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#qantasfail: How Not to Use Social Media

November 3, 2011

Guest Post by Danica Leys.

There are many opinions out there about the way in which Qantas handled (or didn’t) the recent massive disruption to its flying customers as a result of the grounding of its entire fleet. Qantas has 3 twitter accounts that I could find. The main one is @QantasAirways and then there is @QantasMedia and @QFcustomercare. Then there are the Facebook pages also.  When the announcement was made on Saturday regarding the lockout and the grounding of the fleet, tweets mentioning Qantas went off the charts (see below):

What was even more interesting though was the amount of traffic that began to appear using the #qantasfail hashtag. There were also several parody accounts that sprung up.

From my point of view, the initial response from Qantas over its various social media platforms was basically a non-response. On the 29th October, the day the lockout was announced and the entire fleet grounded, there were a total of 20 tweets for the whole day from Qantas, and not one of them was in response to questions posed by passengers on twitter….not a single one. This excerpt below shows the typical tone of the tweets coming out of @QantasAirways on that day. As you can see, not one single tweet was directed at any individual person.

Social media is a two way conversation. Once it gets used simply as a broadcasting tool it has lost its effectiveness. As a result, the #qantasfail  hashtag  grew and grew, as a way for people to vent their frustrations about the airline in the face of a non-response from Qantas, at least on social media platforms.

The 30th October continued with this theme, with tweets being very impersonal, lacking empathy and with the social media team not responding to anyone personally about their predicament. On that day, there were only 17 tweets from Qantas.  Sometime through the morning on the 31st October, Qantas finally began to respond to customers individually through their twitter platform, although the damage had already been done, with many customers joking that they found more information on the status of their flights by following the #qantasfail hashtag rather than relying upon anything that was offered by the airline, which was essentially nothing, for two days.

From then on, the tweets from the @qantasairways account have been prolific, responsive and empathetic . They have tried to respond to just about anyone that tweets them with a concern or question, even in instances where they don’t have an answer, by simply writing back, apologising and giving the best answer they can. This is the way social media should be used, and it would appear that Qantas are starting to “get it” and managing, albeit very late in the argument, to recoup some credibility and reverse some of the damage that has been done to their brand through this whole ordeal.

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