The hardest part of the digital world is knowing where the tipping points are – it’s relatively easy to work out when things are going against your brand either in the traditional press or on television. The coverage builds gradually (unless there’s a crisis) and you have time to think and respond.
The digital world has completely changed the rules however. There doesn’t need to be a trigger anymore. And so was the case at the end of Ramadan in Saudi, where unhappy customers of Saudi Telecom Company vented their frustration at the slow connection speeds as well as the cost of the service.
Using the hashtag مطلب شعب stc الثورة ضد, which essentially translates as ‘the people demand a revolution against STC’, Twitter users shared thousands of Tweets on their thoughts and demands. Many of the visuals were created by consumers who effectively used home-designed visuals to tell their story.
The hashtag, which included over 100 thousand tweets and was one of the top five trends worldwide on the 17th and 18th of July, also resulted in a direct action, a call to boycott STC and turn off phones for several hours on a pre-agreed day, with expected losses of 10 million Riyals.
While STC didn’t respond during the campaign, Saudi’s Minister of Telecommunications Dr Al Suwayyel had previously tweeted that he’d follow up on the issue of poor services in the Kingdom’s telecommunications sector. With the hashtag and the campaign gaining global attention, it’s clear that Saudi consumers will continue pushing for reforms.The question is, will this consumer activism spread to other areas of the economy or other parts of the Gulf? Despite the poorly received Etisalat Challenge campaign and the backlash against Qtel in 2010, there’s been no consumer demand to reduce prices in other Gulf markets. Will other groups follow in the wake of Saudi consumers and demand better service through mediums such as Twitter?
One other question for you. Is there a harder job than that of a social media manager for a telco in the Gulf. You tell me.