Social Scanner: Should the U.S. Airways tweeter have been fired?

Should the U.S. Airways tweeter have been fired? The pornographic tweet sent by U.S. Airways will no doubt go down as the worst social gaffe of the spring. Almost instantly, the story exploded on the social web, then hit news sites and late night television. Had the attention been for another reason, it would have […]

Should the U.S. Airways tweeter have been fired?

The pornographic tweet sent by U.S. Airways will no doubt go down as the worst social gaffe of the spring. Almost instantly, the story exploded on the social web, then hit news sites and late night television. Had the attention been for another reason, it would have been a PR rep’s dream.

Instead, it was a nightmare. Surprising some, though, no heads rolled. The company announced that it was a mistake (the photo was tweeted to the brand; a social media manager flagged and saved it, then accidentally sent it out) and the person responsible would not be fired.

We polled three social experts on the brand’s decision and what PR effect it will have. Here’s what they had to say:

Erin Bury, managing director of 88 Creative
In the case of a corporate account, there are often multiple people handling any given account, from agencies to content creators to the legal department. There’s not just one person pressing send – and even if there is, it’s the team’s job to ensure all content going out is appropriate and in line with the brand’s voice. I think the fact that it was a mistake, and the fact that they have a large social media team, is the reason that person still has their job. It’s the right call because mistakes happen – this is probably a junior person who made one of the biggest social media mistakes of all time – their embarrassment and public ridicule is punishment enough.

When a company publicly fires someone for a social media gaffe, like IAC did in the Justine Sacco case, it keeps the news cycle going. Instead of a story flaming out, as it typically does in 24-48 hours, this keeps the momentum going. In the case of US Airways, they’ve ended up looking like a supportive employer by not firing the employee, stating that they believe it was an honest mistake.

Scott Stratten, author, speaker, president of UnMarketing
This has to be the most epic “mistake” on Twitter. We still really don’t know what happened and it took an hour to take it down. Something is off. Sure everybody makes mistakes, but most don’t send airplanes in vagina pictures. I think the person should have been let go for sure. If that’s not a firing offence, I don’t know what is.

The issue about firing someone is the public backlash, but I’m not sure the people who think it’s ok to send out mistaken porn pictures is across I’m afraid of. From a PR standpoint, I think it only matters on a vanity level, honestly. If I’m a traveller and the only direct flight is with them, I’m taking them. But I’m not easily offended.

Hessie Jones, CEO of ArCompany
U.S. Airways, from a PR standpoint, needs to show support for their employees. There has been a lot of speculation about how the image actually showed up in a reply tweet. Understanding what happened and being transparent about that to the public will help resolve the speculation and put the issue to bed. If indeed it was made in error, then NOT firing the person is the correct call.

The impacts of a firing surrounding this event absolutely speaks to the reputation of US Airways. Embracing this channel means learning from it and putting procedures and checks in place to mitigate future erroneous tweets. The halo effect also impacts employees, and would deter them from socializing anything about US Airways, and this includes advocacy. That, in itself, would be detrimental to the airline short and long term.

From Marketing this week:

• Samsung is #TrendingNow
• IKEA Canada shares #HouseRules on social
• 5 ways brands can use Twitter’s new profile

The Numbers

Facebook’s been on an acquisition spree, most recently picking up the virtual reality company Oculus VR. Here’s a by-the-numbers look at how much cash the social network has put down – and it’s getting for it.

25,000

Units of the second generation Oculus Rift the company has pre-sold. It plans to ship 85,000.

$250,000

Amount Kickstarter backers spent funding Oculus Rift in August 2012. Compare that the its $2 billion pricetag when Facebook scooped it up.

$10,000,000

Amount Facebook spent on its much lower profile purchase of the Indian startup Little Eye Labs in January, a company that analyzes data from Android apps

$15,000,000

Amount Facebook spent on the link-sharing service Branch. Facebook brought Branch’s team in-house, creating a “Conversations” team to connect Facebook users with similar interests

190,000,000

Monthly active users for Whatsapp, Facebook’s biggest acquisition to date. Also of note: Whatsapp is huge in overseas markets, including some Facebook isn’t prevalent in. For example, it’s on 95% of smartphones in Spain.

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