#StopTimeOutDubai rings alarm bells

It’s today’s marketer’s nightmare. You’re alerted to an outburst of negative sentiment towards your brand on social networks. Worse, it has some legitimacy. You don’t know how big it’s going to get, you don’t know how long it’s going to continue and it’s impossible to forecast the impact on your business.

Yesterday’s UAE Twitter campaign targeting Time Out Dubai for a momentary lapse of editorial judgement, should be ringing alarm bells for Middle East marketers. Every business makes mistakes sooner or later and, if you’re unfortunate enough for any of these made visible to the public, then your brand is at immediate risk from online activism and negative consumer sentiment. The always-on nature of today’s Internet and 24/7 access to social networks means that activism campaigns can appear in an instant, at any time of the day and achieve great scale in a very short period of time. Today’s activists require no planning meetings, no graphic design, no placards and, in fact, they don’t even have to leave their desks to make their voices heard.

A few Twitter users began using a #StopTimeOutDubai hashtag early evening on Monday July 23rd to express outrage at Time Out Dubai’s online picture story “5 to try: Bars in Ramadan” (story now removed from the website by the publisher). By the end of Monday night the hashtag had garnered under 50 mentions, however, as awareness spread, the hashtag was tweeted more than 1,000 times by 7pm on Tuesday. 90% of those tweets occurred between 12 noon and 7pm on Tuesday, even though Time Out Dubai issued an apology via it’s Twitter account @TimeOutDubai at 12.55pm.

Above: Apology tweeted from Time Out Dubai’s official Twitter account.

Whilst it was clear to all, why the “Bars in Ramadan” story had caused offense, the UAE’s Twitter community saw heated debate continuing through Tuesday with some users calling for government fines and the publisher to fire the editorial staff responsible, some calling for forgiveness and some defending the publisher.

Negative sentiment peaked between 2pm and 3pm on Tuesday.

Twitter mentions of the hashtag #StopTimeOutDubai monitored by Spot On PR between 0900 hrs and 1900 hrs on Tuesday July 24th.

Overall, 43% of the tweets monitored using the hashtag #StopTimeOutDubai supported the campaign, while 31% of tweets were critical or dismissive of the campaign. 7% of tweets monitored using the #StopTimeOutDubai hashtag were in favour of accepting the publishers apology and / or the publishers removal of the online article.  19% of tweets were neutral comments about the #StopTimeOutDubai campaign.

How closely are you watching your brand’s mentions on social media? Do you have an early warning system? If you’re a consumer brand or otherwise well known business, monitoring for Twitter and other social media is now a must have.

– Statistics quoted have been drawn only from those tweets quoting the hashtag, whilst many others not mentioning the hashtag were part of the wider conversation.
– It’s not always possible to monitor 100% of social media posts, due to user privacy settings, access to latest platform APIs and limitations of search tools.

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Carrington Malin

About the Author ()

Carrington Malin is co-founder of Spot On and has been managing sales, marketing, media and communications campaigns across the Middle East for more than 20 years. He likes technology, surfing and chicken liver salad. You can contact Carrington via Twitter at @carringtonmalin or via his website www.carringtonmalin.com

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