Hashtag Highjack – Lessons from the #Qantasluxury Fiasco
You’ve heard the story of Pandora’s Box: Zeus gives the trinket to Pandora as a gift and tells her never to open it, but curiosity gets the best of Pandora and she does anyway. In doing so she unleashes untold evils into the world, which can never be put back in the box.
Enter #Qantasluxury, stage left.
Just in case you missed it here’s how it went down. On Tuesday November 22 Qantas kicked off a competition on Twitter to win a set of its first-class pyjamas:
It wasn’t long before #QantasLuxury was the top Twitter trending topic in Australia with over 14,700 mentions. Unfortunately for Qantas almost all of them came with a double helping of either sarcasm or outright anger:
#QantasLuxury is getting from A to B without the plane being grounded or an engine catching fire
#QantasLuxury is a complimentary cheap hotel room because your airline left you stranded in Adelaide, of all places. Adelaide.
#QantasLuxury is a massive executive bonus while your workers starve and your former customers choke
#QantasLuxury is more than 3mins notice that the whole service has been grounded
My #QantasLuxury experience would be no matter what time or duration of the flight a proper meal is served a cookie is not a meal it’s a joke
#QantasLuxury is flights that leave on schedule because Management doesn’t arbitrarily shut down the airline
#QantasLuxury is planes that arrive intact and on time because they’re staffed and maintained by properly paid, Australia-based personnel.
#Qantasluxury is not being told you can apply for refund online & finding out they only refund via a phone that no one answers for 4hrs
And my personal favourite
#Qantasluxury Somewhere inside Qantas HQ a middle aged manager is yelling at a Gen Y social media “expert” to make it stop
So what went wrong and what can we learn from the Qantas Luxury fail.
Like comedy, in social media timing is everything
What’s puzzling is that a consensus could be reached in the Qantas marketing ranks that this was a good idea. Qantas simply should have known to be more cautious about dipping their toe in the murky waters of social media so soon after the grounding of the Qantas fleet in October. Alicia Kennedy of online monitoring service Meltwater puts it beautifully.
“Had the thousands of people who were inconvenienced by the recent lock out moved past the issue? Were the public ready to talk about the positives of the company yet again? Judging from a social media analysis, the answer is a resounding no .In the three days after the Qantas grounding, the brand received over 37,000 negative social media mentions and that alone should have sent warning signals to Qantas’ social media team.”
Should have, but didn’t.
Any publicity is NOT good publicity
Some observers will swear this was a deliberate ploy from Qantas to re-engage with customers.
Make no mistake, the grounding of the Qantas fleet has tarnished the brand significantly and this gaffe has rubbed salt into an open wound. The once untouchable flying kangaroo has battled a string of issues that have affected customers, then turned around and given them a public platform to publish their grievances for all to see, share and compare. There’s just no up-side to it.
Bad campaigns = bad news
How is it that Australia’s largest airline, with its multimillion dollar marketing budget, couldn’t come up with a better social media campaign than a pair of pyjamas and a self-serving hashtag. The fact is #QantasLuxury was ill conceived to begin with. Toss in the existing negative sentiment and it goes from being a poor campaign to a nightmare one that achieved nothing beyond highlighting a company out of touch with customers.
Respond – especially if you started it
Twitter facilitates conversations which don’t occur in our day-to-day lives and these are often between customers and brands. As in a real-life chat, you can’t always control the direction of the conversation. It’s a two way street, but you can respond, and you must respond if you initiated the dialogue in the first place.
After announcing the competition and being hounded with complaints, Qantas tweeted the following – “Some very creative tweeps out there. Keep the entries coming”, along with the hashtag “QantasWeHearYou”.
They deserve to be commended for this at least.
Even if it will probably be ignored, a considered, empathetic response which reaffirms your core brand values is always best.
Don’t despair and don’t give up
Whether Qantas handled the saga appropriately is an open question, but ultimately what #QantasLuxury does is highlight the importance of taking full ownership of your brand presence online.
If your brand is being trashed on social media, you must address it. If, instead, you disconnected from your social media platforms and simply choose “not to get involved” you will be viewed as silent and uncaring.
Giving up on social media after bad feedback, or even a campaign as poor as #QantasLuxury, is the worst thing you can do.
If you find yourself totally overwhelmed I recommend revisiting Pandora. Re-read the story and you’ll find that after the contents had escaped, one thing remained in the bottom of the box – Hope!