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#QantasLuxury a social media fail? Far from it

Pitchforks and flaming torches were in short supply last year during Qantas' trial by social media fire.

Pitchforks and flaming torches were in short supply in social media land late last year, as anyone with 140 characters to spare pointed out, tweet by tweet, that Qantas’ pyjama promo was without doubt the greatest disaster to hit the airline industry since two 747s collided in Tenerife in 1977, killing 583 people.

Vaughn DavisThe marketers involved, cried the mob, should be fired. Qantas, they said, had no idea. This, screamed the tweets, is a classic example of (and I do despise this following combination of words but present it, kind reader, in evidence) a Social Media Fail.

I disagree. They shouldn’t. It does. And it isn’t. First, the facts. What Qantas did that so upset the commentators was run a fairly simple giveaway on its Twitter account. Pretty much the kind of thing every brand on Twitter is doing every other day. The competition offered a pair of Qantas pyjamas (as apparently issued to first class passengers) for whoever best tweeted their idea of luxury, and hashtagged (labelled) the tweet #QantasLuxury.

Alert readers will have realised that “late last year” was a not-insignificant period in Qantas’ history, as it had just emerged from a CEO-prescribed total shutdown in response to deadlocked contract negotiations.

Not surprisingly, then, the online competition was soon receiving almost as many entries referencing the shutdown as those hoping to score a pair of snuggly pyjamas.

Hashtags being hashtags, #QantasLuxury soon became a trending topic, attracting the attention of the online world and the ire of the social media experts.

And soon after that, mainstream media officially declared #QantasLuxury to be a Social Media Failure, Debacle, Embarrassment or whatever noun hadn’t already been snaffled by a competing newspaper.

But was Qantas really so wrong?

If this campaign – and that’s a very strong word for one tweet promising the chance of some airline PJs – had been an expensive TV ad, or a newspaper campaign, or a series of billboards on the way to the airport, then perhaps the critics might have had a point. Investing millions in promoting first class when your airline has just disappointed millions of customers in every class is probably poor judgment.

But one tweet?

If anything, this episode has done what social media so often does best. It’s exposed Qantas as human. Someone in the marketing department – or just someone wondering what to do with this spare pair of pyjamas sitting on his desk – thought they might as well go to a customer rather than get chucked out. Hmmm, first class is about luxury, so let’s ask people what that means to them.

I hope the Qantas social media person still has a job (or has been hired by a competitor for the professional and level-headed way they managed the conversation once it became unexpectedly energised).

Much like earlier social media antiheroes @westpac (“I’m so over this week”), and @vodafoneuk (“From now on I’m going after beaver”), @QantasAirways is guilty of nothing more than being human in this most human of channels.

And if that’s the crime the Experts have convicted Qantas of, call me guilty too and hang me by my own Qantas first class pyjamas.

Vaughn Davis is creative director of The Goat Farm. Follow him and his goats @vaughndavis.