The new online face of Indonesia

Anyone with a basic understanding of the blogosphere in Indonesia will be familiar with its sheer unpredictability – not for nothing have the Indonesians been labeled the ‘Italians of Asia’. (Even if a quick search to validate this statement reveals that the Koreans, Philippinos and Indians have all been tarnished with the same brush).

Like the Italians, Indonesians tend to be tremendously garrulous. In my experience, the first twenty minutes of most business meetings is spent talking and laughing about anything other than the matter on hand, which can make it a hugely enjoyable if sometimes frustrating place to get much done.

So it is noteworthy that Prita Mulyasari, the housewife whose mis-treatment at the hands of a Jakarta hospital and subsequent email complaint led to her imprisonment for supposed libel, has now won her freedom in the Supreme Court. In a country where corruption is rife and the rule of law flaky at best, Prita’s victory is viewed as a major consumer rights victory.

Prita Mulyasari

The case was also notable for the role that social media played in her defence, raising funds for her bail, mobilising thousands of supporters into the streets and forcing the issue onto the front pages of the media, to the extent that the story was taken up by candidates in the 2009 Presidential Election.

In a country where online complaints and accusations are routine, people will surely view Prita’s victory as encouragement to pursue their cause – warranted or otherwise – to the bitter end, making life potentially awkward to organisations looking to engage with customers and other stakeholders on the Internet and through social media.

In a market where use of social media has been limited to ‘push’ marketing and communications, and very little time spent on actual engagement and dialogue, how best handle online complaints?

Here’s a basic online response framework:

  1. Acknowledge the issue
  2. Assess the situation
  3. Address the problem
  4. Respond accordingly.

More on how to respond to negative online comments here.

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