A real-time lesson in social media disasters

Home / Social Media / A real-time lesson in social media disasters


Would you like to learn more about the power and speed of social media?

Unfortunately for Qantas, you can learn this right now, by checking out the Twitter hashtag: #QantasLuxury.

This morning Qantas tried to launch a Twitter competition asking their followers, ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience?” and using the #QantasLuxury hashtag.

The timing of this campaign was all wrong: it comes as the brand is experiencing significant reputation management issues related to industrial action that caused the airline to temporarily shut down. This action left thousands of employees confused, thousands of passengers stranded and dissatisfied, and forced the government to become involved.

Today the hashtag that was meant for a competition to improve positive brand awareness was quickly hi-jacked by unhappy customers and stakeholders involved in the industrial action. The hi-jacked tweets include:

  • “The best type of #qantasluxury would be getting your food in cattle class with an actual fork and knife and not in a cardboard box” by @franksting
  • “I think #QantasLuxury is flying in a plane where every nut and bolt has been checked and double checked by someone in Australia who cares.” by @seamus
  • “#QantasLuxury is being late. EVERY SINGLE TIME. (except when flights are cancelled altogether)” by @aegnor


What can you learn from this?

It’s essential for brands to think about what could go wrong in social media before they launch a profile or campaign. As part of this process, consider these questions as a starting point:

  • What could the main issues be?
  • Which stakeholders would be involved (internally and externally)?
  • What would your brand’s key messages  be?
  • How should you respond?
  • What platforms should you respond on? How will the issue influence other marketing activity, such as search?
  • How could your brand use online influencers to speak on your behalf?
  • How will you update employees?
  • How will you manage and respond to the influx of attention (social media, PR, sales, customer service etc.)?


Would you be prepared for a social media crisis? What does your preparation involve?

Showing 9 comments
  • Hannah Law

    Steve, thanks for the comment and couldn’t agree more about your timing point.

    I just had a read through Cara’s blog and the comments – it’s interesting to hear her perspective, and whilst I agree the incident was blown slightly out of proportion I still think the competition was wrong, regardless of the benefit of hindsight.

  • Hannah Law

    oops – thanks for letting me know Gavin. It is now updated.

  • Steve Fogg

    Hey Hannah,

    I also blogged about Qantas and the damage to their brand on the lock out day and about the social media debacle.

    Interestingly enough, I came across one of the social media chicks for Qantas who blogs. She was away at the time but has written a bit of a defensive of Qantas. Cara is her name and she blogs at the Social Skinny. Just google it and you’ll find it.

    Cara and I had a good exchange of views in her comments section.

    Back to the issue. I think timing is everything in social media and they just got the timing wrong. They should of led with a CSR campaign so close to the IR dispute. Not a luxury social media campaign. Qantas will be perceived as at best a bit frivolous, at worst insensitive and rude.

    If the miners can do a CSR campaign, and do it well why can’t Qantas?

  • Gavin

    I think that tweet was misattributed to me. The tweet you linked to (https://twitter.com/#%21/franksting/status/138790526936813568) was actually
    “The best type of #qantasluxury would be getting your food in cattle class with an actual fork and knife and not in a cardboard box”
    I thought it looked unfamiliar 🙂


    Whilst his might not have had the result that was expecting, there is probably more value in this content in terms of learning what they need to fix and therefore create a better long-term offering/brand. More value than if they got a few people that won a free flight and told a few people about it.

    Not everything that isn’t a success is a failure or crisis.

    Not a very switched on way of looking at this social reaction if you ask me….which you did via comment availability.

    • Hannah Law

      Thanks for the comment Nick. Whilst I agree Qantas are learning a lot about sentiment towards their brand I’m not convinced this was the best way to do so. I imagine Qantas have market research, PR monitoring and social media monitoring (among others) to help them understand this sentiment in a way that does not inflame the issues further. The hi-jacked Twitter competition has resulted in further negative press at a time when Qantas need all the positive PR they can get, so I don’t think that is a successful outcome. However, that doesn’t mean Qantas can’t learn from this experience and turn it into something more positive, which they seem to be trying to do.

      The point of the blogpost is to help brands understand the importance of planning about what could go wrong before they launch social media, so they are well-prepared for if/when something does go wrong. I think all brands can learn something from this Qantas incident.

pingbacks / trackbacks
  • […] is not alone in experiencing a social media disaster.  Australia’s Qantas, car-maker Honda, and clothier Kenneth Cole are just a few more examples of corporate social media […]

  • […] “#QantasLuxuryis being late. EVERY SINGLE TIME. (except when flights are cancelled altogether)”Tweets provided by Switched on Blog. […]

  • […] will turn on you if you give it even half a chance, as you can see above and as Coles Online and Qantas both recently found […]