Demystifying Qantas and Social Media

Okay I get it that Social Media allows everyone to have THEIR say in any way  they fancy and that is the way of the world nowadays. However, I have two fundamental problems related to how companies (in this case Qantas) and secondly how Social Media experts interpret what the public is saying and how to make business sense of it. In case you missed this, more Qantas #qantasluxury commentary here.

Social business is mainstream

Let me take companies as the first issue. Basically it is time to understand social! You can no longer brush off social purely as an adjunct to Public Relations nor a marketing bow in the arsenal of tactics to spew messages to the public and perhaps customers.

Social Media and, more importantly, Social Business, is mainstream and if you as an executive in Qantas or any other organisation don't understand the principals of applying SMART/Responsible/Integrated Social Business you are going to be as useful as tits on a bull - or a digital dinosaur as the industry likes to say.

Social Business is not about selling the latest widget through Social Media ....or even giving away a set of pyjamas. So then what is a Social Business?

  1. A social business focuses on internal communications - so that the organisation is in step with it customers, markets, shareholders and so on.
  2. A social business is all about engagement with employees - so that employees are better connected with their customers.
  3. A social business should be owned by the entire organisation - collaboration leads to better and more inclusive decision making
  4. A social business is measured by organisational change - and how processes such as marketing campaign launches are better thought out.
  5. Most investments in social business initiatives revolve around internal communities, social technologies, and training.
  6. ...and most importantly the change, measurement, culture and focus of the Social Business objectives are owned by the executive management within an organisation.

Social business is one of the various sets of business strategies

A Social Business starts within and then looks to engage its customers, partners and vendors. This idea is similar to the "old" idea of the Service-Profit-Chain whereby satisfied employees led to satisfied customers which led to satisfying profits. The Social Business has engaged employees which leads to engaged customers which leads to engaging profits.

Social business is one of the various sets of business strategies which enterprises must now build in to their overall business planning - aligned with their higher level Objectives and Goals. It's not a goal in itself, but an enabler of other business outcomes. How important it is relative to other strategies depends on all the usual business planning considerations - industry, environment, competitors, customers, suppliers, substitutes, barriers to entry, barriers to exit etc etc.

Social media is only a tool of social business

Clearly these business strategy discussions about "social" are not about social media - not about Twitter, Facebook, other social media tools nor pyjama promotions. They are about how "social" helps enable the achievement of specific business objectives, in an integrated way.

Now here's a paradox. Even in a business which is fully engaged socially  - a particular "campaign" e.g. #QantasLuxury, might still fail. That's because people are people and mistakes are made and lessons are learnt and campaigns are just campaigns - they are tactics within a solid framework.

The difference is this. In the context of a fully engaged social business the "failure" will be comfortably absorbed by the strength of the organisation's engagement with its employees and its customers. The brand is resilient because of this engagement. Alan Joyce believes Qantas is a resilient brand and this is now being tested.

In an organisation without a social business strategy, which has fragmented engagement with employees and customers, and relies more opinions than evidence and measurement, then the campaign generates a life of its own - commonly then described as "a PR disaster".

If we refer to the real business data then what insights show that this is a "PR disaster"?

We believe that the campaign was ill-considered on three fronts:

  1. timing;
  2. use of a hashtag; and,
  3. the nature of the prize / contest itself.

But a PR disaster? Bit early to make that judgement!

What will be the impact on bookings, revenue, margins?  How many of the 4,412 Tweets were from customers? How much was the hashtag hijacked by people who never fly - let alone fly Qantas? The spammers have been out in force on that hashtag - so how representative is it really? What is the real (i.e. non automated) sentiment related to the #QantasLuxury? Clearly it isn't our objective to lay the blame with the social media team - they are doing the best they can do within the context of their organisation's social business strategy (or lack thereof).

The issue of social media versus social business, and the lack of executive and employee engagement,  is the fundamental problem in Qantas and many other organisations today as identified in our Australian Social Business Index Part 1.

If I have lost you in the explanation above, then so have your employees and customers .....refer back to the bull .

Time to move to facts, process and proper management attention

That leads me to the Social Media Experts. We aren't helping here as executives are starting to realise is that this expert plumber knows just as much about plumbing as they do — that is, nothing at all. They just have opinions.

What is my bugbear then?

The comments related to our poor friends at Qantas are mostly limited in factual advice blown up to proliferate the profile of the expert, or for that matter, the plumber. We are too eager to get on the band wagon versus stepping back from what is happening, understand the strategy, understand the tactics, research the social data and then provide value based Social Business advice.

Social Media and specifically Social Business Intelligence is not a art. Standard management principals of process, methodology and people should be applied to gain actionable business insights and competitive advantages in support of business goals. No matter whether these goals are focused on the customers, markets, partners, employees, competitors or vendors or other stakeholders.

Social Business Intelligence is factual, traceable and audit-able. A fundamental problem here is the experts who are more focused on the opportunity to raise their profile than on a factual analysis of the results. There were experts as early as yesterday afternoon calling this a PR disaster. The peak of activity was not even reached until well after this commentary. But at that point there is no time to undertake analysis of the outcome of the campaign. But the rush to be first in the news cycle leads to a desire to be first to judegment

So what was the Qantas activity over the last seven days:

Do you believe the automated sentiment above? We don't! Hence making judgements without analysing the social data is limited in its' ability to add real business insights. Many of the comments on the hashtag were highly and deliberately sarcastic and it will require days of analysis to make an 'accurate' judgement on sentiment. Tools rid the analysis of spam - but actually the number of tweets was even higher than this - but don't have relevancy to the campaign other than helping make it a trending topic - thereby garnering more PR.

