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IIFT Delhi Intern at Simplify360
Social Media Analyst at Simplify360
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Table of Contents
US Telecom Industry …….…………………………………………..………………………..5
The role of social media in telecom industry……………….……………………...…………………………………………………..7
Research Approach and Methodology…………………………………………………………..……………………….8
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US TELECOM INDUSTRY:
Being more than a century old, the US telecommunications industry today is identified as a major driver of global economic recovery. Unprecedented growth in high-speed mobile, internet traffic, in particular for wireless data and video, coupled with the advent of Smart Phones into every household has transformed the industry into the most evolving, inventive and keenly contested space. The US telecom market is expected to grow to a total of $721bn by 2015, achieving a 3.27% CAGR.
A research report published on Verizon website cites the following points:
The number of American wireless customers now exceeds 290 million, a penetration rate of approximately 95%. 27% of U.S. homes rely on cell phones only for voice services.
With the wireless voice market at near saturation, the new major growth area for service providers is data as more and more customers upgrade to smartphones with data service plans. In addition, a new market is emerging for machine-to-machine wireless data communications.
Two-thirds of all Americans now have wireline-based broadband service at home. That figure is an increase from 2009 when 63 percent of Americans had a home wireline broadband connection.
According to the FCC, high-speed wireline Internet connections have flattened. Growth in the first half of 2010 was 1 percent, totaling 82 million connections. Meanwhile, mobile broadband connections in the same period grew by more than 27 percent to more than 71 million connections
While the industry was hurt by the recession in 2008 and 2009, key players maintained focus on pursuing new growth opportunities to transform their businesses. A few growth drivers for this industry have been identified as: increased customer demand, successful industry consolidation and continued improved regulation.
While voice still dominates the revenues, it has begun to decline over the past four years during which text and data revenues have nearly doubled. Source: CTIA
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In recent quarters, smartphones have made up for at least 40 percent of all new handset sales. Approximately 55 percent of all wireless customers now have smartphones, and that number is projected to grow to 67 percent by 2015.
The average local monthly bill (ARPU) has declined over the last 18 years from more than $61 in 1993 to $47 in 2011. This could be attributed to an increase in competition by the advent of new companies in the industry.
55% of wireless customers have smartphones in US. Source: The Nielsen Company
The figure shows the breakdown of revenues earned from various components of the telecom industry. The revenue from wireline and mobile voice data is expected to fall while online mobile ads and mobile data revenues will soar due to improve in technology and lighting fast internet speeds
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The role of social media in telecom industry:
The US telecom industry has been the pioneers in terms of identifying the utility of social media in its business operations. This is the reason why almost all companies have gone all out to make their presence felt on the digital platform. Given the pace of innovation and the rate of adaption of those innovations in this industry, providers are forced to focus on other characteristics to make their point of differentiation. Some have identified customer experience as their POD and since most of the customers are active on the social media, companies are looking at that medium to deliver the type of differentiated experiences that translate to long-term customer loyalty. As telecoms look to the social customer experience for competitive advantage, it’s critical that they develop a better understanding of exactly how investments in social media can bring them closer to their customer experience goals—and impact the bottom line.
Broadly classified, there are four motivations for engaging with customers:
Loyalty: Companies are now identifying their loyal customers using social media. They are dubbed as the “influencers” and act as the messengers for the company.
Innovation: Social media allows for a multi-way communication as compared to single-way communication in case of television/print advertisement where only the company is conveying information. On social media, the companies can listen to the demands of the consumer and adapt accordingly in this dynamic business environment.
Operational: This is where Customer Relationship Management comes into play. A single tweet holds the power of making/breaking the reputation of the company and with more than a billion people connected through the net, it is important for the companies to listen to their grievances over the medium and react accordingly.
Commercial: Want to let the customers know about a new product launch? Or a new service that can differentiate you from other players in the market? Well, with its extensive reach and potential to influence purchasing decision, social media has become a channel of advertising and promotion for many.
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RESEARCH APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
The following is a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research on how major US Telecom service providers are interacting with their existing and potential customers on digital media. The five companies that are being considered for this purpose have been selected keeping in view their number of subscribers, the coverage provided and their activity on social media. The list includes:
Nine social media platforms viz. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Google+, LinkedIn and FourSquare have been shortlisted and the activity of aforementioned companies have been tracked on these platforms for a period of thirty days using the Simplify360 tool along with basic Microsoft Office applications.
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Verizon Wireless is amongst the biggest telecom service providers in the US with more than 100m subscribers. The company is also quite active on the social media and has made its presence felt on almost all major platforms.
