British Airways is getting a sharp reminder that social media is a bully pulpit that welcomes big companies and little guys alike, after one disgruntled customer used promoted tweets to complain that the airline had lost his father's luggage.
Promoted tweets are typically used by brands to gain visibility for their products and promotions. But Hasan Syed, whose Twitter handle is @HVSVN, used them to call out the airline for allegedly ruining his European business trip and failing to address the issue.
Syed reportedly bought his tweets in the New York City and United Kingdom markets, aiming to reach other British Airways customers on both sides of the Atlantic. As the hours went by and the airline did not respond, his one-man campaign attracted attention, much of it admiring and supportive.
According to The Guardian and other news outlets, the airline finally woke up to the problem and made haste to address it, saying in a statement Tuesday: "We would like to apologize to the customer for the inconvenience caused. We have been in contact with the customer, and the bag is due to be delivered today."
Read the story as it unfolded below:
Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.— (@HVSVN) September 2, 2013
Syed continued to lash out at the airline:
I'm sorry for spamming everyones feeds. It just has to be done. The customer is usually right.— (@HVSVN) September 3, 2013
Which prompted other Twitter users to begin sharing their stories of bad experiences with British Airways:
JetBlue Airways' senior vice president of marketing took notice:
Interesting; a disgruntled customer is buying a promoted tweet slamming a brand where they had a bad experience. That's a new trend itself!— Marty St. George (@martysg) September 3, 2013
Fellow travelers continued to show their support:
Syed wasn't happy about the continued silence from British Airways:
7 Hours & counting with no response from @British_Airways. Guess they don't care about customer service or Twitter, LOL— (@HVSVN) September 3, 2013
An airline representative finally responded, but the exchange didn't go well:
@HVSVN Sorry for the delay in responding, our twitter feed is open 0900-1700 GMT. Please DM your baggage ref and we'll look into this.— British Airways (@British_Airways) September 3, 2013
@British_Airways how does a billion dollar corp only have 9-5 social media support for a business that operates 24/7? DM me yourselves.— (@HVSVN) September 3, 2013
@HVSVN We can't DM you as you aren't following us. If you'd like assistance we will need your baggage reference.— British Airways (@British_Airways) September 3, 2013
@British_Airways jesus. I have been following you already. Did you even bother to check?— (@HVSVN) September 3, 2013
United Kingdom-based marketing agency TBG offered a helpful suggestion to a competing airline, Virgin Atlantic:
Finally, the night ended with Syed promising to divulge analytics data on Tuesday:
Going to sleep. Will reveal final spend & engagement metrics tommorow for the social media geeks ✌️— (@HVSVN) September 3, 2013