Monday, May 4, 2009

A Mea Culpa to United Airlines Because I Didn't Know Squat

I blogged a few days ago and chastised United Airlines for its lack of tweets on, well, Twitter.

I had looked at United Airlines' Twitter account and at the time saw only 14 tweets since the account was opened March 18.

Not a very robust showing in this hot, social-media forum. Some people and companies post more tweets in a single day.

Now, it turns out, I was a bit off the mark.

United Airlines spokeswoman Robin Urbanski Janikowski informed me today that someone had improperly registered the United Airlines user name on Twitter and the airline had been working with Twitter to wrest control of the account, which it successfully did last week.

"Therefore, any tweets -- or lack thereof -- prior to last week were because we didn’t have the rights to our name," Urbanski Janikowski said. "Just wanted to make sure you knew the facts, which Twitter can confirm."

Apparently this kind of problem is not uncommon. Twitter indeed has a policy against name squatting for just this kind of situation that United Airlines found itself in.

The United Airlines spokeswoman said the airline doesn't know the identity of the squatter.

In the interim, United Airlines indeed has started to tweet, and so far I like the tone because the airline is getting conversational, cracking jokes, and engaging its customers.

For example, a passenger named Mark Peacock tweeted the following to United Airlines today: "Thought the lie-flat beds were a bit narrow compared to BA (British Airways), etc. Wish I saw them on more than just the ORD-LHR route."

United replied to Peacock: "Did you put armrests down? Makes it a few inches wider. New seats are scheduled on 7 flights from ORD."

So, United at least is being a bit helpful, and informative, letting the traveler know that new seats are in the works on seven flights from Chicago. United's response wasn't an infomercial, but part of a conversation.

And, Peacock, seemingly satisfied, answered United: "Didn't let down the armrests -- wasn't an obvious option. Been flying 777s most recently so haven't seen too many UA lie-flats."

At another point, United apparently erroneously addressed a female traveler by her road-warrior father's name, John. The airline quickly recovered, showing a lighter side in a tweet: "Just thought we could reach out to our niche market -- people named John :) Also, 'enter' button is a little slippery :)"

In between the conversation, there also are some opportunities for United Airlines to drive some traffic and to up its Twitter ROI through fare sales like this one that it tweeted this afternoon.

Nice going, United. It looks like you are finding your voice.

And, I am glad that you are understanding the space and aren't trying to spam and utter corporate-speak 24/7.

This kind of dialogue can't hurt, and can only benefit your brand.


Elliott Ng said...

OK, so @UnitedAirlines is the right Twitter ID for UAL, right?

Dennis Schaal said...

Elliott: That would be correct. Some imposter had the account, but the airline got it back and is tweeting righteously:)

Valyn Perini said...

Twitter is showing maturity on the squatter issue. Someone was holding onto OpenTravel, and while Twitter sat on my request for si weeks, once they got moving, the username was awarded to us very quickly. It is a bit risky to assume appropriate ownership of a Twitter username, but if Twitter keeps moving quickly, it should be less of an issue.

We suffered a bit, like UA did, as the username just sat there, unused for months; very frustrating for us. We're seeing Twitter evolve right before our eyes!