When Qantas management suddenly grounded their fleet world-wide, to force a conclusion to months of union action, it provided a great case study in social media. Days later it was finally tallied that 110,000 passengers had been directly effected. That’s a lot of passengers, relatives and friends to spread the bad news! How did all this pan out in social media and what does some social business intelligence tell us?

Asher Moses at Stuff.nz quickly wrote a piece “Qantas rapped for bad social media service” covering some communications challenges, and at Social Mediology Kate vanderVoort wrote a comprehensive assessment of the first 36 hours and how things could have been done better – Qantas: The ‘Unliking’ of an Australian Icon.

To their credit someone from the depths of the storm in social media in Qantas – Cara Pring – responded to Kate vanderVoort’s post. Cara provided an internal perspective on their modus operandi and why certain decisions were made. Very interesting reading as it showed that the Qantas social team were fully aware of most issues but in essence had to make resource allocation decisions which left some issues hanging.

A quick search shows many other posts, mostly concentrating on the qualitative aspects and the operational events, often with recommendations.

iGo2 has undertaken an empirical review using our social business intelligence tools – (see below, or here on Slideshare) – and it illustrates the many challenges facing Qantas. These range from customer defection, compensation, customer service to more generally brand satisfaction.

However from our point of view the biggest single challenge is a more strategic one, and it is this:

Does Qantas wish to move from being a social brand, to a social business?

We use “social business” in the Michael Brito sense, as below (presentation Slide 16).

From Social Brand to Social Enterprise thx to Michael Brito

This shift is a major change. It requires executive management to acknowledge that social is a key channel not only for risk management and brand protection and operations support, but also for building more enduring customer relationships, loyalty, and discovering those service enhancements that really add value.

It requires a cultural change program, and resources to do that, and then it requires ongoing resources and attention to make in an integral part of the way business is done.

We’ll be watching with interest to see how committed Qantas becomes to transforming itself into a social business as a platform for recovering from the aftermath of the recent events.

How far do you think Qantas should go, and will go, in becoming a social business?

Walter @adamson