Social media has quickly become a medium on which members of the general public complain to big corporations regarding substandard products, customer service issues, or just look for guidance.
Due to the instantaneous nature of social networking websites such as Twitter, the gap between large corporations and the customer has shrunk, allowing 140 rage induced characters to be directed straight at the company involved. It only takes one look at the timeline of Student Finance England or Greater Anglia to see that the public relations representatives responsible for answering these queries are desperate to portray a positive and helpful image, regardless of the quantity of complaints.
However, Mark Leiser, a supervised PhD law student at Strathclyde University, found that tweeting comments regarding a delay to budget airline EasyJet did not offer any guidance or support but rather a confrontation with the manager of EasyJet at Glasgow Airport. After being informed that the delays had held up a serving solider who was on route to take part in active service, Mr Leiser vented on Twitter.
The resulting clash with members of EasyJet staff, who went on to inform Mr Leiser that he would not be allowed on the flight because of the tweet, raises serious issues not only regarding freedom of speech but also questions surrounding information security. Revealing information on other passengers travelling on that flight is a breach not only of the soldier’s privacy, but also a possible security risk given the nature of the person’s occupation.
Mr Leiser was eventually allowed to travel on the Glasgow to Gatwick flight after demonstrating that he did, indeed, understand the law surrounding the circumstances. However, this could signal the beginning of the changing nature of large corporate presences on social media, from a helpful direct line to a team of customer service representatives, to individual staff members taking it upon themselves to follow up on comments made. This vigilante system of PR does nothing for the image of the company, but also severs a unique form of communication between these two entities. Shamefully, this may mean that names such as EasyJet gain a reputation for punishing their critics, effectively silencing those who may wish to weigh in, and therefore not allowing companies to constructively use this feedback to their advantage.