Own Posts: 22
Fan Change: 76,948
Avg PTAT: 41,784
Interaction Rate: 0.07%
Response Rate: 69.3%
Total Interaction: 70,580
As is evident from the above data, Verizon social media team is leaving no stones unturned to make the organization visible on the net. The content shared includes a mix of everything which includes external links, photos, videos etc. promoting Verizon Wireless.
A well-documented timeline on Facebook allows customers to have a peek at Verizon’s history
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The recent launch of Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung Tab and HTC One provided the company with a chance to generate buzz around the models. They also share random tech-updates and happenings in this domain along with posting birthday greetings for people who have had a hand in revolutionizing science like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison etc.
They also try and keep the customers engaged by posting random messages that are sure to get replies and provide certain amount of customer insight. They also have a well- documented timeline which covers the story of Verizon from its inception to present. Also, the company is yet to adopt the “Global Page” feature of Facebook. On YouTube, the company uploads tutorial videos of how an individual can make the most of his/her smartphone along with its TV commercials.
They also regularly come up with videos pertaining to a particular hashtag which could later be trended on other social media websites. The #FOMOH, #PotentialOfUs and #TechKNOWledgy are prime examples of few campaigns that went viral on the internet.
Response Time Distribution on Facebook: Most queries are replied within 0-2 hrs
On Facebook, photos are most frequently shared followed by Videos and normal Status Updates
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Majority of the company’s buzz is generated by Twitter followed by Facebook and other mediums
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Customer Relationship: When it comes to CRM, Verizon social representatives leave no stones unturned on any of the platforms to answer the queries of the customers. One outstanding feature is that the customer representatives try to reply promptly to every query even if it is posted as a comment to one of the original post by the company, and that too within a couple of hours. Individual posting is allowed on Verizon wall but the data is hidden from its fans.
On Twitter, they have a few more accounts in addition to the parent account for different uses viz @VZWnews (269K followers) which provides latest news on products and perspectives, @VZWSupport (122K followers), which deals with customer complaints and @VZWDeals (645K followers) which gives details of offers and sales on Verizon phones, tablets and accessories. Thus, any complaint regarding the company’s offerings is addressed by @VZWSupport even if it is made to some other account.
The company recently organized a “#WhosGonnaWin” competition to get the most out of the buzz surrounding Super Bowl. Verizon began posting daily game-related questions to fans on Twitter using the hashtag #WhosGonnaWin. Every day, Verizon then scored each team from 0-100 based on the number of tweets from fans; the team closest to 100% of positive mentions that day lighted up the Empire State Building in their team colors between 6-7pm. The way it worked was each day until 6 p.m., the fans tweeted their answers with #whosgonnawin, Verizon tallied the votes then the winning team was
A sample from Facebook page where the conversation went till 43 comments to ensure customer satisfaction
Lighting up the Empire State Building!
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revealed on the iconic New York City building in a light show by Marc Brickman.
While LinkedIn is used by Verizon to give an insight of what happens at Verizon offices and stores worldwide along with posting job opportunities for suitors, on FourSquare it promises to offer lucrative deals to customers who check in upon their visits to the Verizon stores.
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Amongst the pioneers in US Telecom industry to adopt social media, US Cellular has grown from strength to strength to ensure that they stay away from any bad publicity on the net. The company aims at setting up social customer care and it was evident in the year 2012 when they got 29,000 service inquiries, a 205% increase from the figures in the year 2011. The company claims to have 11 associates working 7 days a week to provide best customer support.
Own Posts: 45
Fan Change: 2,299
Avg PTAT: 1,921
Interaction Rate: 0.03%
Response Rate: 93.6%
Total Interaction: 7,194
The company is quite active in terms of sharing content and tries to make the most of the buzz surrounding important events like Oscars, Earth Day etc. to generate leads for itself.
A couple of examples of sharing photos with status/external link
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In addition to that, it posts information regarding product launches, offers etc. As is evident from the pie chart, most of the content shared is in form of photos since they have the power to create a long lasting impression on the viewer. Despite all its readiness and willingness to share information on Facebook, the company has not utilized the timeline feature of Facebook Pages. On Twitter, the company has a couple of accounts for sharing content. While @USCellular (60.7K followers) informs the masses about various offers, product launches and general competitions, the @USCellularJobs (390 followers) posts tweets about the job openings in the company. On Google Plus, same content as on Facebook and Twitter is shared even though the follower count is pretty less. The YouTube playlist comprises of tutorial videos of various handset models along with general advertisement videos.
