Amateur Hour at Twitter as it Fails a Global Brand

I’m currently one of thousands of Australian’s and New Zealanders affected by the Chilean volcano ash cloud (check out the hashtag #ashcloud on Twitter for background). It’s not too serious for me, a bit of inconvenience, a few more dollars spent (at a nice hotel).

Being a keen social media observer I’ve been watching a number of companies such as the airlines, hotels, rental car companies to see how they’re reacting and how they’re using social channels like Facebook and Twitter to communicate and engage (follow up post coming tomorrow). Qantas Airways are working really hard at the moment to deal with hundreds of cancelled flights and thousands of affected customers. Being a legacy airline (i.e. not a LCC or a “cool” brand like Virgin or SouthWest) means they are often the target of social media experts who want to pick on them over their old habits. But lately they’ve been doing a pretty good job of engaging customers and the public via social channels.

But this stunned me this afternoon:

Qantas Airways tweet

Hang on a sec. We’re in the middle of a pretty significant southern hemisphere event impacting millions, one of Australia’s largest enterprises is working hard to communicate with customers and Twitter imposes a limit on how many tweets they can send out? Are the lights on at Twitter and no ones home?

The Very Unsocial Actions of Twitter

The implications of this are very significant. Twitter wants enterprise customers like Qantas hooked on their channel, as they’ve been very clear that they see them as a revenue source in the future. So why destroy corporate good will by allowing something like this to happen? If you’re in charge of corporate comms and you see this, what faith/reliance are you going to put in Twitter? How is Twitter going to deal with the fact that Qantas built an expectation that you could engage via Twitter and then the account stops engaging – Is Twitter going to come out and admit they let Qantas down?

Whilst I’m not a fan of Google, I will say one thing, Google would never allow something like this to happen.

Pay attention Twitter or pay a heavy price

4 thoughts on “Amateur Hour at Twitter as it Fails a Global Brand

  1. Hi Mark – I think you’ll find it’s not so much a philosophical/ business decision on Twitter’s part, but more a technical issue around their internally known sever capacity:

    Qantas has not paid Twitter a cent by the way – they’ve also agreed to Twitter’s T’s & C’s, there is no SLA, and no redress save choosing not to use Twitter’s (imperfect) service at all – which is their right.


    • Tim,
      I think you’re missing the point here on a couple of fronts.

      Whether Twitter has known or unknown capacity issues is a point they need to resolve. I’m really over their pathetic/cute “fail whale” that appears at critical times when I’m trying to explain Twitter – it’s a bit like PRwire being flakey and prone to being offline when someone might choose to talk it up!

      My point here is that Twitter touts itself as a global communications service when in fact it’s run by 3rd grade system admins.

      I don’t understand the point you’re making re Qantas not paying to use Twitter. The point I was making is that Twitter needs global brands like Qantas using and committed to their service is they ever hope to turn Twitter into a revenue positive business. Without global brands Twitter’s revenue model is f**ked. As I’ve argued with you on a few occasions, Twitter masquerades as this brilliant engagement service yet the company fails to take basic steps to ensure it’s an enterprise-stable service.

      My point here is that Twitter isn’t managing expectations – particularly in the social age. Whether Qantas, you, or I pay money to Twitter is irrelevant – it’s the expectation that Twitter set that communicates that we can rely on them when in fact we can’t.

      Let me run a hypothetical by you…What if a natural disaster rendered an Optus call centre off-line and they realised one channel of intimate and real time communications with their customers was via Twitter – but then Twitter decided that – “sorry old chap, too many tweets so you’re parked for the next period of time that we haven’t defined and to be honest we can’t be bothered determining what it will be because we’re important and you’re not”. So how does Optus react to this? How would Optus or Qantas be expected to manage customer expectations?

      As I noted in the post – this incident needs to be understood and considered by Australian customers. We can’t just drink this bullshit Twitter kool-aide and not ask critical questions

      And as I said in the last sentence – Google would never do this – irrespective of whether you give them money or not

  2. Hi Mark,

    I was affected by the ash cloud the first time it came around (Sydney – Melb). Lucky for me, Qantas called me up 30mins after they’ve decided to close the Melbourne airport and told me to come to the airport to get accommodation sorted. At the airport, they gave me 2 nights stay in a decent hotel together with meal allowances and rebooked my flight on the spot.

    When it comes to crisis news, I prefer to follow traditional media ie. TV and telephone. How reliable Twitter or even Facebook can be in terms of handling a crisis, we will only know with time and yes it would be interesting to watch. From your experience, we can already see that social media is still really new and are in their teething stage. It’s ironic how social media which represents fast, live updates be slow in terms of rectifying their own customer service problems. I’m sure Qantas’ problem could have been solved should there be open communication between Twitter and user.


    • Hi Lynda,
      Your point about traditional channels is an interesting one. I’m quite anti mainstream media as I think they beat up a story and turn an issue into a crisis too often. I think the advantage tools like Twitter and Facebook offer is that speed of distribution along with speed of engagement – but as you note, there are still teething issues – many companies like Qantas are taking this as a learning experience – which I think they should be given credit for.

      Should Twitter have been aware of this and reacting to the needs of a customer like Qantas – absolutely – but they didn’t

      cheers Mark

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