Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How Far is Too Far to Bend Over for Social Media?

Maybe I just have a hard heart but the following exchange just makes me tired. Long story short: a blogger wrote about how his 8 year-old son who LOVES drawing airplanes sent a drawing and a letter to Boeing, asking them if they'd like to build his plane for real. The kid received a form letter from Boeing written in corporate-speak. The dad was torn about whether or not to show the kid the letter. Fair enough.

Then the dad blogged about how the entire world was apparently affronted by this horrible treatment of a little boy's dreams. The result was news coverage, an invitation for the kid to host a "design your own airplane show" and a public apology from Boeing to the boy, his dad and the world for this inhumane gaffe:

The letter Mr. Winsor posted is, as he said, a required response. For kids, we can do better. We'll work on it. @BoeingAirplanesless than a minute ago via HootSuite

Because, you know, Boeing staff and execs have nothing better to do than sit around and craft special responses to kids who send in drawings.

I don't know which part of this offends me most: the "kids are so fragile and deserve to be treated like royalty" message this whole thing screams, the weirdly blown out of proportion response from Boeing, how something stupid like this somehow merits national media coverage, or the fact that this is apparently an example of how companies are expected to behave now that people can complain in public forums. Seriously? This is what companies are supposed to be spending time, effort and money on in the name of "social media monitoring"?

Don't get me wrong--it's not like I don't do my share of complaining about stuff online, and it's also not like I don't get that brands are hypervigilant about triaging complaints made by "influentials." I guess I really just don't think Boeing did anything horrible by not getting down at eye level and smiling into the 8 year-old's face while handing him a balloon and, instead, sent him the same form letter they send every person who sends a picture of a plane they think Boeing should design. That's just life.

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