Can Social Media Act as a Double-edged Sword?

How the positives of social media can generate negativity for the Australian Travel & Tourism Industry.

If the Australian travel and tourism industry wants to leave a global mark, it must embrace the use of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to adopt and harness a strong digital strategy says Tourism Australia’s executive chairman, Rick Allert.

“As more of the world continues to embrace the Internet in new and diverse ways, this is an obvious medium we need to fully utilise to convey the depth and breadth of Australia’s travel and tourism experience,” Mr Allert claims.

While recognising the Australian travel and tourism industries need to jump on the social media bandwagon, Mr Allert advised that a reliance on social networking sites could prove consequential for travel and tourism operators, with negative word-of-mouth posing a threat for a country’s image.

Poor Mr Allert failed epically at practicing what he preached. In March of 2010, Tourism Australia launched a $150 million advertising campaign to replace their previous ill-fated ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ campaign. Using the new slogan, ‘There’s nothing like Australia’, they invited Australians to submit their favourite photos and taglines of the country to capture that authentic, every-day Australian touch.

Within hours of launching the new site, the online campaign was hijacked by satire blog nothinglikeaustralia.net.

Tourism Australia made the terrible mistake of forgetting to register variations of their websites URL. While having claimed the .com address, this left a window of opportunity for virtually anybody to register nothinglikeaustralia.net. Mr Allert must still be kicking himself.

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On November 23rd 2007, low-cost carrier, Tiger Airways Australia commenced domestic flight services throughout Australia. On June 7th, 2008 Tiger took a walk on the wild side by embracing the use of social-networking giant, Twitter @tigerairways. While Twitter has proven to be a powerful  communication device for other Australian airline companies like @VirginBlue and @JetstarAirways, Tiger Airways lacked what these two companies were able to grasp hold of.

The second half of 2008 saw Tiger embrace Twitter a total of five times. 2009 brought on a slight  improvement with a whooping 29 tweets <insert sarcasm here>; one of them even promising follower’s innovation and excitement; kind of ironic, don’t you think? Perhaps this earth-shattering promise of excitement was the increase of their tweets, six-fold, on previous years results?

Sadly, in 2010, Tiger Airways’ Twitter account died a slow and painful death (of only five tweets) with a direct flight out to Twitter heaven.

A big mistake made by companies is the abandoning of accounts. Tiger Airways has ignored the benefits that Twitter can encompass for them and rather than shutting off its Twitter account completely, it has decided to portray a negative company image for its 2,954 followers via account abandonment.

Dear neglected @tigerairways Twitter followers, here’s an idea.

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Virgin Blue and V Australia have done an outstanding job appealing to customers via their Facebook pages with 20,000+ and 15,000+ ‘likes’ respectively. They’ve also gone that extra mile in mastering communicative channels via Twitter and corporate blogging. Despite these social networking measures, any given corporate message may be easily counteracted by dissatisfied customer blogs and blog posts, especially those that rank highly on Google.

A simple Google search of ‘Virgin Blue Blog’ reveals the top ranking result to be a blog post from a disgruntled Virgin Blue customer; it even ranks above the V Australia Blog itself. Although having been posted way back in March of 2006, this particular blog post still generates interest amongst other dissatisfied Virgin Blue customers, with comments still being posted to it as recent as September of 2010.

This example is not specific to Virgin Blue and V Australia but is just one of the many cases used to illustrate the permanency of the Internet and the power of social media.


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