On Facebook, US Cellular mostly shares photos accompanied by a message or external link
On Facebook, 52% of customer posts are replied within the first couple of hours
Majority of the company’s buzz is generated by Twitter followed by Videos and other mediums
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Customer queries on either of the social platforms are dealt with seriously which is evident from the fact that 52% user posts on Facebook are replied within first couple of hours. The social media team also goes through comments on each and every post they make to look for any more queries that need to be addressed and do the needful. The company has also provided a “Ratings and Reviews” tab on its Facebook landing page that allows perspective customers to go through the reviews of a particular phone model. On Twitter, the company has a separate account @USCellularCares which deals with all customer queries and grievances. Any tweet of that nature addressed to any of the three accounts is replied back by @USCellularCares.
Tweets made by the @USCellularCares account are not visible on their account page but as we can see, the account is up and running, helping the company retain its customers
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The company recently held the #DigitADay campaign and awarded a Galaxy S5 to the first 25 respondents. The social media team also tried to benefit from the popularity of Oscars and posted a photo of them preparing for the big night. On the D-Day, US Cellular released a string of photos that gained popularity on the network.
US Cellular also organizes on-the-spot competitions on Instagram. In one such competition, followers were given a chance to win two pairs of tickets to the Oklahoma City Thunder game. A photo of one of company’s associates was posted with a certain background. All the followers had to do was identifying the location and reach out to the associate and say “Hello Better” to him. Clues for the competition were also posted on Twitter.
These Oscar specific photos generated a lot of conversation for the company
Organizing an on the spot competition on Instagram
The team at US Cellular posted a photo of themselves working hard to get the best publicity around Oscars
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The company is still however absent on Pinterest and FourSquare while it is fairly inactive on Google Plus. On other platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Vine, US Cellular engages with the customers by organizing contests and posting videos to get the best out of the mobile phone. The job openings in the company are posted on its LinkedIn group which has a considerable following.
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To begin with, the company has a well maintained discussion platform on its parent website where the users can post threads that are promptly replied by the executives.
Own Posts: 16
Fans Change: 33,290
Response Rate: 81.80%
Interaction Rate: 0.5529%
Avg PTAT: 44,963
Total Interaction: 57,521
Sprint regularly posts videos about product launches, TVCs and also their community leadership programs. They also post videos of apps and services they provide along with sharing what happens behind the scenes at the company’s offices to connect with the customers at a personal level.
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Sprint does not interact with its customers on YouTube. The company has three twitter handles, @sprint, @sprintcare and @sprintnews which cater to different purposes which is evident from their names. The @sprint account is synced with the Facebook page and posts exactly the same content. The company started off with quite active content sharing on Instagram but has become silent in the last months. Sprint also has a Pinterest account with few followers but the company is yet to post anything on this particular network. Vine, being a fun platform allows Sprint to share #PhoneTricks (like making an armband for your phone from an old sock etc.) to keep the customers engaged. However, the frequency of posting is very less. While LinkedIn is utilized to share a little bit of everything, from new product launches to offers to TVCs and lest we forget, job openings, FourSquare allows the company to provide information not only about the service centers in the vicinity but also of Sprint charging stations located nearby.
The best thing about their Facebook page is that they allow users to post and view queries on their wall. They also have a separate customer care tab which leads you to contact one of the company’s social care team members. There are various predefined topics which are frequently enquired and upon clicking one of them, you are redirected to the company’s website blog where you can find the most relevant thread for your query.
Much of data shared is either in form of link or photos
22% of user posts go without any response
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The company also has a separate twitter handle @sprintcare, which promptly replies to queries and grievances of the customers even if they are addressed to any other account of the company.
Sprint runs its own discussion forum on the official website where customers can post their queries. This service is quite popular!
Getting rave reviews!
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Community Engagement: Sprint Mobile has a team of Social Media Ninjas, comprising of Sprint employees, working to improve Sprint's reputation by acting as ambassadors, promoting products and services, and assisting customers through social media. The idea is to bring together like- minded employees who are passionate about the company, want to help customers and are active in social media. On these sites, Ninjas post content and interact with others who are asking questions or discussing Sprint products and services. LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and Digg are examples of some social media sites our Ninjas are active on. The program is open to all employees. To kick-start its family discount plan “Framily”, Sprint used social media to popularize a hypothetical family, “The Frobinsons”. All six members of the family are unique with different expectations from their service provider and have been well chalked out.
83% of the company’s buzz is generated by Twitter followed by Videos and other mediums
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Another one of the US Telecom giants, AT&T has come a long way in terms of its social media management strategy in the past few years. In an interview, the company’s Chief Information Officer accepted that social media has allowed them to identify the needs of current as well as potential customers and is helping the company build a strong relationship with them.
