Quantas Twitter trouble is a warning to all brands using social networks

An airline is in trouble after tweeting a photograph that some people deemed racist. Australia’s Qantas posted a photo of two men with their faces painted black and wearing afro wigs to its Twitter feed.

The airline had given the two men free tickets to a major rugby union match for promising dress up as their favourite player Radike Samo who is of Fijian descent.

The two men wore black face-paint and afro wigs for the stunt photo which was tweeted along the comment, “Looks like our Twitter winners of the Bledisloe Cup tix lived up to their promise! Good work!”.

However, the airline soon posted an apology after an angry backlash on Twitter. Aboriginal leaders also voiced their concern that a such a stunt could fuel racism even though the rugby player involved had posed with the ticket winners and was not at all offended by their fancy dress.

My take? Brands really need to think about the content they choose to share in social networks. Something that seems to be just a bit of fun within one community can be construed as something quite different in the wider, even global, community.

Sherrilynne Starkie is a consultant at PDMS. For almost 18 years, Sherrilynne has been advising blue-chip organisations on both sides of the pond, covering Britain, Canada and the United States. For three years, Sherrilynne was the Tech Talk columnist for the Isle of Man newspapers. She serves on the steering committee for Isle of Man Women in Business, is on the Executive Council for the Isle of Man Junior Chamber of Commerce. In the past she was on the management committee for the Isle of Man British Computer Society and the marketing committee of Junior Achievement.