Okay I get it that Social Media allows everyone to have THEIR say in any way  they fancy and that is the way of the world nowadays. However, I have two fundamental problems related to how companies (in this case Qantas) and secondly how Social Media experts interpret what the public is saying and how to make business sense of it. In case you missed this, more Qantas #qantasluxury commentary here.

Social business is mainstream

Let me take companies as the first issue. Basically it is time to understand social! You can no longer brush off social purely as an adjunct to Public Relations nor a marketing bow in the arsenal of tactics to spew messages to the public and perhaps customers.

Social Media and, more importantly, Social Business, is mainstream and if you as an executive in Qantas or any other organisation don’t understand the principals of applying SMART/Responsible/Integrated Social Business you are going to be as useful as tits on a bull – or a digital dinosaur as the industry likes to say.

Social Business is not about selling the latest widget through Social Media ….or even giving away a set of pyjamas. So then what is a Social Business?

  1. A social business focuses on internal communications – so that the organisation is in step with it customers, markets, shareholders and so on.
  2. A social business is all about engagement with employees – so that employees are better connected with their customers.
  3. A social business should be owned by the entire organisation – collaboration leads to better and more inclusive decision making
  4. A social business is measured by organisational change – and how processes such as marketing campaign launches are better thought out.
  5. Most investments in social business initiatives revolve around internal communities, social technologies, and training.
  6. …and most importantly the change, measurement, culture and focus of the Social Business objectives are owned by the executive management within an organisation.

Social business is one of the various sets of business strategies

A Social Business starts within and then looks to engage its customers, partners and vendors. This idea is similar to the “old” idea of the Service-Profit-Chain whereby satisfied employees led to satisfied customers which led to satisfying profits. The Social Business has engaged employees which leads to engaged customers which leads to engaging profits.

Social business is one of the various sets of business strategies which enterprises must now build in to their overall business planning – aligned with their higher level Objectives and Goals. It’s not a goal in itself, but an enabler of other business outcomes. How important it is relative to other strategies depends on all the usual business planning considerations – industry, environment, competitors, customers, suppliers, substitutes, barriers to entry, barriers to exit etc etc.

Social media is only a tool of social business

Clearly these business strategy discussions about “social” are not about social media – not about Twitter, Facebook, other social media tools nor pyjama promotions. They are about how “social” helps enable the achievement of specific business objectives, in an integrated way.

Now here’s a paradox. Even in a business which is fully engaged socially  – a particular “campaign” e.g. #QantasLuxury, might still fail. That’s because people are people and mistakes are made and lessons are learnt and campaigns are just campaigns – they are tactics within a solid framework.

The difference is this. In the context of a fully engaged social business the “failure” will be comfortably absorbed by the strength of the organisation’s engagement with its employees and its customers. The brand is resilient because of this engagement. Alan Joyce believes Qantas is a resilient brand and this is now being tested.

In an organisation without a social business strategy, which has fragmented engagement with employees and customers, and relies more opinions than evidence and measurement, then the campaign generates a life of its own – commonly then described as “a PR disaster”.

If we refer to the real business data then what insights show that this is a “PR disaster”?

We believe that the campaign was ill-considered on three fronts:

  1. timing;
  2. use of a hashtag; and,
  3. the nature of the prize / contest itself.

But a PR disaster? Bit early to make that judgement!

What will be the impact on bookings, revenue, margins?  How many of the 4,412 Tweets were from customers? How much was the hashtag hijacked by people who never fly – let alone fly Qantas? The spammers have been out in force on that hashtag – so how representative is it really? What is the real (i.e. non automated) sentiment related to the #QantasLuxury? Clearly it isn’t our objective to lay the blame with the social media team – they are doing the best they can do within the context of their organisation’s social business strategy (or lack thereof).

The issue of social media versus social business, and the lack of executive and employee engagement,  is the fundamental problem in Qantas and many other organisations today as identified in our Australian Social Business Index Part 1.

If I have lost you in the explanation above, then so have your employees and customers …..refer back to the bull .

Time to move to facts, process and proper management attention

That leads me to the Social Media Experts. We aren’t helping here as executives are starting to realise is that this expert plumber knows just as much about plumbing as they do — that is, nothing at all. They just have opinions.

What is my bugbear then?

The comments related to our poor friends at Qantas are mostly limited in factual advice blown up to proliferate the profile of the expert, or for that matter, the plumber. We are too eager to get on the band wagon versus stepping back from what is happening, understand the strategy, understand the tactics, research the social data and then provide value based Social Business advice.

Social Media and specifically Social Business Intelligence is not a art. Standard management principals of process, methodology and people should be applied to gain actionable business insights and competitive advantages in support of business goals. No matter whether these goals are focused on the customers, markets, partners, employees, competitors or vendors or other stakeholders.

Social Business Intelligence is factual, traceable and audit-able. A fundamental problem here is the experts who are more focused on the opportunity to raise their profile than on a factual analysis of the results. There were experts as early as yesterday afternoon calling this a PR disaster. The peak of activity was not even reached until well after this commentary. But at that point there is no time to undertake analysis of the outcome of the campaign. But the rush to be first in the news cycle leads to a desire to be first to judegment

So what was the Qantas activity over the last seven days:

Do you believe the automated sentiment above? We don’t! Hence making judgements without analysing the social data is limited in its’ ability to add real business insights. Many of the comments on the hashtag were highly and deliberately sarcastic and it will require days of analysis to make an ‘accurate’ judgement on sentiment. Tools rid the analysis of spam – but actually the number of tweets was even higher than this – but don’t have relevancy to the campaign other than helping make it a trending topic – thereby garnering more PR.

If we specifically look at #QantasLuxury what was the volume by channel:

Current (as of 23rd Nov 10:50am AEST) Twitter #qantasluxury mentions are at 5,778 over the last 7 days.

If we then look at the last day what were the public discussing in relation to Qantas:

We have only scratched the surface here, however, any business executive would see in the above the ability to access and interrogate a Social Data Set and apply it to their Business Strategy, and to bring this kind of informed intelligence into their business planning process. This in the same way in which businesses, and executives, have applied Business Intelligence to ERP, CRM, or HR.

So how have we tried to demystify what happened to our Aussie mates at Qantas?

We feel there are two key learning’s in this case study for Australian Executives, namely;

  1. Social Business is your accountability – no more excuses. Get to understand it. And this is more than some misfiring marketing PR campaign.
  2. Base your opinion and ultimately your Social Business Strategy on facts. Social is no different to traditional Business Intelligence. It will take weeks, if not months to understand the impact of this campaign on the business of Qantas and we suspect that it just may not turn out as proclaimed by the premature evaluators out there. But lets wait for the real Social Business Intelligence to support that opinion.

@michae1green

# Data till 12pm 22/11/2011 AEST