Own Posts: 12
Fans Change: 42,379
Response Rate: 64%
Interaction Rate: 0.1873%
Avg PTAT: 43,269
Total Interaction: 61,541
The company has joined hands with a group named WolfPack that comprises of its loyal supporters on the net and has identified them as the “influencers”. Like other service providers, AT&T also posts information on the digital media accompanied with an image which is believed to provide “a visual experience” to the viewer.
89% of content shared on Facebook is in the form of photos
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The company’s YouTube channel is a one-stop for viewing all the recent commercials and videos suggesting how AT&T can improve the daily lifestyle of an individual. In addition, the company has a campaign against Texting while Driving in which it comes up with pledges and Twitition against texting while driving. AT&T is also quite active on Instagram and Vine where it posts relevant content to engage its customers.
AT&T keeps on coming up with innovative ways to engage with its customers through various social media channels. It recently launched AT&T Alerts on FourSquare, a service aimed at helping shoppers aware of nearby deals via opt-in discounts delivered directly to their phones by SMS based on geo-location data. For this, the company has tied up with retailers like GAP, Staples, Duracell and Motorola etc.
In addition, AT&T also interacts on a regular basis with the developer community on its Facebook page AT&T Developer Program and its own platform developer.att.com.
36% of posts on Facebook are replied within first couple of hours
Majority of the company’s buzz is generated by Twitter followed by Videos and Facebook
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On the CRM front, the company claims to solve an average 21,000 issues each year. The @ATTCustomerCare twitter handle solves the complaints on Twitter however the replies it
sends out is not available on the account’s timeline unless you choose to display all tweets.
The company recently held a digital campaign #ItsOurBoston around the Boston marathon of which it is a proud sponsor. Fans nationally were encouraged to upload photos through the website, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ItsOurBoston to have their images weaved into the digital billboard. It also provided free Wi-fi at the venue on the day of the event by bringing a couple of Cell on Wheel (COWs) at the venue.
The Facebook page has a “Customer Care” tab upon clicking on which, you can select your handset and view the FAQs for that particular model
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The crowd-sourced digital billboard was a big hit on the internet
A post on Google Plus informing the presence of COW at the Boston Marathon Venue
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The German wireless network provider boasts of covering 96% of America
and the company has left no stones unturned to make it known on the
social media. A video on YouTube, asking Verizon to “fold up” its map has
garnered around 3million views. A few other ads have also garnered
views ranging from several hundred thousand to a few millions.
Own Posts: 23
Fans Change: 56,556
Response Rate: 95.80%
Avg PTAT: 54,866
T-Mobile is known to use the social media to aggressively market itself. The
company’s SVP of brand and advertising provides an insight into the
company’s digital strategy where he says:
“It’s a two-pronged approach. There’s the Facebook we use to buy and
amplify our message in a paid model. But it’s equally important to talk
about the 4.7 million fans that we cultivate and engage. It’s a really
important channel from that aspect, and it’s putting those two pieces
together where we reap far more benefits. If you first engage and create
a great social relationship, when you serve up things that are relevant,
[fans] actually help share them with their friends. That’s really how the two
“We’ve been engaging with people along the way and having these
great dialogues with fans, such that when we put specific offers out there,
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we are seeing a tremendous take all the way down to them taking the offer and converting over to T-Mobile.”
T-Mobile also has identified certain influencers (like DJ Prostyle, Becky G, Andrew McCutchen, Olivia Munn, Tony Hawk and Nick Cannon) to reinforce the promotion of new product launches.
80% of content shared on Facebook is in the form of photos
52% of posts on Facebook are replied within first couple of hours
Majority of the company’s buzz is generated by Twitter followed by Videos and Facebook
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Community Engagement and Customer Relationship:
The company has managed to get returns on its investment and when T-Mobile ran a Facebook offer for the iPhone 5, 214,000 claimed the opportunity and 9% converted. T- Mobile got 29% ROI from the offer.
On Twitter, they have two accounts, @TMobile and @TMobileHelp which serve different purposes. While @TMobile is used for customer engagement and promotional offers and product launches, @TMobileHelp serves the purpose of CRM. T-Mobile allows fans to post on its Facebook page but those posts are not visible to anyone.
The company created a little furor on the digital space when it tried to hijack customers of other service providers by responding to negative tweets addressed to those companies.
T-Mobile allows fans to post on its Facebook page but those posts are not visible to anyone.
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Found guilty of aggressively trying to poach customers of other companies
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