Risk to Watch – Sponsored Tweet Blasts Airline Customer Service Big Time

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Tweet Against British Airways New Trend?

British Airways has apologized to a man after he said he was forced to buy a promoted tweet just to get the airline to help with his father’s lost luggage.

Twitter user Hasan Syed, who goes by the handle @HVSVN, purchased Promoted Tweets on Twitter to complain about lost luggage on British Airways.

Promoted Tweets are regular Tweets on Twitter but with the added feature of reaching both current and potential followers you target.  Promoted Trends and Accounts are available as well; you set your own daily budget for each campaign.

In Mr. Syed’s case, his customer complaint “experiment” cost him a bit over $1,000.



Mr. Syed has kept careful track of his campaign, and shared the data via social media.

Syed revealed on Wednesday that his campaign garnered 76.8K impressions and 14.6K engagements after a total spend of $1,000. His “I CAN HAZ MY BAGGAGE?” tweet received 45 retweets and 37 replies, reaching an engagement rate of 18.7 per cent.


Lauded as a hero by some, Mr. Syed takes slamming a brand to a whole new level.

“I’ve seen complaints about airlines and other services via Twitter all the time,” Syed said in a Moneyline interview. “I thought maybe it might be interesting to see how promoted tweets might work and if that would get anyone’s attention.”

For all intents and purposes, Syed succeeded. British Airways apologized for its delay in responding to the incident on Twitter itself and his story has been shared by dozens of media outlets.


Let’s look at a better response by the Airline to this blindside using the Firestorm PREDICT.PLAN.PERFORM.® methodology:


When originally viewing the British Airways primary Twitter account of @British_Airways, there was no link or information to a Customer Service account in their Twitter “Bio” information.  The linked website was for booking only. This link has since been updated to point to the more robust Help and Contacts page.

Businesses of any type must know that when there is a Customer Complaint, the Customer may be unaware of how to report the issue – your customer doesn’t work for you; they don’t know your procedure. You work for the customer – always.  First stop for a customer? Your website, Twitter or Facebook.  If your customer cannot find Customer Service or complaint contact information, your primary Brand page on social media will be targeted.

Make it easy for your customer to contact your care associates in a simple manner. If a customer can find an easy access point on a main website, a more public plea for help may be avoided.


What is your workflow for Social Media?  How are you monitoring mentions of your brand coupled with “complaint” terms, and what then is the defined escalation process for resolution?

Is your response and escalation workflow so overly complex that a response takes an unreasonable time to address? Does it fuel a customer’s anger and frustration?

The initial response to a customer may not be a resolution – but it must be recognition of the customer’s concern.  Sometimes a simple “What can we do to make this better?” goes a very long way, on and off of social media.


First, please do not use pre-programmed or robo-tweets that automatically post a pre-formatted message in response to a brand mention.  Each response to a complaint mention on social media must be a “real” response, worded in context to the original customer message – it takes a bit more effort and requires a mature voice but is well worth it.  Taco Bell rocks in this category – humorous when appropriate, always attentive, and on top of it all of the time.

Train, train, train. When in doubt, over-communicate.  Too many times, we have seen a Corporate entity deliver a message, but those folks on the front lines of customer care – in a call-center or handling social media care accounts – are unaware of the directive or process for resolution. Poor internal communication = poor customer communication, always.

Be Human!  We are using technology – we aren’t technology.  Handle your business complaints in a human way – with empathy, true concern and professionalism.

Will we see more of this type of complaint? Yup. Probably. Until the novelty (and expense) grows tiresome, better plan for it…today.

Want to learn more about how Firestorm approaches Social Media Risk?  Ask me about the Firestorm 7-Point Solution at [email protected].

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