How to Use Twitter When Your Company Has a Meltdown

In case you missed it, Delta Airlines is having some major problems. Yuuuge problems. Problems that grounded their flights all over the world on Monday, with delays trickling over into Tuesday, too.

Allegedly, a power outage booted all their systems offline, causing this meltdown. As a marketer, I always cringe at the thought of what the poor PR person and social media team are experiencing. They probably woke up to a gazillion emails and social media notifications, getting blasted by angry customers.

This is totally understandable. The Delta meltdown screwed over a lot of people and messed up a lot of plans.

A few valuable lessons can be learned here, though: how to use Twitter — the right way — when your company experiences a crisis.

Lesson 1: Use Twitter for Customer Service as Part of Your Normal Business Practices

If you own a company or you’re an executive, check to see that your company has a presence on Twitter and a team that responds and engages with your customers. This social media channel allows for quick, two-way communication with your customers. 

Delta was doing this before Plane Gate 2016, with their Twitter profile description reading:

Official account of Delta Air Lines. We’re listening around the clock, 7 days a week. For a formal response please visit .

Lesson 2: Have a Plan in Place for Meltdowns

Seems obvious, right? But does your company have documented plans for your online marketing that say who does what, when and how if there’s a major crisis with your product or service? Some questions to consider if your company really has a plan include:

  • Who tells the social media experts that there’s been an event?
  • Who has access to the social media accounts? Do the passwords need to be changed for any reason?
  • Who decides if those pre-scheduled Tweets promoting your next sale should be delayed or deleted? If you’re promoting a sale or new service while, say, every single one of your company’s airplanes is grounded and thousands of people are stranded in airports all over, then, yeah, that may piss people off even more so you can go ahead and cancel them.

Delta was on point with their plan. They had multiple people offering apologies for all the inconveniences and delays (as indicated by their initials at the end of the Tweets).

Example of social media marketing being used as customer service in a time of crisis.

What’s more is that KC, WG, QB and more were digging — and digging deep — to get customers onto new flights and on their way to their destinations.

Lesson 3: Embrace the Video

Videos in marketing are experiencing incredible growth. Simply put, we’re watching more videos online than ever before. Online video viewing alone makes up 50 percent of mobile traffic.

Taking full advantage of this trend, and Twitter’s recently-extended video option, Delta posted videos from the CEO and the COO, apologizing and giving the latest updates to concerned customers.

In these nearly minute-long videos, Delta was able to: 

  • Humanize the situation
  • Boldly address customers and the media as the meltdown continued
  • Say so much more than 140 characters could have said

While the Delta situation sucks, hats off to their social media and PR teams for leveraging the tools they had to effectively communicate with their customers during a meltdown.