Telecoms sector risks alienating subscribers

Well-intentioned marketers in the telecoms sector are at risk of inadvertently boosting subscriber churn as a result of irritating online behaviour. This is the key finding of new global research into the effectiveness of social media marketing commissioned by Pitney Bowes Software, a global leader in customer data, analytics, communication software and services.

The independent study, conducted by Vanson Bourne, compares social media marketing trends among marketing directors with consumer attitudes to social media marketing across Australia, France, Germany, the UK and the USA, covering seven business sectors.

The survey reveals that eight in ten marketing directors (81%) in telecommunications are placing a greater emphasis on social media now than ever before, the highest percentage by far in any of the sectors surveyed. 39% of telecoms marketers went as far as stating that social media marketing would become the cornerstone of all their marketing over the next 12 months, more than twice as many as the average (17%).

Not surprisingly, telecoms is also the highest spender on social media marketing, with budgets set to rise from 24% of marketing spend this year to a projected 36% in 2013.

However, marketers’ enthusiasm for using social media is not matched by consumers’ views of social media marketing. Only a quarter use social media to follow and keep up-to-date with certain companies or brands (26%), while most are predominantly on social media to keep in touch with friends and family (78%).

In this context, ‘followed’ brands fare relatively well. Nearly half of social media users (48%) are positive towards receiving their marketing messages. The reverse is true of communications from companies people don’t follow, which 40% say they would be annoyed to receive. What is more, consumers rate unsolicited marketing (‘spam’) and pop-up advertisements as their worst experiences of social media marketing.

Perhaps most worryingly, 65% of consumers surveyed say that they would stop using a brand that upset or irritated them as a result of their social media behaviour.

In contrast, recommendations from online friends hold more sway: 68% said that they investigated these or even made a purchase (15%).

Companies out of touch

When it comes to interacting with brands, the research shows consumers are most interested in discount or money-saving vouchers, new products and services, and upcoming sales and events. Yet these are bottom of the list for marketers, mentioned by fewer than one in ten of those surveyed. Instead, marketing decision-makers highly rate the effectiveness of newsletters, information about the organisation’s social responsibility and customer satisfaction surveys, all of which were least interesting to consumers.

Identifying which social media channels to invest in was a challenge for all marketers surveyed. While they were aligned with consumers in their emphasis on Facebook as the most popular and trusted social media site, they disagreed about the importance of other social media outlets. Beyond Facebook, marketers devote most of their remaining spend on Twitter (57%) and Google+ (51%). By contrast, consumers prefer YouTube – rated only fifth by marketers – over Twitter and Google+.
“Telecoms has come a long way in terms of developing more customer centricity, and the sector’s enthusiasm for social media is a clear reflection of this,” says Kieran Kilmartin, Marketing Director, EMEA, Pitney Bowes Software. “However, with all the resources being put into this channel, telecom marketers should be aware that they risk inadvertently turning their highly sought after ‘net promoters’ into ‘brand blockers’ who will vote with their feet.”

“Marketers need to appreciate that traditional ‘broadcast’ style marketing approaches and tactics do not work in social media. They need to effectively analyse customer data in order to segment the customer base and create personalised and timely messaging.”

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