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Social Media’s Impact on Your Brand
Published Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Social media is an important tool for engagement, staffing, retention and branding. Companies use social media to link their product and employment brand to get customers to sing their praises.

While companies need to leverage social media by posting recent wins, new products or services, job openings, key promotions and hires, and other company news, the real magic occurs when customers become brand ambassadors.

One example is a YouTube video of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant singing a country song as part of her opening comments to fellow passengers to buckle up. The video has now been seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers because a customer, on their own, recorded this and branded Southwest’s product in a positive way. How much would it cost Southwest to proactively seek similar brand and culture exposure?

The Darker Side
Many companies are afraid of the potential downside of social media (employees saying the wrong thing, bad mouthing the employer, inadvertently sharing confidential information publicly, customers saying negative things about their establishment). Employees and customers, along with other stakeholders, will say negative things about a brand if they have a negative experience or if the brand has a toxic culture.

Unless you take control of social media, you risk social media taking control of you.

There is a well-known customer service case study known simply as “United Breaks Guitars,” featuring Canadian musician Dave Carroll. While flying on United Airlines, a fellow passenger stares out the window after landing, and announces to those around him, including Carroll, “look at those baggage handlers throwing that poor passenger’s guitar.”

Sure enough, Carroll’s guitar was broken. Attempting to seek reimbursement from United, he faced a mountain of bureaucracy and denials and, ultimately, a rejection. So he decided to take matters into his own hands by writing a song simply titled, “United Breaks Guitars” and proceeded to upload the video on YouTube. At last count, “United Breaks Guitars” has more than 17 million views.

United ultimately offered an apology, reimbursement, and now includes “United Breaks Guitars” as a customer service training video.

Another well-known example is when Subway customer Matt Corby from Australia discovered his “foot-long” sub was only 11 inches long. So he decided to post a photo of his discovery on Subway’s Facebook page, positioning his sub next to a tape measure along with the message “subway pls respond.” Corby’s photo was seen by thousands of Subway customers and even resulted in copycat postings. Subway had a PR nightmare on its hands, and some disgruntled customers even filed lawsuits, claiming false advertising.

And sites such as are increasingly popular with departing employees who feel their companies did not treat them fairly and now have a public venue for venting.

Embrace Social Media
One of the fastest growing sites,, provides individuals with their social media ranking. Social media is the world where Gen Y lives, and if companies want to engage and communicate with this generation, they must embrace social media.

Create your own YouTube channels where Gen Y employees and customers can learn of the firm’s values and culture. Employers should ask their employees to join LinkedIn groups to share job opportunities. Firms should identify their most connected employees and ask if they would be interested in being brand ambassadors and tweet new products and services, promote new developments and post new positions.

Social media should be used to further leverage one’s employer value proposition. Companies must define who they are, determine why employees want to work for their company, and identify their stars and the common behaviors and traits their stars possess. These are essential to understanding the company’s brand.

What do BMW, Apple, and Southwest Airlines have in common? They are all exceptional at linking employment and product brand. Apple hires the most creative people to make the most creative products. BMW hires people who are driving enthusiasts to build the ultimate driving machine. Southwest Airlines hires people who have “fun” in their DNA. In addition to linking both product and employment brand, they get their customers to sing their praises or live their brand.

Bob Kelleher is president of The Employee Engagement Group in Woburn, Mass., an engagement survey and consulting firm. Visit for more insights.

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