JetBlue Guy: Social Media Crisis or Win

by Kristy Bolsinger on Sep 20, 2010

You never know when it’s going to hit you. Or b*tch slap you right in the face for that matter.

You’re cruising along. Monitoring your channels, interacting and engaging with your customers, responding to service issues, running campaigns, drinking coffee and generally kicking some social media butt. Then WHAMO! Some guy jumps out of one of your planes and puts an end to all of it.

Now you’re pulling your crisis communications plan down from the book shelf and making another pot of coffee settling in for what you are sure is going to be an apocalyptic brand siege.

But what if it isn’t.

What if instead, everything was okay. Yes, there was an influx in brand mentions but overall sentiment remains unchanged. What then?

That is exactly what happened to JetBlue when Steven Slater decided he had had enough. If you don’t know the story – basically this guy quit his job in the most epic way possible. I’m not advocating for this type of behavior or making a statement on whether it is “right” or “wrong” – but I am saying that I think there’s a great deal of novelty to it. After cursing out a passenger Steven grabbed a couple of beers, pulled the emergency chute and launched himself out of the plane and his successful airline career.

What ensued was a nothing short of a deluge in tweets, mentions, blog posts and news articles covering this sensational and highly entertaining story. Alterian collected some data for us to give you all a look at what happened across the social space with JetBlue and their brand. Let’s start by looking at brand mentions.

Jet Blue Daily Volume by Alterian

As you can see there was a fairly extreme spike in brand mentions the day that Mr. Slater jumped ship. A spike to the tune of 460% as a matter of fact. The first shows a magnified view of several days prior and a couple of days into the media firestorm. The second graphic shows a view from some time later expanded out to include up to Sept. 5th.

Jet Blue Expanded Daily Volume by Alterian

It is obvious that there was an increase in brand mentions surrounding this particular topic. It’s also just as obvious though that there was no long term benefit of this increase in brand mentions. The volume quickly returned to pre-Steven levels. Karianne Stinson, a public relations professional at Sterling Communications notes:

“In this age of social media, the news cycle moves much faster. The old adage, “all news is good news,” isn’t the same when the Twitter stream moves on to the next topic often before the news is even finished. The shortened attention span for news means that there will be a spike in conversation about the brand, but this might not have any long term effect, either positive or negative. This can be good when the result might have been negative, but it also means brands have to work harder to make a positive impression.”

Agreed. This brings me to my next point actually. Take a look at this next graphic. This looks at the content tone during the maelstrom. Left to right it measures tone that is very negative, negative, neutral, positive, and very positive.

And now post:

Jet Blue Sentiment Post Steven Slater by Alterian

You’ll notice there is no difference in pre- and post-jumper sentiment. Now mind you, these data sets are set at different scales so let’s not get all up in my face over my data analysis skills. What I’m looking at is the ratio of negative/positive/neutral mentions. I would argue strongly that based on the nature of the event here that people weren’t attaching positivity or negativity to Jet Blue as an organization. I believe in this case they were an accomplice at best. How to take advantage of the increased attention then becomes the real question.

You’ll notice that shortly after Steven took his beers to-go they launched their ‘All You Can Jet Pass’ promotion. Was this a coincidentally timed event? Or rather was it an effort to take advantage of increased visibility with some of their markets most vocal participants? I will likely never get the answer to that question. But. I would say that given the situation and the fact that JetBlue wasn’t being negatively associated with the Slater saga that this was an excellent way to take advantage of the spotlight thrust on them. They knew this would be a popular promotion. They also knew that volume of search and reader attention was at a very high level. Not to be cliche, but let’s just call it ‘adding fuel to the fire’.

So Let’s Summarize

JetBlue was going about it’s business. Guy jumps out of plane. JetBlue explodes on the social media scene (as well as traditional outlets). Brand rep’s stress out, and get at least 6 new gray hairs. The world moves on after a couple days and things begin to return to normal. No long term negative effects apparent in sentiment analysis. Brand see’s an opportunity and runs a crowd pleasing and wildly successful sales campaign.

The public was able to identify (whether they admit it or not) with the Jet Blue guy. While in the spot light Jet Blue offered up an amazing deal. Consumers have no ill feelings about JetBlue but not necessarily because of the deal. Is this how you do it nowadays? Has this kind of event changed the way we put together our crisis communication plans? Have crises turned into a farm for opportunism? Sound off — how have you adjusted your teams and crisis plans to accommodate this shortened news cycle and ever fickle attention of the masses?

Post Author

Kristy Bolsinger is currently employed as a Social Business Consultant with Ant's Eye View in Seattle, WA. Previously she was with RealNetworks. Prior to her time at RealNetworks Kristy was working as a Social Media Marketing Consultant and completing...

  • Yup. Always adjust to the times, you never know when you’ll be hit by the unexpected. ;)

  • Jeremiah_421

    Just for clarity jetBlue ran the All You Can Jet last year during the same time frame, so I do not believe it is totally correlated with the Slater incident, although I can’t deny there maybe some positive gain here.

  • Yes – I do remember that and mentioned up there that it may not have been related timing wise whatsoever. I was simply noting it as a happy coincidence that could be used as an example for other brands to take advantage of similar timing if they had the opportunity. Regardless of all of that. I still have to say it’s an awesome promotion – if I had the time……man that would be fun!! :)