No one ever intends to make a social media disaster, but they happen all the time – and Qantas is living proof of that. While the fallout from the latest social media debacle from Qantas has finally died down, that doesn’t mean we should forget about it because it offers some great lessons about what not to do if you are a social media manager. For those that somehow missed the Qantas story, settle in for a lesson in fail.
Last November, Qantas decided that it would be a good idea to run a contest centered around asking customers for their “dream luxury in-flight experience.” That sounds like a good idea – other companies do similar promotions all the time and have great success. What other companies do that Qantas failed to get a grip on is research. What does research have to do with a dream travel experience contest? When it came to the Qantas campaign, research was the difference between Charlie Sheen style tiger blood winning and winding up here on Fail Kitty – it’s a huge difference.
If Qantas did just the most basic research, they would have realized they had employees on strike when they launched the online contest. They would have realized that they had literal plane loads of paying passengers sitting in the terminals with no plane to board. They would have realized that grounded customers + a mildly moderated (at best) online dream vacation contest was a recipe for disaster.
When you’re stuck in an airport waiting for a flight what do you do? Some wander around, a brave few try to nap amongst all the commotion. Some read or talk to whoever is next to them. These days though, a lot of people take to the web via whatever mobile device they are armed with. If you are stuck waiting for a flight, odds are you are going to check up on your airline since it isn’t one plane stuck on the ground but all of them.
You Google Qantas, and you see news of the problems their SMM somehow missed or decided didn’t matter because he had a schedule to meet or maybe he was told to just do it anyway – no one is saying even to this day. The next thing you see in the news feed is the Qantas contest about a dream vacation – just tweet it #Qantas luxury… Bad idea… So terribly bad…
That spread like wildfire through the terminals which produced some incredibly ugly real-time tweets about what Qantas could do, how they could do it, and where they could shove it when they did it. Anything like that gets attention and before long – viral bad PR death! Qantas really stepped in it.
This social media fail could have been avoided so easily. It is a basic axiom that you make sure all your ducks are in a row before you launch a campaign. Would a restaurant launch a prime rib special and not have prime rib? Would a car dealership have a $3,000 off sale on every car on the lot if they had no cars? Obviously not, but that is exactly what Qantas did – they launched a travel contest without a plane in the air! Research, vet what you find, and then do it again. Social media management 101 stuff – don’t offer what you don’t have!
All together – EPIC FAIL!