Australia: The Football World Cup and the power of social media

Whilst the 2018 FIFA World Cup RussiaTM fever is continuing to grip the world, viewers in Australia recently took to social media to protest a peculiar (at least by today's technological standards) issue. Since the beginning of the World Cup, the televising of matches in Australia has been hampered by ongoing issues relating to the quality of the video streaming.

The broadcasting rights this time were shared by free-to-air broadcaster SBS, and a subscription-based telecommunication company, Optus. This meant that the first time in FFA history, Australian fans were required to pay in order to watch the entirety of the World Cup matches. Given the magnitude of the World Cup, this was a fantastic opportunity for Optus and its advertisers.

Unfortunately for Optus, the streaming did not follow the game plan. From the second match onwards (for which Optus had exclusive broadcasting rights) technical glitches began to surface, which left many viewers unable to watch the games.

Viewers' Reactions on Social Media

Unsurprisingly, ripped-off and frustrated World Cup viewers gave Optus a yellow card by posting both their angry reactions and negative feedback on social media. The #OptusFail and #Floptus hashtags gained mileage across all social media platforms, and soon began trending along with all World Cup related hashtags and general social media chatter. One of our personal favourites was the following tweet:

Damage Control by Optus and the Following Social Media Reactions

Optus implemented some interim damage control measures, attempting a timely substitution providing viewers with an alternative platform to watch the game.

The company also made free 'FetchMini' set top boxes available to affected users for 12 months. Unfortunately for Optus, these efforts resulted in an own goal, as it wasn't long before customers were taking to social media to complain about Optus retail stores running out of stock. Not a good look for a company already dealing with a PR nightmare.

While Optus faced a tremendous wrath from viewers, the issue snowballed significantly, forcing the Australian Prime Minister to intervene in the matter, putting pressure on Optus chief executive Allen Lew to resolve the issue.

As a resolution, it was decided that all World Cup 2018 matches for the remainder of the group stages would be broadcast on both SBS and Optus' streaming service, with the latter being made free to all Australians until August 31. Also, Optus provided a refund to all customers who purchased a subscription for the world cup. As a final gesture of goodwill, Optus has allowed SBS to broadcast the remainder of the games in the World Cup.

The end result:
Optus - 0
Social Media - 1

Power of Social Media

The most notable point to have emerged from this fiasco is the reiteration of the fact that social media as a tool of the people has an incredible amount of power, and that platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram continue to provide the opportunity for anyone with internet access to publically express their views.

As this blog has noted time and time again, this type of instant negative publicity has the potential to seriously hamper the image and good-will of a company, and thus Optus were forced to take immediate steps in resolving the issue. It is fair to say that Optus' official response to the issue was prompt and proper, with the company making efforts to compensate through all other mediums in order to salvage its image.

Further to these compensatory resolutions, the broadcasting issues were also promptly resolved, with SBS stepping in to effectively save the day, which is sure to quell the issue of Australians not having free access to World Cup matches.

This situation has also demonstrated how social media backlash can extend beyond a company and its customers, and that it can result in the involvement of third party influencers such as, in this case, the Australian Prime Minister. Obviously, this situation is somewhat unique, as most businesses won't be receiving a personal call from the Prime Minister if their customers decide to vent on social media.

This example also illustrates how social media is an effective communication tool that enables a company or individual to communicate their message to their target audience both quickly and cost effectively. The post from Mr Turnbull was liked and shared by almost 3000 people on the same day, and we are sure that his actions and involvement would have been endearing to Australian football fans.

This incident, along with countless others of a similar vein, continues to solidify one simple message for consumers: social media is a powerful tool to use when you need to make yourself heard on an international scale. The flipside of this is that organisations need to take extra care in ensuring that they have a strong and flexible social media policy in place to deal with such levels of negative feedback.

If this social media plan is not in place, a simple mistake has the ability to blow out of proportion and damage the overall reputation of the company, as was the case in an example given in our last social media blog.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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