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Word of Mouth is amplified by Social Media

by Scott Hoffman on February 17, 2010

Word of Mouth marketing and advertising is amplified by Social Media. Kevin Smith’s dispute with Southwest Airlines may be the best example we’ve seen yet of how Twitter and other forms of new-media mass communication are shaping word of mouth.

On Saturday, the crew of a Southwest Airlines asked a passenger to leave the plane before takeoff because it deemed him too overweight to fly. That passenger was director Kevin Smith, who has more than 1.5 million Twitter followers and was willing to make sure that they all heard all about it.

“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?” Smith tweeted. Kevin had previously posted a picture of himself on the flight before he was asked to leave.

Within a few hours the incident hit the main street media, including piece on TMZ with a crescendo of activity happening mid-day on Feb 15th with a little over 200 sources reporting on the incident.

Word of Mouth is almost always amplified when in negative situations as my friend Pete Blackshaw writes in his book “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000.” And this was a case of an angry customer.

But imaging this incident happening just a few years ago, before the rise of Twitter, Facebook, and the like. Southwest airlines may have been able to react to the incident and appease Mr. Smith before the it got into the public eye. This also could have been much worse, Southwest is an experienced company when it comes to Social Media, and they were able to react quickly, and effectively used social media to respond. Southwest, which also has more than a million Twitter followers and uses the service for customer relations, posted a blog entry apologizing to Smith and admitting that the situation was poorly handled.

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