#SocialMediaBlackout Stats

On 14 June 2017, South African mobile operator, MTN announced that their free Twitter service will be limited to 100MB per subscriber per day. The news was not well received by users and sparked a public campaign against telecommunication companies to reduce the cost of data.

As a result, the #DataMustFall trend, first made popular by Tbo Touch in September 2016, started to increase.

Data Must Fall Trend
The above graph shows how many times #DataMustFall has been used in South Africa.

Despite being announced on 14 June, the public only started noticing the changes in the following couple of days.

Data Must Fall posts June 2017
Online mentions of #DataMustFall from 1 to 21 June 2017.

Although triggered by MTN, other network giants have been involved in #DataMustFall mentions. In June, MTN was the most mentioned telco in #DataMustFall conversation and was found in 14% of mentions, followed by Vodacom with 11% and Cell C and Telkom accounting for 6% each.

South African mobile operators Data Must Fall Stats
Since 1 June until 21 June 2017, there were 70 369 mentions of #DataMustFall on the internet.

Not only was #DataMustFall being used, but #SocialMediaBlackout was introduced in retaliation. The hashtag was reportedly introduced by activist Ntsiki Mazwai on 19 June and encouraged the public to not use social media on Wednesday, 21 June 2017 in an effort to get the attention of mobile operators and reduce data tariffs.

Despite intentions, ironically, the hashtag was trending again yesterday and was the second most used hashtag on Twitter over the 24-hour period.

The most used hashtags on Twitter on 21 June 2017
The most used hashtags on Twitter on 21 June 2017.

The hashtag was most used on 20 June totalling 27 635 online mentions and accounted for 56% of all #SocialMediaBlackout posts. The hashtag received 18 989 mentions on 21 June – 31% fewer mentions than the day before.

#SocialMediaBlackout Statistics
#SocialMediaBlackout started on 19 June 2017 and saw a significant increase in usage to promote the initiative.

#SocialMediaBlackout was a trending topic and was the second most used hashtag during the tracking period and accounted for 2% of total tweets and retweets in South Africa on 21 June 2017.

#SocialMediaBlackout Data
#SocialMediaBlackout and #DataMustFall were popular hashtags used in mobile data-related posts from 19 to 21 June 2017.

Although the main hashtag was #SocialMediaBlackout, #DataMustFall and #SocialMediaShutdown were also used.

#SocialMediaBlackout Related Hashtags
Other hashtags used that relate to #SocialMediaBlackout.

The protest wasn’t taken seriously by the public nor telcos however, Afrihost and Telkom who took the opportunity to capitilise on the negative sentiment.



It is doubtful that the #SocialMediaBlackout had any impact, but the latest Twitter user statistics suggest that the drive was a fail.

Find out how many people were on social media and did not participate in the data fight here.

Twitter Activity in South Africa June 2016 to 2017

Additional Reading

Crisis Communication for Social Media

You may know better than to say something on social media that might have negative consequences for you or your business, but you can’t control every employee’s actions. This is one of the many reasons why it is vital to have a crisis communications strategy in place.

“Navigating social media and the public can be tricky. A single negative post concerning even a well-established company can go viral in an instant.” – Majorie Comer, Axia Public Relations (8 October, 2015)

#27Dinner was one of the Top 5 trending topics in South Africa on 31 October, which is common when the 27Dinner events take place. The popular forum is held for public relations, marketing, and social media professionals to discuss topics in the public communications space. The most recent theme centered around Crisis Communication on social media, and the impact this has on a brand’s reputation – an increasingly relevant topic in the digital world.

27Dinner at GIBS

The event was hosted by The Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg, where Mike Stopforth and Mike Oelschig from Cerebra, as well as Elena Protulis from Aqua Online and Kelvin Jonck from YouKnow, shed some light on the repercussions of online negativity.

There are three main types of crises that can affect a business:

  1. Employee (staff error)
  2. Marketing (messaging error)
  3. Business (operational error)

Mike Oelschig, Head of Advisory and Insights at Cerebra, shared some frightening statistics on how ill-equipt South African companies are for navigating social crises. But according to Mike, most crises can be avoided if there is a comprehensive plan in place. Of course, certain instances cannot be evaded, however, companies can ensure that they have the right plans in place to mitigate the severity of an incident. Often companies turn to social media agencies for assistance only once a crisis has happened, but by then it’s often too late. According to a survey done by Cerebra, 58% of businesses that experienced a crisis said that the impact was critical. Being able to identify potential crises before they happen and knowing how to diffuse them is simply essential for brands today.

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Elena heads up social media and content at Aqua Online and spoke about her experiences of assisting brands through crisis comms management. She highlighted that most crises happen when you least expect them, which typically results in panic, often from the highest levels of business. It’s for this reason, that collaboration between the client, PR company and social media agency is essential for swift recovery. Resourcing to make sure you have the right team together is key. Gathering all stakeholders in a war room works best to ensure that there is ongoing communication amongst everyone involved. Elena’s advice for steering the operation and remaining in control is to keep it tight, keep it aligned and keep it real time. But in order to resolve a problem, we first need to understand it.

Kelvin is an expert in analysing online conversation and has experience with numerous online listening tools. These tools give online reputation management analysts the ability to give context to the situation based on what people are talking about. Not only do these tools give insight into sentiment (positive, neutral and negative) based on what is being said online, but common themes in conversation can be identified, which will inform next steps. It is only through this understanding that a situation can be resolved.

That’s all good and well, but what are some real examples that have had massive impacts on a brand’s reputation and bottom line?

