The last few months have been an interesting time for the city of Montreal. Blocked traffic.
Smoke bombs in the metro.
Students being forced to not goto school.
Sounds like an uprising in a Third World country doesn't it? (Many people who live here sometimes consider Quebec to be a third world province, but we digress...)
It all started when students rose against the government over the increase in tuition prices, but, somehow degenerated into a protest against everything that the current provincial government stands for. Whatever you political affiliation, what is fascinating though, is how important social media and the internet plays in the keeping the movement alive.
And how the people and even the police have used social media to push its points and maintain communications. A few lessons can be learned from this event for online marketers and we've boiled it down to two:
1. Real-time social media monitoring is necessary in order to keep up with the latest trends.
The Quebec student strikes seem to follow a similar pattern: organize, gather, protest, disband and often repeat. In scale the protests are quite significant, but the most remarkable component is the organizational abilities of the students, amidst the Montreal Police’s valiant efforts to put them to a halt.
If it were not for social media, student protesters would never be able to effectively organize and communicate in such an effective manner. Through Facebook groups, status updates and tweets, everyone is aware of the most up to date information - in real-time.
It may seem obvious, but the student’s dependence on social networks is a glaring sign of today’s reliance on the most up-to-date information through social networks.
So, what's the lesson for the online marketer??
In relation to online marketing, today’s newest trends and success stories will stem from the ability to monitor and respond to emerging consumer sentiment online.
In order for companies to develop strong relationships with their clients, they need to be constantly monitoring the social networks that their customers hang out at. Just as the police are monitoring the same networks that the Quebec students are using and likewise, the reliance Quebec students have on these same networks to communicate with each other.
Within minutes, hundreds of thousands of Quebec students can be informed and unite; the same should be said for online marketers looking to cash in on new trends.
2. Organizational mistakes or alterations can be amplified to have disastrous impacts.
The Charest government never thought that a $254/year increase in tuition fees would result such a massive uprising. Although small in monetary value, the scope of backlash has caught on to 83% of Quebec’s students. The protests show no signs of slowing and recently, the Quebec Minister of Education has resigned under the increased pressure of her duties.
The same could be said in the world of online marketing.
The ability of news and ideas to spread instantly means even small mistakes can have disastrous effects for companies. Back in January, McDonalds tweeted the hashtag #McDstories in an effort to promote positive stories from their suppliers.
However, unhappy customers hijacked the hashtag, unveiling a wide variety of unpleasant experiences they’ve had - such as finding fingernails in their burgers. @SkipSullivan tweeted, “One time I walked into McDonald’s and I could smell type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up. #McDstories”.
Within minutes a parade of similar tweets was sent around the twittersphere, all in criticism of the Golden Arches.
As news and ideas spread can now spread to hundreds of thousands in less than a second, organizations must be extra cautious regarding the messages they send out, and also the people they put in charge.