Malema: the online reputation cost

[By Tim Shier]

Did you speak about the ANC’s disciplinary hearing against Youth League president Julius Malema with friends or colleagues? Perhaps you posted a status update online about it, tweeted about it or even commented on a news article.

My company, online reputation management specialist BrandsEye, extensively monitored Tuesday’s conversation and discovered through our research that more than 5 000 people took online part in the conversation about the disciplinary across the country. Based on their respective levels of influence, this conversation reached an astonishing 8,4m people by our estimates.

Had that conversation been purchased in advertising, it would have cost R1,9m. That’s a considerable amount of negative coverage that we ourselves generated about our own country.

There were 6 286 individual mentions posted online about the hearing across the Internet on Tuesday alone.

To illustrate just how much conversation that is, it’s significantly more than what was generated for finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech, which received only 812 mentions, and more than the state of the nation address at 3 352 mentions. Even large telecommunications brands in SA can only expect to receive about 250 mentions a day.

About 68% of this conversation (4 274 mentions) happened on Twitter, with Facebook accounting for 20% of the total volume (1 257 mentions). About 1,5% of this conversation came from press websites themselves, with journalists reporting live from the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters accounting for 4,5% of the conversation.

But what did people talk about and what did they think of yesterday’s events? Malema himself was the top theme of conversation, featuring in 94% of mentions. About 9% of conversation endorsed the Youth League and its actions, while 61% spoke neutrally and 30% of people having displayed negative sentiment.

President Jacob Zuma featured in 15% of conversation (946 mentions), while ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe (359 mentions) and Youth League spokesman Floyd Shivambu (230 mentions) drove 6% and 1% respectively.

Supporters of the Youth League however condemned the corruption and the, “tenderneurship” within the ANC. “Viva Malema, Viva Youth League” and “Malema — the next president” were also quite common within this conversation.

With 514 mentions, the presence of the schoolchildren in the protests caused 8% of the total conversation. These ranged from disgust to shock to comments like “Why aren’t they in school?”

There is increasing Internet penetration in SA as cellphones capable of accessing online content become more and more affordable. Moreover, as SMS and call prices remains particularly high, talking to friends and family via cheaper-to-access social networks and online chat services will become a more realistic and preferable option for most South Africans.

As Internet penetration rates improve, tracking what South Africans have to say about current events like what happened yesterday at Luthuli House will become more representative of the entire population’s opinions.

Interestingly, 5% of the coverage came from the US and the UK and a further 3% from other European countries. Brazil and several Asian countries also featured.

SA relies heavily on having a positive image overseas, not just from the industries we export being well received but also in promoting foreign direct investment and trade growth.

We need to be mindful of what we’re putting out to the world. South Africa can’t afford to have nearly R2m worth of negative coverage. This just goes to show that even at government and political level, online reputation management is critical to how others perceive us, not just online but in the real world as well.

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  • http://twitter.com/thewomble_za Greg Mahlknecht

    >>We need to be mindful of what we’re putting out to the world. South Africa can’t afford to have nearly R2m worth of pnegative coverage.

    Isn’t negative coverage of a bad thing (Malema) actually a positive?  “the world” sees Malema talking about nationalisation, land grabs and being racist.  Surely if it’s shown that the majority of the educated ZA public hates this character and wishes he’d go away, that would be good?

  • http://www.sadev.co.za Robert MacLean

    “5 000 people ” … ” (4 274 mentions) happened on Twitter”

    Considering it was reported as trending in South Africa & world wide those numbers are terribly low. While I agree with the general tones of the message, the numbers seem completely wrong.

  • Anonymous

    I think Malema has created online revenue for a lot of companies and newspapers. I wonder what newspapers and some websites will be discussing if Malema had not been around. Many people dont like him him but I think some organisations love this guy coz he has created internet traffic for ad revenue. News24 especially. As usual sensationalisation of Malema is good for the tech industry. Headsup Juju keep speaking some of us will still have jobs if you continue.

     South African’s have a problem of thinking the more they speak bad about their country the better it will become or the more the world will see how bad Malema is. The world out there only cares about their interests. We are the ones responsible for our destiny and our childrens future. If we do not embrace or face some of these challenges and learn to protect our nation we are the ones who will suffer the most. Malema and other politicians already have their retirement package sorted even if they leave ANC. NO country in this world is perfect so we need to understand SA is bigger than Malema!

  • http://twitter.com/hppyplntcntrl Happy Planet Central

    How often do you hear that a potential customer found your business through an online search or directory listing and decided not do business with you because of what they read online? Probably not so often. But rest assured that – like a tree that falls in a forest makes a sound even when no one is around to hear it – negative online comments adversely affect your brick and mortar business, even when you don’t hear about it.Today, every business is defined – at least in part – by their online identity, even if they don’t have an online presence such as a website. That’s because customers can easily share their likes and dislikes with friends on social networks, or gripe publicly through online directories, message boards, news sites and other social media venues. As a result, businesses are loosing hundreds of thousands of dollars every day due to their negative online reputation.

    http://sites.google.com/site/happyplanetcentral

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