Gibson Guitars makes social media music out of Delta’s sour note

There was a great post this week on 1to1 media’s blog about an airline wrecking a guy’s guitar.  Yes, again – this time it was not United, but Delta Airlines, and they managed to squish Dave Schneider’s 1965 Gibson ES-335 guitar between a service elevator door and a rail on a loading dock. They squished it real good.

(Note to passengers: why are you flying with these great, expensive guitars in non-crush-proof cases? And airlines: be careful with those guitars! Those passengers write songs! And books! And make videos! And start entire new careers as speakers based on your screw-ups!)

This time, however, it seems that people have gotten wise. Delta, after initially giving Schneider a hard time, finally responded after he posted about it on Facebook and Yahoo! News ran an article about the axe-flattening. As shame (and one hopes an inter-airline sense of déjà vu) started to set in, Delta agreed to pay $2000 toward the repair of the $10,000 guitar, and gave Schneider two vouchers for free flights (in case he wanted to have his guitar smashed in the future, one presumes).

The story here isn’t that Delta listened, however. It’s that Gibson Guitars listened.

When Gibson detected the tale via social media, not only did it offer to repair the classic six-string, it also offered Schneider a free 50th Anniversary resissue of a 1963 ES-335.

Do you see what Gibson did there? It’s not the kind of service that they can render for everyone, but it’s the kind of service that earns them a lot of word of mouth (and, I would suspect, a loyal customer in Dave Schneider. I know guitar players, and they love buying guitars, so I’d bet Schneider will add another Gibson to his collection sometime in the future). It also allowed the company to curry goodwill with customers by becoming the good guy in the story (with hapless Delta ending up as the bad guy).

But it also demonstrates how important it is to pay attention to all the important social media discussions that involve your brand or your business. That includes your competitors. For example, if the customer’s beef had been with Fender Guitars (not that Fender is even remotely likely to have service problems like Delta), Gibson could potentially jump into that conversation and again position itself as the good guy, with Fender consigned to the “bad guy” role.

Too often, businesses getting into the social media business spend their efforts on social media “ego surfing” – looking for references to themselves, or to people who have issues only with them, or other entirely obvious types of discussions. In this case, Gibson saw a social media conversation that involved their product in a non-traditional way – not a problem with their product for which they were at fault, nor a sales opportunity. They saw a chance to become the star of this story and were imaginative enough to seize upon it.

This is the other potential of social media and social CRM: it can not only allow you to be in conversations about you and your products but it can allow you to find your way into conversations about your competitors and even totally unrelated businesses. I’m sure Gibson never anticipated becoming involved in a conversation involving Delta Airlines, but it realized that social media gives it opportunities it can’t anticipate and was ready when the opportunity presented itself.

Is your company capable of thinking in a broad way about the opportunities social media presents, or are you just “ego surfing?”