They say all publicity is good publicity. Well, not necessarily. Many of you may have seen the Qantas PR disaster on Twitter, Tuesday morning. If there was ever a prime example of when and how not to use Twitter, this is it.
A little before midday, Quantas‘ official Twitter account, @qantasairways, posted this:
Ever wanted to experience Qantas First Class luxury? You could win a First Class gift pack feat. a luxury amenity kit and our famous QF PJs. (pyjamas)
To enter, tell us ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury.TCs qantas.com.au/travel/airli...
It backfired. Users quickly started using the hashtag #QantasLuxury to make suggestions… but not the kind the airline was expecting. People used #QantasLuxury to instead talk about why the brand did not fit that description. Within an hour, it soared to the top trending topic on Twitter in Australia.
- #qantasluxury a vegetarian meal that is edible, planes that take off on time, John Travolta being banned from the inflight entertainment…
- #QantasLuxury is dressing your staff in t-shirts that say “We’re Sorry” and believing that makes up for missing a friends funeral.
- #QantasLuxury is that safe feeling that comes from knowing your pilots are wearing the correct coloured ties
- How do you know you have #QantasLuxury PJs? The PJs don’t have a fly…
- #virginluxury getting an exit row #tigerluxury getting a biscuit #qantasluxury getting a pilot, a plane, engineersand baggage handlers
- @QantasAirways Safe planes, pity you’ve crashed the brand into the ground from 30,000 ft. #qantasluxury
- #qantasluxury is underpaid baggage staff not wrecking your surfboard
- #QantasLuxury is making it to my grand mother’s funeral, and not spending it on the tarmac in another city and in confusion.
- #qantasluxury Somewhere in Qantas HQ a middle aged manager is yelling at a Gen Y social media “expert” to make it stop.
Wow! Some very creative tweeps out there. Keep the entries coming #QantasWeHearYou
Typical of a PR team… completely ignore negative responses and only ever acknowledge positive as existing, even if it’s wholly obvious to the nation, and even if the positivity is an illusion.
One #QantasLuxury respondent who goes by the YouTube name of Alex J Baldwin, even went to the trouble to pull together the wildly popular “Hitler loses his shit” clip from Oliver Hirschbiegel‘s 2004 film Downfall, which has become a very popular internet meme, and insert English captions relating to the #QantasLuxury PR disaster with hilarious results. I think he should win the pyjamas.
Referring to Qantas management walking away from bitter negotiations with the Transport Workers Union, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers’ Association and the International Pilots Association on Monday, social media expert James Griffin of SR7, had this to say:
“Timing went completely out the window with this campaign. First and foremost, there should have been further consideration by the social media team about the sensitivities of the day. This is a prime example of how consumers and the community can take control of a campaign or a brand through social media – evidenced by the speed and ferocity of tweets. Consideration should have been given to what Qantas and consumers have been through in the past couple of months.”
I don’t know the fate of the PR “social media expert” responsible for the timing of this one. However, the sticking point for Qantas can be summed up by this one last tweet, which highlights a corporation seemingly completely out of touch with its own image and perception by the majority of its customers.
Quick note to corporate Australia: when you’re in the middle of crushing your workforce, don’t start a twitter promotion. #QantasLuxury
The biggest twits of all:
For me, this also highlights the failure of Twitter as an actually valuable source for turning tweets and followers into measurable profit. @QantasAirlines, the Twitter account of a truly massive corporation, currently (after this disaster) has 68,000 followers, probably ten percent – if we’re generous – of whom actually ever even notice their tweets in their timelines. That’s about 7000 people out of a customer base (passengers) of 41.5 million per year. That’s a reach of 0.001% and apparently it’s worth paying somebody AUD $50k per annum to maintain.
What, prithee, is the point? Especially when, for all their effort to connect with 0.001% of their customer base, they have managed to produce a nation-wide PR disaster that just exposes the brand for the money-hungry shitpile it currently is?
Tweets about winning pyjamas and amenity kits are not going to make more people fly Qantas, or keep existing passengers flying Qantas, even if we were to assume Qantas had an impeccably gleaming image with the public. The fact is, very few companies, regardless of size, can actually ever make a Twitter presence do anything useful for them.
Using Twitter as a supplement to a communication service, like @MetroTrains or @CFA_updates, or as a tech support line for companies like @Westpac, I understand. It’s useful. But I’m still massively pessimistic when it comes to the worth of marketing a company using Twitter, and this coming from a man who lives and breathes social networks and the Internet as a profession.
Qantas Airways would have a thousand times more publicity handing out give-aways in a busy street. It still probably won’t convert into many people actually flying, though.
At the end of the day, unless your company hashtag goes viral, and through absolute fluke it’s for a positive reason for your brand, Twitter users aren’t worth caring about all that much.
There are only two strong user bases who use Twitter: narcissists who tweet in order to have conversations with “their fans” who largely don’t care about engaging brands, and, marketing staff and so-called “social media experts” who use every trick in the book to claim “followers”.
Qantas, it’s time to retire your Twitter account.
- You: Qantas draws backlash over Twitter hash (france24.com)
- Qantas Twitter hashtag campaign backfires as unhappy customers hijack it (mirror.co.uk)
- Ouch – now’s probably not the right time for a Twitter campaign, Quantas (thenextweb.com)
- #QantasLuxury when hashtags attack (sportsgeek.com.au)
- When Your Twitter Campaign Goes South – #qantasluxury Ditches (servantofchaos.com)
- How Qantas ignored the social media warning signals (mumbrella.com.au)