Operational Error

The Volkswagen emissions scandal is a well-known case that was spread far and wide thanks to online conversation. Individuals spread the news via social media channels, which resulted in a drastic increase in mentions on Twitter and had a negative impact on the brand’s stock price. “There were more than 53k tweets about Volkswagen on September 18. Since that was a Friday, news stayed fairly quiet over the weekend, and then exploded on Monday, September 21, generating more than 1.3 million tweets over the next week and averaging more than 8,000 new tweets per hour about the news. At that same time, Volkswagen’s stock price dropped from a high of 169 to a low of 95. As the tweets increased, the stock price decreased.” – Sarah Parker, Union Metrics Blog (30 October 2015)

VW emissions scandal stats
The graph above shows the impact of negative conversation around the Volkswagen emissions scandal of 2015 based on research by Union Metrics Blog.

Messaging Error

Women's Day Post Gone WrongContent posted by a brand can also result in negativity. In 2015, Bic published an update in an effort to celebrate Women’s Day, which caused a stir from social media users. The community felt that the wording of the post was sexist and resulted in an influx of negative mentions for the brand as individuals took to social networks to voice their disgust.

This is not the only instance of a faux pas in using the wrong wording. Telkom and Absa have also mistakenly used phrases that led to negativity from their followers.

Employee Error

Employees’ personal online activity is also a large potential for a reputational nightmare. For example, if you recall the incident where dentist Walter James Palmer killed Cecil the lion – the story made international news. The practice he worked for, River Bluff Dental, suffered massive damage to it’s reputation, ultimately resulting in the company closing it’s doors after people across the world flooded social media with negativity. More locally, the incident of Penny Sparrow‘s racial slurs sparked nationwide outrage and led to the public vowing to boycott Jawitz Property .

    “You have to train [your employees] on how social works in the real world and on the many, many reputational and other – even legal – risks involved.” – Tiffany Markman, BizCommunity (4 January, 2016)

The digital world has radically reduced the level of control brands have over public perception. Disgruntled individuals can quite easily trigger engagement from their followers and generate negativity for any organisation. Adopting a mob mentality is common in these instances, often without applying critical thinking before adding to the conversion. And so, more than ever, brands need to be equipt to deal with any unfavourable situation so as to avoid long-lasting consequences.

Cerebra Social Crisis BookAs Africa’s social business authority, Cerebra has developed a significant, practical and valuable handbook on crisis comms to better equip organisations to handle reputational disasters. The Social Media Crisis Handbook is a comprehensive guide to understanding, mitigating and managing the process, based on 10 years of strategic insights from working with reputable brands.
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As a valued reader who obviously has a keen interest in the topic, by using the coupon code danielb you will get $100 off the book! Simply visit The Social Media Crisis Handbook webpage and input the coupon after clicking the Buy Now button. If you’d like more information, feel free to contact Cerebra at info@cerebra.co.za or give them a call at 087 985 0853.

The consequences of not having a crisis comms strategy in place cannot be ignored. Social media isn’t going away anytime soon and it’s up to organisations to ensure that all bases are covered should a crisis arise. Similarly, it is an agency’s duty to be equipt to avoid, where possible, and handle crises and to educate clients on the ramifications of not having a comprehensive crisis management strategy in place.

27Dinner LogoFor more information about 27Dinner, follow the account on Twitter. If you’d like to attend the next discussion, contact info@cerebra.co.za and request to be added to the mailing list.

Cerebra LogoFor more information on Cerebra, visit the website or follow them on the various social network channels.

References & Additional Reading:

Cell C #BreakTheNet Sparks Mixed Reactions

Hot Topic of the Week

Break The Net is the new digital reality show looking for the next South African YouTube sensation. Finalists stand the chance to win R250 000 and a trip to Hollywood. Cell C recently announced the Top 30 Finalists in the competition and while the news didn’t quite break the net, the first episode certainly sparked conversation amongst the community.

On 23 October, Cell C released the first of the #BreakTheNet weekly episodes and encouraged followers to tune in to see who the lucky contestants were, as well as their first challenge. Posts by the brand on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter received a predominantly positive reaction, mainly in the form of likes. Others took the time to share words of encouragement and congratulate the winners. The finalists were also vocal about their excitement about the challenges ahead.

Although the majority of individuals responded positively, others were less impressed with the finalists who were selected. 102 individuals of the YouTube community voiced their disapproval of the outcome. Common themes in the negative conversation were finalists not being deserving of being selected, videos lacking originality, and ‘more worthy’ individuals not making it through.

Cell C BTN Episode 1 Response
The above graphic provides a snapshot of the reaction to the first #BreakTheNet episode of the Cell C reality series.

While it’s okay to voice your opinion, it’s important to understand the difference between sharing your point of view and being nasty. What is disappointing is that several of commenters who complained were YouTubers who had entered the competition themselves and not made it through. This is poor sportsmanship. Why detract from someone’s happiness simply because you, or someone you support, did not make the cut?

There are few opportunities for YouTubers in South Africa to make a name for themselves. We should be celebrating the wins of our peers instead of tearing each other down out of spite and jealousy. Whether you agree or disagree with an outcome, emotional intelligence is key to reacting in a way that communicates your point without it being at the expense of others. Interrogating why you feel it’s necessary to comment and what you hope to achieve through adding your opinion is another worthwhile consideration. I urge you to think twice before you weigh in with negativity and call out those who are discouraging any of the winners. I also hope you will take a moment to share your support for the finalists. It is a great achievement that they have been chosen and I look forward to seeing how they perform each challenge.

Watch the show on the Cell C Reality App on Sunday nights at 7pm, and find out who could be the next SuzelleDIY or Ofentse Mwase.