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Why did #QantasLuxury go negative? What could have been done?

Yesterday we offered illustrations of the tweets from the #QantasLuxury social media incident. Today let’s take a closer look at how it took off and what might have been done.

Who started the #QantasLuxury negativity - and why?

The initial #QantasLuxury tweet went out at 11:34am Sydney time. The first 15 minutes of tweets were from people entering the competition and airing their fantasies of in-flight massages, showers and various movie stars serving drinks.

There were two negative tweets in the first 15 minutes. The negative ignition occurred at 11:49am when @monkeytypist (1,124 followers) retweeted the only two negative posts to that point:

and added one of his own:

In the first 90 minutes after the first #QantasLuxury contest tweet, @monkeytypist retweeted 14 negative posts and added three more of his own, making him by far the most active tweeter using the hashtag in its first hours.

A look at @monkeytypist’s Bio reveals that he likes “working for union members.” This leaves us to speculate that the entire #QantasLuxury outbreak may have been ignited by a single person sympathetic to the union side in a labor dispute.

Iconic imagery comes later

Use of the hashtag continued to grow over the next two hours and tailed off as the day wound down. Approximately 48% of the total #QantasLuxury posts were retweets. The rapid acceleration demonstrates how small close networks of people without large followings can have a significant effect on conversation theme.

#QantasLuxury Tweets and Retweets

The most retweeted links were a Qantas-themed Fail Whale by @kellulz (122 followers) and a ‘Downfall’ parody by @alexjbaldwin (300 followers). These were not introduced until four and six hours, respectively, after Qantas’ initial tweet, underscoring that often the most memorable and viral images in a social media incident are not necessarily part of the cuing event. Perhaps if Qantas had moved faster to quell the fire, these images would never have been created.

What could Qantas have done?

In the heat of a labor dispute where many people have an interest in bashing the company, there may in fact have been nothing that could have been done. Nevertheless @QantasAirways stayed silent until nearly five hours after its initial tweet. Tweets from 25 accounts represented 40% of the total retweets, so even select outreach could have made reduced the pain by a statistically significant amount. Tellingly, both @kellulz and @alexjbaldwin had each tweeted several times before introducing their iconic images, both of which were later republished multiple times in the mainstream media.

A higher level of engagement that showed humility and a sense of humor may have helped defuse the situation before its most memorable links were conceived and reduced the number of tweets by a significant number.

As @kellulz himself put it:

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