Social Media Matters: Twitter "Virtually" Grounds Qantas

Social media doesn’t matter? It’s too complicated to figure out how to best use? Don’t tell this to the CEO of Qantas Airways, Alan Joyce.  After reports of aircraft parts dropping in Indonesia this past November, the Twitter world became a rumor mill leading to speculation of a Qantas plane crash. News outlets even began to pick it up. It was untrue, uncontrolled and not only impacting the company’s reputation but its financial position.

According to the article in the Wall Street Journal (December 28, 2010), Joyce noticed that share prices declined over 5% in half an hour (currently, the stock is around $2.30). Apparently investors had seen the tweets and, in a panic, started selling their Qantas stock. After confirming that the plane was safe and on the ground, Qantas quickly issued a media statement and pulled together a press conference with the CEO out in front.  All actions were part of a crisis communications plan, which had not included social media. Since this incident, Joyce has hired an entire team of people just to keep an eye on the social networking side of things. This team has already prevented other rumors from starting and spreading with regular tweets, Facebook updates and conversations with the public and media online.

Like many companies (even large ones like Qantas), credit unions and marketing communications firms are still determining how to best strategize and utilize social media, one thing certain is that not participating is not an option. Whether you want to or not, your credit union will be a part of the chatter. The question is, will you be leading, following or scrambling to react to the virtual world?

Critchlow, Andrew and Kelly, Ross. “Qantas Copes With Aftermath of A380 Crisis.” The Wall Street Journal. 29 Dec.2010:B4. 

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