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DISRUPT: Customer Pays Twitter to Complain About British Airways

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Total disruption is unfolding in real-time around lost luggage and an angry customer. But this time there's a new twist. The customer PAID Twitter for a promoted tweet and tells the world. And the brand is no shrinking violet -- it's British Airways.

Here's what's going on:

Hasan Syed tried to help his father find his lost luggage. After tons of aggravation both online and off, he finally decided to use the power of social media and buy a promoted tweet to express his frustration.

From Mashable: "Syed, who uses the handle @HVSVN, told Mashable that he bought the tweet in the New York City and UK markets Monday night. He said he used Twitter's self-serve ad platform to make the purchase. Syed declined to disclose how much the tweet cost."

Here's why this is an important moment in marketing history: The customer is MAD and is taking the power into their own hands -- in this case, using Twitter. And the customer is willing to PAY to be heard. 's no secret that customer service has been on the decline for years. The industry saw a glimmer of hope when social first started -- real people from real brands were on Twitter and in Facebook, back in 2010 and 2011.

That's changed and now social is full of automated responses to customer complaints -- 'click here on our website for more information blah blah blah.'

Is it possible that brands and companies still don't realize the power of social media? The beauty of this from Mr. Syed's point of view is that it will all play out in public. The downside for the brand is that it will all play out in public.

The advertising and branding world will be watching with great interest to see how this rolls out. I teach my Brand Management students at the UCLA Extension that a brand is a promise. That's not new. What is new here is that the customer agrees with that promise and is going to hold the brand accountable.

This could be the start of a new customer movement. There are many ways British Airways could use the power of social media to not only make this right but end up on top. I'm even going to offer 1 hour of free Social Media Advisory services to BA. I suggest they call me or someone in a hurry.

Because already, on @HVSVN's twitter feed is this interesting Twitter post from @_firebone: What if patients were more forward and public with their frustration with hospitals like @HVSVN was with @British_Airways? This is how viral works and this could be a make or break moment for a global brand.

On another note, I hope to have Mr. Syed on Social Media Radio soon. Things are getting interesting, indeed!