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Was This the First Time a Customer Purchased a Tweet to Call Out a Brand?

Looks like we already have this week’s biggest PR fail: a traveler was so upset about British Airways losing his luggage that he paid to promote a tweet to all the brand’s followers letting them know how unpleasant his experience had been.

“Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.”

This is an unprecedented story, so it quickly spread across the web via Mashable and inspired CNN to interview disgruntled customer Hasan Syed, who started getting attention several hours before BA’s customer service reps even responded.

Pretty much every media outlet around has already run this story today because it is amazing, but we have to ask: will it change the way customer service works on social?

We’re not sure how much Syed spent on his stunt, but it clearly worked: British Airways told the BBC:

We would like to apologise to the customer for the inconvenience caused. We have been in contact with the customer and the bag is due to be delivered today.

Most people don’t have the disposable income or the determination to buy a tweet with the primary goal of humiliating a brand. At the same time, this incident should scare every social media manager out there. One of the experts interviewed for the BBC piece suggested that airlines (and, arguably, other brands) need to have 24/7 customer service reps on social media to avoid this very sort of viral PR fail, and Syed seems to agree:

At the very least, his is a good worst case scenario case study for anyone researching social crisis response strategies. And the follow-up should be interesting:

UPDATE:

So that’s $1,000 spent on 73,000 more impressions than British Airways wanted.

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