) all public, but suffice to say, SWA replied within 16 minutes. I personally think their reply on Twitter was really good. Without knowing the full situation, they (aka Christi Day) did a nice job in replying by acknowledging the issue, apologizing, and offering to carry on the conversation privately (via DM).

From there it started to get ugly as Kevin Smith began to tweet like a madman – using profanity like crazy (but hey, that’s consistent for him. I personally don’t choose to use that approach, but that’s his decision, right?). Others jumped in and it started to take on a life of it’s own. Tweets and blog posts were flying. The major media companies were all over it.

The one issue I do have with how SWA handled this situation is that they may have jumped the gun a bit with their initial blog post. It seems as though they may not have gotten all of their facts straight. So, what do we learn from all of this?

7 Takeaways, Lessons Learned, Etc

  1. Social Media is alive and well.
  2. People tend to use social media to either sing praises (We love you!) or complain (I was wronged. I hate you!).
  3. While it is important to reply promptly, be sure to have all of your facts straight.
  4. Remember that people will be quick to form their own opinions, take sides, and are not afraid to voice their thoughts publicly.
  5. Twitter is not always the answer to solve issues like this. Often it takes real humans.
  6. Sometimes it makes sense to “take it private” (as outlined by Amber Naslund).
  7. Responding to customer service via social media channels is not really that different then how it “used to be done.”

That’s … all I’ve got … for now. What do you all think?

Image Credit: Twitpic

DJ Waldow