Social Media Case Study – United Breaks Guitars

Have you heard the story about United Breaks Guitars?

Heres what can happen if the wrong person (or the right one) has a bad experience with your business.

Dave Carroll was so frustrated after being worked through the system with no outcome that he asked himself “what would Michael Moore do?”  His answer – write a song and post it on YouTube.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link

United Breaks Guitars YouTube clip

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According to the wikipedia page  “Carroll says that his fruitless negotiations with the airline for compensation lasted nine months. Then, thinking what Michael Moore would have done, Carroll wrote a song and created a music video about his experience. The lyrics include the verse “I should have flown with someone else, or gone by car, ’cause United breaks guitars.” Carroll, who has performed as a solo artist and as a member of the group Sons of Maxwell, wrote two sequel songs related to the events. The second video, “United Breaks Guitars: Song 2” was released on YouTube on August 17, 2009. The song takes a humorous look at Carroll’s dealings with “the unflappable” United customer service employee Ms. Irlweg, and targets the “flawed policies” that she was forced to uphold. In March 2010, “United Breaks Guitars: Song 3” was released. The song notes that not all employees at United are “bad apples.” The final line of the trilogy of songs is, “They say that you’re [United] changing and I hope you do, ‘Cause if you don’t then who would fly with you?”

Here’s what happened next…

  • The YouTube video was posted on July 6, 2009. It amassed 150,000 views within one day, prompting United to contact Carroll saying it hoped to right the wrong.The video garnered over half a million hits by July 9,5 million by mid-August 2009,10 million by February 2011, and 13.2 million by July 2013.
  • The MD of united personally called to apologise
  • Within 4 days of the video being posted online, United Airline’s stock price fell 10%, costing stockholders about $180 million in value
  • The video (and Dave) is now used for staff training at United Airlines.
If this happened to you, how would you respond?  Let us know in the comments


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