US Airways: From #EpicFail to a Solid Lesson in #H2H

It’s never easy to fail publicly in social. Everyone can feel their pain, which could be why brands operate out of embarrassment when they do fail, lashing out with knee-jerk reactions and usually the termination of a scapegoat – an “intern” – thinking it will solve the problem. But ultimately, just making the “problem” go away does nothing to solve the actual problem. Earlier this week, when US Airways accidentally tweeted an incredibly graphic NSFW image by accident while trying to resolve a customer complaint, everyone’s initial reaction (after making every “landing strip” and “black box” joke in the book) was this:

“Somebody’s getting fired.”

The crowds amassed and took sides without context. Tweet after tweet bludgeoned the brand with jokes, parodies and anger. Another brand had failed, in one second tarnishing its reputation – and based on past social fails, someone was going to have to pay.

But then US Airways responded with something, unexpected.

“It was an honest mistake,” Matt Miller, a spokesperson for US Airways, told Mashable. “It was done as part of the process to capture the tweet to flag it as inappropriate,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, the link to the image was inadvertently included in a response to a customer.”

Wait… what? Mr. Miller actually acknowledged that it was an honest mistake, and dared to reveal that there are actually – GASP! – humans working for their airline?! What is happening?!

Humanity QuoteUS Airways, I commend you for not firing anyone. You could have been like everyone else and found a scapegoat, but didn’t. Human to Human #H2H means bringing back the simplicity, empathy and imperfection in our communication. You exemplified #H2H in how you handled this snafu, and it took courage. You embraced the failure, were open about it, and reassured us that you would use this misstep as a lesson in sharpening your brand pencil to create better social governance processes in the future so it didn’t happen again. #respect.

Thank you for remembering that humans are imperfect. We are going to fail. And if we don’t embrace those failures and learn from them, then what’s the point?! As I say in my book: “The rise of social media has given a digital platform to the dark side of anonymity, both as individuals and as crowds. I say it’s time to lay down the virtual pitchforks and torches and bring this behavior back into balance. The delightful side of humanity holds with it empathy, understanding, and forgiveness, and when remembered in our communication, it ties us together as a common group.”

US Airways is the first brand I have seen show real class in how they handled this pretty huge crisis. And I feel endeared to them now, like, they get me as a human because I make mistakes too. Kudos to USAirways – you’re a great example of an #H2H brand.`