Learning from Qantas’ Social Media Crisis Management Mistake

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    Ignoring the 24/7 nature of social media is asking for trouble

    Neglecting the fact that social media crisis pays no regard to standard business hours led to embarrassment for Qantas Airlines after a pornographic image sat on its Facebook page for some seven hours, only being removed after a child spotted the pic and brought it to his father’s attention.

    Here’s the story, from Australia’s Marketing Magazine:

    The boy had visited the page to enter a competition the airline is currently running. The image was left up on the page for up to seven hours and was removed after the boy’s father complained to the airline.

    The father of the affected boy told The Age, “When you rolled over it on the iPad a larger version of the image popped up… the anatomical details were quite clearly recognisable.”

    A spokesperson from Qantas told Marketing, “Spam was posted to the Qantas Facebook page in the middle of the night, which included an inappropriate image the size of a profile picture. We removed the post as soon as we saw it and offered an apology to a gentleman who contacted us to complain.”

    Currently the airline’s social media pages are only monitored during business hours.

    Now, is this really a crisis for Qantas? No, it’s not, and a sincere apology to the family involved is just fine as far as a response. However, it is a perfect example of why organizations, especially huge global brands like Qantas, should include 24/7 social media monitoring as part of their standard crisis management and reputation management plans.

    Imagine if it wasn’t just a single small image, but a massive flood of pornography. How about an organized consumer protest, timed to hit at, say, 7 PM on a Friday night? Getting a bit more serious, right? The airline certainly has stakeholders in a wide variety of time zones, so why would its social media monitoring stop in its tracks when it’s quitting time in Australia?

    Between computers, smartphones, tablets, and the enormous number of monitoring solutions out there, it’s not difficult to at least keep tabs on what’s happening at any hour of the day. Although you can’t guarantee that your social media presence won’t come under attack, or that an unpredictable crisis won’t emerge, you will be aware of the situation and can act quickly to take the appropriate action.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also the editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]