Zambia: Using Social Media to Mobilize Mobile Phone Service Boycott

Whether or not the campaign by mobile phone service provider Airtel Zambia customers to boycott the company's services on Wednesday, November 9 succeeded, a new era of expressing dissatisfaction with poor service delivery has arrived.

Airtel customers had in the week before November 9 used social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and alternative media websites to mobilize the boycott of the mobile phone network for allegedly poor service delivery and equally shoddy customer service.

Say no to Airtel for nine hours every wednesday. Image courtesy of Boycott Airtel for 9 hours on Wednesday Facebook group.

Airtel is one of the three mobile phone service providers in Zambia, the other two are CellZ and MTN.

One netizen reported on Facebook how the mainstream media picked up the boycott campaign:

The Airtel boycott hits the media – Muvi TV! FB power! Let's do it again next wednseday until these capitalists improve their services!

BOYCOTT AIRTEL FOR 9 HOURS ON WEDNESDAY group on Facebook, which has attracted more than 16,000 members states:

Every Wednesday from 08hrs to 17hrs, let us not send an sms, or make any phone calls from any airtel number for nine hours to send a signal to Airtel that they need to improve their services and reduce their charges. Invite your friend to this event.
1. Customer care must be professional and be there to solve clients problems not to defent Airtel's incompetences
2. Airtel must revert to K2 for the magic number
3. Airtel must be faithful to the loyalty program promises and give out cards
4. Airtel must deliver 3G internet and allow users to utilise proper internet speeds
5. Airtel must reduce the cost of bundles as their current charge is too high

These among other issues that you as a customer may be facing. Remember we customers are the one keeping Airtel in business. If the[y] do not do as we say, we can put them out of business.

Thumbs down to Airtel. Image courtesy of Boycott Wednesday page on Facebook.

There is also a page on Facebook called Boycott Wednesday:

This page is for people who are tired of poor services and want to do something about it. From Mobile phone services, to water, electricity, and police services, we are here to raise the standard.

The administrator of the page posted the following message on Wednesday November 9, 2011:

The “BOYCOTT AIRTEL FOR 9 HOURS ON WEDNESDAY” event went well. The success is unprecedented. However, it appears Airtel has remained defiant claiming that business went on as usual. Well, I guess they are testing the resolve of the Zambia people. and so we continue. Invite you friends and let do this.

The administrator of the Facebook group Zambian Peoples Pact, Tina Banda, tried to discourage members from posting Airtel boycott messages on the page. She received over 500 reactions, most in disagreement with the administrator (*The post has been since been removed):

Kindly avoid Airtel Posts on this page!Let's continue being Factual in our arguments,we can do such posts on our respective profiles but not the ZPP page !

In disagreement, one member responded:

no Tina if we are the people's pact then we must be people's pact thru and thru and not for removing mmd only.The people's pact shud help the people in all areas if we are to be relevant to zambia.Tina give reasons why we shud nt be part to fighting exploitation by man to man.we are the peoples pact by the way.

An interesting dialogue took place on Twitter when two tweeps argued about the effects of the boycott call:

@GaryKwietstorm noted:

@Deejaylbc I dont think so, you know why? This boycott is being pushed highly on social media…Imagine how many people are not on it?

@Deejaylbc wrote:

@GaryKwietstorm this morning the #Airtelboycott face book page had pulled in 14,000 people..its a

growing movement against yo brand.

One tweep, @lwangamwilu, calls the boycott a “consumer fightback”:

RT @Consumerdiaries: @lwangamwilu consumers fight back,this is awesome! #Airtelboycott

On LinkedIn, one of the organisers, Brian Matambo reported:

The boycott went on as planned. We were successful. But we are not stopping here until we get a world class service.

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