Watching the news this morning, I was horrified to see video footage of a man, reportedly a doctor, being dragged from his seat and forcibly removed from a United Airlines aeroplane to make room for staff. The online reaction implies I was not the only one who was shocked by the airlines’ methods of dealing with an overbooked flight.
The story, which has been reported across a variety of online, print and broadcast outlets, has reminded me (and undoubtedly many other PR professionals) of the power of social media in today’s society.
The video was shared on Facebook by a passenger on the aircraft and has been viewed more than 14 million times in just a couple of days. Many of the comments on the video are anger-filled, with disgusted individuals refusing to fly with United Airlines again. A hashtag, #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos, has received more than 60,000 responses on Twitter.
Without these platforms, would this story have received such a huge reaction? I highly doubt it. The news ‘got out’ online, with angry passengers onboard the aeroplane sharing images of the scenes which were shared among friends and followers. Without this, the story might not have even come to light.
Even if it had been reported, without social media it is unlikely that the story would have gained the response that it has. Social media offers people the freedom to voice their opinions openly – something which can be extremely damaging to an organisation’s reputation.
In traditional media, today’s news might have been tomorrow’s chip paper, but with the nature of digital media, it’s unlikely this will be forgotten anytime soon.