Commentary Politics

The importance of acknowledging social media power


Shahrum Sayuthi
Written by Shahrum Sayuthi

AS now widely-known, communication service provider Maxis Bhd is currently struggling to contain a “social media rebellion” among its customers.

The problem started last month when it became known that Maxis was offering certain customers in East Malaysia a special low price deal.

The deal was initially not made public but selectively offered, especially to customers who wanted to switch to a new super low tariff package offered by rival Celcom Axiata Bhd.

Customers, especially those who have been loyal to Maxis were peeved when they found out about it, with many feeling that they were not appreciated by the telco company.

The anger towards Maxis could among others be observed in social media chat groups.

The unhappiness had since snowballed, with some going to the extent of initiating a campaign in the social media, encouraging Maxis customers to port out and switch to other telcos.

Maxis had issued several statements to contain the damage but not many were impressed by the effort to appease the angry customers.

In a widely read article, and its subsequent follow-ups, marketing consultant Roberto Cumaraswamy pointed out where Maxis had gone wrong in its handling of the problem.

He pointed out that it basically boils down to the lack of empathy displayed towards the angry customers.

Maxis’ response to the “crisis” was also said to be not fast enough and when it came, not good enough to appease those who were angry with it.

How long the problem will persist and the extent of damage done to Maxis’ reputation have yet to be determined.

It is a lesson which should be learnt, not just by business entities but also other organisations on how to manage a crisis in the cyberspace.

This lesson should be beneficial even to political parties, particularly in dealing with the now powerful influence of social media.

Barisan Nasional, for instance, could learn from the Maxis’ experience in correcting its cyberwar strategy, which appeared to be not so effective against the opposition parties over the past few years.

The less than stellar performance of the coalition in the last two general elections was to a significant extent attributed to that problem.

Any casual observer of the political cyberwar in this country would notice the lack of urgency and discipline of the BN’s machinery in dealing with the campaign waged by their opponents working for the opposition.

Mistakes such as being dismissive of complaints in the social media, taking on a defensive stance instead of addressing those complaints, failure to display enough empathy and less than prompt reactions to issues raised in cyberspace were among reasons the BN has yet to gain the upper hand in dealing with its detractors.

Similar to the case of Maxis, BN may have the best overall package offered to the rakyat, but the inability to efficiently handle the social media could render that advantage null and void.

Managing public perception in this age of information technology is after all proving to be almost as important as satisfying the public’s need itself.

With the power of social media in their hands, the Malaysian public could afford to be quite fickle when it comes to making their choices, either it be which telco they should subscribe to, or who they want to believe and represent them in the government.



About the author

Shahrum Sayuthi

Shahrum Sayuthi