The Power of One: The Cascading Effect of Social Media

BY: | May 11, 2012

Over the last several weeks, many of you probably heard the story of the terminally-ill 76-year-old former marine who was being denied a refund of $197 by Sprint Airlines because it violated their policy that ensures "Spirit Airlines [is] the only affordable choice for so many travelers".  Ultimately, a Sprint Airlines boycott page was started on Facebook with more than 25,000 fans liking it.

Furthermore, when the CEO of Sprint Airlines was asked how this particular incident reflected on Sprint's already industry low DOT customer service ratings (8.27 compliants per 100,000 passangers) he stated:

“That’s an irrelevant statistic.  If you ran a restaurant and out of every 100,000 customers, eight of them said they didn’t like your menu, would you change your restaurant? Why don’t we interpret that 99.92 of all customers have no complaints? Because that is what it says.”

The problem is that is is not.  There is power in just one (or eight in this case) as social media reinforces all the time.  One person leads to two which leads to four which leads to thousands.  One message, one retweet, one angry customer or constituent can lead to hundreds if not thousands who are influenced and thus magnify the original complaint.  All from the power of one.

In this particular case, Sprint Airlines eventfully refunded the ticket and made a contribution to the Wounded Warriors foundation.  While nice (and the correct public relations move), it was too little, too late.  The power of one was magnified...all for $197.


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