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QANTAS Airlines: Social Media Marketing Failure

Abstract

After the Qantasluxury Twitter campaign had backfired, the company’s head of government and corporate affairs had to take action to ensure that a repeat of the mistake did not happen. Some of the major issues in the Qantas case include the misuse of social media and failure to plan for a public uproar on social media in relation to poor customer service by Qantas. This paper discussed the future actions that Qantas can take to ensure that it rebuilds its brand association with quality and other company values. The paper sought to establish the relationship between best practices that organizations follow when using social media and what Qantas as an airline company can do to achieve success with its social media strategy. In addition, the paper prescribed a course of action for Olivia Wirth that will cement a positive outlook of the company’s brand position in stakeholders’ mindsets, considering the main factors that affect organizational success or failure when using social media.

Introduction

Social media remains a powerful tool for stakeholder engagement and corporate communication, yet many companies still flounder at using it. Qantas needs to come up with a social media policy that provides guidelines for the way any of its employees and the marketing department should use the medium as a communication channel. Key among the elements included in the policy will be the need to align all communication and intentions with the company’s values and ethical obligations. A communication policy will establish expectations that workers will follow when coming up with various brand and marketing efforts on behalf of the company. The policy also provides a fallback option if there is a backlash from the public.

Future actions that Qantas can take to build positive public perception of the brand

One mistake made by Qantas was treating social media channels the same way it treated traditional media. Qantas did not anticipate that Twitter would allow its consumers to express their feelings about the company’s poor service. Ideally, Qantas needs to differentiate social media channels based on their facilitation of interpersonal and group communication. For example, Twitter offers the company a personalized communication option with each of its followers.

Therefore, instead of filling Twitter with blanket messages that can also appear in a press release and other media channels, the company needs to take the opportunity and interact with its customers on a personal basis. It should hire communication staffs and assign them customer care duties to communicate with Twitter users and answer queries or explain facts and other company information. Research shows that employees and customers are likely to withhold their harsh sentiments against a company when they consider the company’s approach of dealing with them to be just and honest (Cropanzano, Bowen, & Gililand, 2007).

Qantas should use its social media channels as a two-way street communication channel and be aware of passive participants in all public communication. It should also be aware of the potential for smear campaigns conducted by its rivals (Halligan & Shah, 2010).

Thus, the biggest aim of the company should be to undertake quality communication, which should work as evidence of its concern for quality service delivery and customer engagement. Resultantly, the company should be careful to avoid posting any inappropriate content. It must run all its communication through official checks and balances with its ethics and marketing departments to ensure that all communication is meaningful and targeted. Lastly, the business must actively monitor social media to gain an insight of consumers’ thoughts. At any time, mentions of Qantas will refer to complaints, questions, praise, or concern, which the company should take them seriously and initiate investigations before matters go out of hand. Moreover, the company should respond fast to any queries and allegations to minimize the chances of a conversation with consumers turning into a trending topic that can affect its image, such as the #Qantasluxury incident.

Important factors for organizations to consider when using social media

According to Mackie (2009), before signing up to use enterprise social media tools, companies must ask themselves what they want to achieve with the initiative and then understand their organizational cultures and leadership. In addition, they must listen and understand the constituent base that will participate in the social initiative. More importantly, organizations must ensure that they have effective resources and content plans to manage their social media communities. They should also work closely with legal, human resource, and information technology teams early in the process to know the limitations and risks of the initiative.

Organizations must know the type of users who frequent a given social media channel and then tailor their communication to fit the target audience. In addition, organizations must consider the impact of their communication to recipients (Halligan & Shah, 2010). There is always the potential for messages not being taken literally. Furthermore, social media allows rapid communication because messages can reach the recipients as broadcasts from non-official channels before the recipients receive the official message.

Course of Action for Olivia Wirth

Olivia Wirth should come up with a company focus group via social media to allow Qantas to not only talk to people who want to talk to the company, but also to those who are talking to each other about the company. Companies that take time to respond to conversations on social media build their reputation and are better off than those that do not (KPMG, 2011). Based on this understanding, Wirth will ensure Qantas follows the plan below.

When using social media, Qantas must know that ethics rules apply online and offline. It should assume that everything it says will be public. The company is free to use social media in both social and professional ways, but it must be responsible. Therefore, it is better to use other official channels to communicate official news, such as press releases, and allow conversations to build on social media. Being transparent and admitting wrongdoing can be very powerful. It is also important to use social media as a communication tool, but not as a business or employee accessory (Michaelidou, Siamagka, & Christodoulides, 2011). Finally, Qantas should authenticate what it finds in social media before responding to it.

Summary

Discussions presented in this paper are responses to the Qantas case study explaining how the company can recover from its social media marketing failure. The paper explains that Qantas cannot afford not to be listening to what consumers and stakeholders are saying about it. In addition, the company cannot wish away the need to interact with stakeholders intimately and be honest in its approach. Above all, the company has to come up with policy guidelines for its approach to take care of any information technology, human resource, ethical, marketing, and legal risks that it may incur.

References

Cropanzano, R., Bowen, D. E., & Gililand, S. W. (2007). The management of organizational justice. Academy of Management Perspectives, 21(4), 34-48. Web.

Halligan, B., & Shah, D. (2010). Inbound marketing: Get found using google, social media, and blogs. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Web.

KPMG. (2011). Going social: How businesses are making the most of social media. Web.

Mackie, S. (2009). 5 factors to consider when selecting enterprise social tools. Web.

Michaelidou, N., Siamagka, N. T., & Christodoulides, G. (2011). Usage, barriers and measurement of social media marketing: An exploratory investigation of small and medium B2B brands. Industrial Marketing Management, 40(7), 1153-1159. Web.