In many respects, Qantas’s handling of the explosion in an A380′s engine last week has been exemplary. Passengers have commended the way their staff behaved, Qantas has been in regular and clear contact with the media and the wider possible responsibilities for the problem (such as possibly a problem with the engine’s design) have been explained without it sounding like Qantas trying to shift the buck.
In many respects, but not quite all. Because, as ABC’s Dale Roberts has pointed out, when it comes to social media Qantas has fallen into the same problems that hit Eurostar in late 2009 with its train failures.
In both cases, when news broke customers and concerned friends or relatives of customers took to social media to find out what was going on. In both cases, what they found was official silence on the issue - which in itself would not have been ideal, but even worse, what was there were marketing messages.
As Dale Roberts points out:
Search results first brought up Qantas USA which had no news but disturbingly had the tweet ‘Glad you liked the A380! Have a great time in South Oz’ … The other result was for Qantas Travel Insider which appeared to be the Twitter version of the in-flight magazine – something you only read when trying to concentrate on anything other than the thought of crashing on takeoff (or is that just me?).
This is the same problem as befell Eurostar. In both cases the organisation was only using Twitter for marketing messages, which looked horribly wrong in tone and content when anxious people were wanting to know what was happening.
The moral of these two experiences? It is tempting to place social media in a narrow silo that fits traditional ways of organising – sometimes PR, sometimes customer services and sometimes marketing. But the outside world does not fit into these neat silos and just because you think a channel should only be used for one of those silos doesn’t mean that’s what the outside world will want or expect.
As I wrote before,
There is a big challenge of integration facing corporates and brands.
To look at it another way, imagine the chaos and duplication and waste that would occur if an organisation structured its press office so that there was a different team for each day of the week.
It would be a completely artificial divide and result in the oddities of different teams of people all overlapping in dealing with the same journalists on daily titles, for example.
And yet, when it comes to the digital world, we frequently have just that fragmentation between marketing, PR and customer service functions.
From the point of view of the public, media, marketing and customer service all merge in to provide one overall experience.
You see it on Google search results page, where websites, adverts, news coverage, blogs and more are all integrated into one page of results – presented together, mixed in with each other.
When the results are so integrated, you can only hope to effectively manage them if your work too is integrated.