The Qantas QF32 incident will spark a raft of after-action assessments and remedial actions. Airline CEO Alan Joyce has already started, with greater attention to social media one of his early action items.
The Wall Street Journal this week carries an interesting interview with Joyce, in which the airline boss details how the company's share price fell 12 – 15 cents within half an hour of news that flight QF32 was experiencing operational problems.
With the aircraft still airborne, the online community had already started tweeting that a Qantas aircraft had "crashed," followed by inaccurate news articles, generated from Twitter, that the A380 had indeed crashed. Those reports triggered the rapid sell off in Qantas shares that Joyce labels a "collapse."
For those not familiar with how the tweeting started, it’s worth reading the timeline of misinformation on this Crikey blog.
Joyce tells the WSJ that upon hearing news of the incident he went straight to the crisis center. At the time, the aircraft was still in the air circling to burn fuel and to deal with the raft of computer error messages.
Qantas issued a statement after the aircraft had safely landed, but in the two hours the aircraft was airborne, the stock continued trading down in its home market. What is more, markets in Europe were waking up to reports that the mega-transport had crashed -- impacting the share price for engine-maker Rolls-Royce.
Meanwhile, the Twittersphere was having a field day with the hashtag #QF32. Joyce says that he fronted a press conference for the "traditional media" at 4 pm local time, but admits “we’d missed this whole social media end of communication." In response, Joyce has hired a group of people just to look at the social network side of things. “Since then we’ve had a couple of other rumors occurring and we’ve gotten on top of it with tweets and Facebook, and we’ve killed it before it’s become a story," he says.
The Qantas Twitter account, @QantasMedia was set up on 17 November, 13 days after the now infamous #QF32. Its bio reads "The official Qantas Twitter broadcast channel, providing breaking news to the media. For all other updates see @QantasAirways."
The @QantasAirways account, by contrast, is described as "The official Qantas Twitter page to share information and get feedback." It was set up on 24 November.
Qantas is taking steps in the right direction, even if late. But the airline also appears to have more homework to do; its twitter feed is still rather meager when compared with the activities of others.
But perhaps more importantly, there is a cautionary tale here for other companies that have not yet woken up to the need to engage the social media universe if they want to avoid Twhispers sending their share price into free-fall.