Is your business ready for social media technology?

Tue, Aug 26, 2020

In the News, Social Media, Video

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One-time-use video cameras from CVS (courtesy mobipic on Flickr CC)When I spoke at the Chicago BlogHer conference in 2007, I vividly remember BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone making a series of announcements from the stage that included, “You need to make the assumption that everything here is ‘on the record’ unless you indicate otherwise, and everyone here is a journalist.”

In a room full of keyboard-pecking / podcasting / videoblogging enthusiasts, that was not exactly a bombshell, but some of the business world has yet to come to grips with the idea that everyone (including customers without any particular axe to grind) can be expected to record and report information.

A company’s bungled reaction to this can quickly turn even a happy or neutral customer into someone mad as a hornet.

The latest example of this is one of the airlines, JetBlue.

Passenger Marilyn Parver filmed an altercation between two passengers on a recent flight. One of the passengers was the mother of a child who had been acting up on the flight, and the other passenger was not happy about the child’s behavior.

“Suddenly, I heard loud shouts and removed my headset,” she added. “I realized that the man seated next to the loud child had finally lost it.”

At that point, the child’s mother and the passenger were yelling at each other, Parver added.

“On instinct, I turned my video camera towards the altercation,” Parver said.

Having just left from a visit with her grandchild in Boston, Parver said she thought the video would be a good example to show her daughter how children’s behavior affects other people. Parver said she did not leave her seat or even stand up in it.

“I was not interested in who was involved, I just wanted the words being said,” Parver added, “so I did not adjust the exposure and kept everyone in full shadow.”

In the less than two-minute video, an off-screen man can be heard yelling at a woman to control her child and the mother responding also in anger.

“A JetBlue employee settles the dispute very appropriately,” Parver said. “There was no violence or extreme behavior.”

The problem arose when JetBlue discovered that Marilyn had filmed the incident, and they demanded that she erase the video, primarily because they were concerned that it would be uploaded to YouTube.

When she refused to delete her video, Marilyn was arrested.

“I’m a rational, non-threatening 56-year-old grandmother who was complying with every request the flight crew made, other than delete two minutes of video,” Parver said. “I knew I had done nothing wrong and that the flight crew was out of line to demand I delete a video.”

JetBlue told Ms. Parver that if she didn’t do as she was told, she would be blackballed from ever flying JetBlue again. She was informed that her name would be circulated to other airlines in a report and she would have a hard time flying with them as well.

She still refused and is taking formal action against the airline.

This is a perfect example of a social media tempest in a teapot; JetBlue overreacted to their fear of video uploads to YouTube, even though there was nothing negative about their company in the video.

As travel expert Chris Elliott points out in his blog post about the incident,

“I’m not a lawyer, but I can’t find any rules that would prohibit a paying passenger from filming the interior of a JetBlue aircraft or of any commercial plane. Parver said she phoned JetBlue later, and that a representative told her she could tape whatever she wanted….This case underscores the travel industry’s sensitivity to the growing influence of social media, and particularly to viral videos.”

There is more about it in the Wall Street Journal and Consumerist and Gadling, and it’s also up on Digg. Way to keep the issue under wraps, eh, JetBlue?The Nokia N95 cell phone shoots streaming video (courtesy mediaeater at Flickr CC)

While I certainly understand that companies are concerned about bad publicity, I do not understand this sort of heavy-handed reaction, particularly when all it does is make a company look thuggish and silly.

Is that what JetBlue wants for its brand reputation?

The reality is that these days, anyone can carry and use a small video recorder like the Flip camera. Most digital still cameras can also shoot video and anyone can stream live video from their cell phone.

Social media technology is evolving and spreading, and smart companies right now should do two things:

  1. Make sure that they are up to speed on those technologies (how many who work in the average B2C company even know that you can stream live video from a cell phone? To keep up with Web 2.0 technology and how to use it, start with Robert Scoble on FriendFeed) and….
  2. Think through the implications of that technology, and discuss how you want employees to interact with customers who might use it in conjunction with your business. Not interact as in, “Let’s hunker down and call our lawyers,” but interact as in, “How can we use these tools to better serve our customers, and how can we train our employees to better understand these tools?”

A company that strives to do the right thing and make good decisions has little to fear from video cameras.

Yes, that’s an “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” sort of sentiment, but it’s still accurate, for people and for businesses.

This post was written by:

Sheila Scarborough - who has written 31 posts on Every Dot Connects.

I'm a freelance writer specializing in travel, NHRA drag racing and social media/Web 2.0.

Contact the author

2 Comments For This Post

  1. Nancy Brown What a Trip Says:

    Wow! I hadn’t heard about the Jetblue ‘incident.’ Talk about a poor PR move. This is not an example of ‘any publicity is good publicity.’

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    Hi Nancy,

    You know that someone at some point called a higher-up for guidance, but apparently the higher-up didn’t say, “Hey, chill out before you do some damage.”

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