NB: This is a guest article by Marco Serusi, a Spain-based engagement executive at airline and airport strategy firm SimpliFlying.
News in social media spreads fast, meaning we continuously remind our customers of the implications this can have on both customer service and crisis management for airlines.
However it is not often that we get to track live just how fast this can happen.
Yesterday afternoon (European Time) we had the chance to follow a potential crisis unfolding live on Twitter, analyze it as it evolved, all within 60 mins.
Here’s what happened:
On the afternoon of August 29, a Vueling flight from Malaga to Amsterdam Schiphol suffered from a so-called temporary miscommunication, triggering the emergency protocol for potential hijackings in the Netherlands to be activated.
Within minutes the Airbus A320 aircraft was intercepted by two Dutch F16 fighter jets, which escorted it to Schiphol airport.
There it was met by emergency services, which followed the usual security procedures, searching the plane and later allowing all passengers to disembark.
As happens in an era where people are constantly connected to the internet, the news appeared almost immediately on Twitter, then on Youtube.
While following the crisis unfold we tracked tweets containing the word Vueling and observed rates well in excess of one tweet per second for the entire length of the crisis.
The news on Twitter
In this presentation we have collected the most representative tweets to give a clear idea of how the news evolved on this high-speed social network.
Take a look at the presentation before reading the analysis below.
When following this event there was one thing that caught our attention: the time it took the airline to react online and the poor quality of the reaction.
Tweets containing the word Vueling were appearing at very fast rates, in excess of one per second, something that should have triggered some sort of a reaction online.
It is of course understandable that the airline did not wish to release any information until the false alarm had been confirmed, but at 14:48 it had already informed mainstream media and it took them almost half an hour to share the same information on social media.
Furthermore, despite the widespread usage of hashtags such as #hijacking or #Amsterdam, the airline did not use them in its tweets.
Given how good Vueling normally is with its social media strategy, it was surprising that despite the large number of tweets in English and Dutch, Vueling only tweeted the information in Spanish.
Conclusions and tips
Overall this event provided an interesting case study of what can happen when a news, even a false alarm, spreads on social media.
However, it is also worrying to see how an airline that is generally considered as social media savvy took so long to react.
When we take into account a tweeting rate of over one tweet per second, and an average of 126 followers per user, a 30-minute delay gives the news a reach of 226,800 users, without any interception from the airline.
So, what can you do if your brand is hit by a similar crisis? Here are some tips.
- Tweet at the same time as your offline announcement about the situation
- Use the appropriate hashtags, to get your message across farther
- Tweet in multiple languages to reach the right target audience. Vueling should have tweeted in English, and even Dutch.
- Mention the key media outlets in your tweets, so that they would Re-tweet your messages. Vueling should have included Reuters, AP and major Spanish newspapers.
- Collaborate with the airport’s social media team – Vueling could have worked with @Schiphol to calm some nerves.
- Learn from others. There are a number of good crises management case studies, and it’s always good to have familiarized your team with best practices before something happens. Vueling could have learnt from Royal Brunei Airlines’ handling of an emergency landing earlier this year.
This is a guest article by Marco Serusi, a Spain-based engagement executive at airline and airport strategy firm SimpliFlying