X-Rated Tweet Proves Costly for U.S. Airways’ Public Image

U.S. Airways is having to issue a slew of apologies today. After an unhappy customer took to the social media service of over 241 million active users to complain about the airline’s service, the company reacted with a simple message and a risque photograph. While the message was innocuous enough, simply reading, “We welcome feedback, Elle. If your travel is complete, you can detail here for review and follow up,” the accompanying image of a nude woman posing next to a plane was less well received.

Twitter, Social Media Have a Double-Edge

The viral nature of social media that so many businesses rely on to grow their online recognition quickly turned on U.S. Airways. Following the original posting of the pornographic image, which the company claims was a terrible mistake, dozens upon dozens of Twitter users retweeted the message, with many making up clever twists and parodies to further humiliate the brand.

Of course, a lot of the response to the airline’s gaff is not so tongue-in-cheek. Many customers are taking the service to task over its irresponsible behavior in tweeting the image, even if it was a mistake. That highlights the problem with social media. Eight out of 10 web users, more than 1.6 billion people, can be reached by using platforms like Twitter and Facebook, making these services fertile grounds for gaining new customers. With 64% of Twitter users saying they’re more likely to make a purchase from a brand they follow on the service, it’s no wonder why everybody from Disney to your local mom and pop coffee shop now has a Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media account. However, one misstep — say, sharing a pornographic image to 422,000+ followers — and your ability to reach the masses and generate sales may quickly disintegrate.

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