If we specifically look at #QantasLuxury what was the volume by channel:

Current (as of 23rd Nov 10:50am AEST) Twitter #qantasluxury mentions are at 5,778 over the last 7 days.

If we then look at the last day what were the public discussing in relation to Qantas:

We have only scratched the surface here, however, any business executive would see in the above the ability to access and interrogate a Social Data Set and apply it to their Business Strategy, and to bring this kind of informed intelligence into their business planning process. This in the same way in which businesses, and executives, have applied Business Intelligence to ERP, CRM, or HR.

So how have we tried to demystify what happened to our Aussie mates at Qantas?

We feel there are two key learning's in this case study for Australian Executives, namely;

  1. Social Business is your accountability - no more excuses. Get to understand it. And this is more than some misfiring marketing PR campaign.
  2. Base your opinion and ultimately your Social Business Strategy on facts. Social is no different to traditional Business Intelligence. It will take weeks, if not months to understand the impact of this campaign on the business of Qantas and we suspect that it just may not turn out as proclaimed by the premature evaluators out there. But lets wait for the real Social Business Intelligence to support that opinion.


# Data till 12pm 22/11/2011 AEST

  • Tim Harrap

    “We feel there are two key learning’s in this case study for Australian Executives,”

    An excellent and thoughtful piece but the above quote forgoes the sense that social media is beyond nationalism – this is a case study for everyone – worldwide whether an executive or not.

    • Michael A Green

      Tim, appreciate you taking us to the global stage and thank you for your kind comments. As one of my good friends always says – “Word of Mouth has now become World of Mouths.

  • 40deuce

    This is a fantastic piece, Mike.
    I always find it interesting when people jump all over a minor blip in a companies social media execution like this. Yes, social media is fast paced constantly jumping from one place to the next while companies strive to keep up with their audience. However, the real business effects of social media don’t move quite as fast and it takes time to show results (good or bad). Too often we see the public jump down the throat of a company that they think screwed up in social media as soon as it happens, but half the time those little mess-ups have little to no real effect on the companies bottom line. Sometimes those mess ups result in more press for a company which can even help their bottom line.
    People are quick to point blame in social media I find before they wait to see what the actual results are.
    People need to read this and understand these things.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    • Michael A Green

      Thanks for the comments Sheldon and yes we have every Tweet sent. We plan to do a best of the best at some stage as the humor had us rolling in laughter in the office. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  • Graham

    This is a great post. In my opinion @QantasAirways needs to go way back to basics and release this function from the PR Dept first clearly they are…….(dont start me on them). They then need to listen and understand that social media is not harder than talking with your next door neighbor about the weather. Some 70,000 neighbors have said hello to @qantasAirways and they have only said hello back to 500 or so. Not very social neighbor???. Further they need to understand that their neigbors live nextdoor 24/7 not 9-5 m-f

    • Michael A Green

      on the button mate

  • Rob

    I’d like to know how many positive comments Qantas received before figuring out if it was a PR flop. Seems sarcastic rants in online media get an awful lot of airtime of late. Social media has given a voice to morons as much as it has to considered experts. Of the negative comments, how many of them are serial trolls??

    • Michael A Green

      Rob, yes Qantas aren’t paying us to do that….However, @wbosma is looking to provide further insights around the data. Keep your eye on our blog and appreciate your engagement on the same!

  • Jono Gr33n

    Some of Australia’s Executives have a lot to learn from this.
    Great work Michael.

    • Michael A Green

      …and as an aspiring executive Jono you will have a great opportunity to provide and implement these new business models

  • Janie Jordan-Meier

    I couldn’t agree more about your comment that “social media is mainstream.” I was very surprised at the lack of undertanding of social media, let alone social business, at a recent workshop I facilitated for the food industry. Social media seems to be the domain – for the most part – of marketers and there is very little understanding of the need for a multi-disciplinary approach. Legal, PR/Corp Comms, Marketing, HR/Int Comms need to come together on this, particularly in a crisis. The internal community as you say is critical for success in social media/social business. I would also like to add that crisis planning is flawed, incomplete without social media. Good post and only time will tell whether the Qantas brand is resileint or has been tarnished.

  • Lisa Lintern

    Fantastic and indepth piece. Probably the most rationale and logical I’ve read so far on the #qantasluxury maelstrom. You got me with the first point – a social business focuses on Internal Communications. This foundation is one that is either overlooked or misunderstood often by corporate Australia. Again, great piece. Finally, some sanity.

    • Michael A Green

      Thanks for your comments Lisa. We really appreciate them!
      Regards to Dexter!

  • Pingback: The Hijacking of #Qantasluxury Inflight | iGo2Group

  • Pingback: #QantasLuxury on Youtube : the “Downfall” parody insights | iGo2Group

  • Pingback: #QantasLuxury on Youtube : the "Downfall" parody insights | iGo2Group

  • Pingback: Friday Fun: Did I mention Qantas and Big Data before? | EMC ANZ INFORMer

  • Pingback: Friday Fun: Did I mention Qantas and Big Data before? | EMC ANZ INFORMer

  • Pingback: 360 Social Business Engagement - consumer *and* employee | iGo2Group