Was planning to post about United Airlines cutting off an email alert service for weekend special deals on flights, but then came across an even more interesting topic. Royal Caribbean Cruises did something very innovative in the social media space and suffered somewhat of a backlash. 

To read more click here, but the crux of the story is that the marketing team at Royal Caribbean identified a number of people that were speaking highly of the company on online message message boards and other social media forums and invited these people to join a program that gave them free cruises and other special benefits. Basically they were trying to ensure that their most vocal supporter stayed positive and continued saying nice things about their cruises, but it seems some others found out and started writing some very negative things about this marketing approach and about Royal Caribbean. 

Whilst in hindsight it is easy to say they could have made the program seem less like “cash for comment” and more like getting customers to trial new services, there is no denying this was a very innovative approach to marketing. I don’t have data to support this, but I am pretty sure word of mouth is much more important when choosing between different cruises than it is when choosing between one airline and the next, but don’t discount the fact that some (maybe many) of your customers are searching online forums for information on your airline from what they belive to be other passengers (it could always just be airline employees or competitors writing such comments). I wrote on this theme once before, but to ignore online reputation is a serious oversight by any marketing department.