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Advice for the Twitter Professional at US Airways Who Tweeted Hardcore Porn

Late last night, someone was complaining to US Airways about a bad experience she had had with that airline. This is an entirely normal thing to do—as much as 75 percent of Twitter’s content is users bitching about airlines being awful and the airlines’ corporate Twitter accounts apologizing and asking the dissatisfied customers to fill out online complaint forms. The person running the @USAirways account followed the script when responding this afternoon, apologizing profusely and politely. Then @USAirways tweeted an extraordinarily graphic picture of a naked woman holding her legs up and apart to reveal a model airplane jammed rather immodestly into her vagina. That was not a normal thing to do. Here’s how the exchange went:

THEN THERE WAS A FUCKING PHOTO OF A LADY WITH A PLANE IN HER JUNK. (Link here, but it’s NSFW because it’s the kind of weird, vaguely funny porn that no one even masturbates to.)

Amazingly, that photo stayed online FOR A FUCKING HOUR while everyone on Twitter was like “lol” and “wtf” and “smh” and “haha now we know where Flight 370 is right? oh shit too soon my bad.” Then US Airways was like, “We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating,” as if there were a black box recording of a twentysomething hitting Command-V in the wrong text box, or as if there were some kind of vast conspiracy to make everyone look at a picture of some lady having carnal relations with a toy.

To see what kind of #SocialMedia and #Branding lessons could be drawn from this incident, I talked to Hanson O’Haver, the VICE Social Editor—a.k.a. the guy who runs the @VICE Twitter account.

VICE: What did the person running the US Airways do wrong? Or did they do anything wrong?
Hanson O’Haver: Well, I did a little digging and it looks like the image they posted actually came from this tweet:

[NSFW, obviously.]

If you delete a tweet where you uploaded a photo, the link would be dead, so you can tell it originates from someone else’s account, not @USAirways.

What probably happened is that they were tweeted that link, copy/pasted it to send around for laughs or for some HR report, and then went to reply to the other person’s comment. They just pasted in the link and didn’t realize that the link they had meant to use hadn’t copied.

OK, and from a social media point of view, if you’re running a corporate Twitter account, do you generally want to tweet images of hard-core, graphic pornography? Or is that more of a social media “don’t”?
I mean, yeah, that’s generally looked down upon by clients. But in terms of increasing engagement, it’s certainly effective. Put it this way: US Airways wasn’t trending nationwide before they sent an angry customer a photo of a toy plane inside a vagina.


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