Telecom sector’s enthusiasm for social media marketing risks alienating subscribers, says new study

Susan Andre 2013

Telecom companies are the highest social media spenders but investment may be flawed as consumers find overt social media marketing a turn-off.

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.

  • The telecoms sector has the highest spend on social media marketing, amounting to a quarter of current and over a third of next year’s marketing budgets, according to a new international study
  • Telecoms companies run a risk of increased customer churn by being too aggressive with their social media marketing
  • Friends’ recommendations of companies and products are largely followed while unsolicited marketing is rated as the worst social media experience.

Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK, 15 January 2013 – 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.”

Further telecoms statistics

  • Social media budgets in telecoms will more than double from the 2011 average of 15%, to 36% in 2013.
  • Telecoms companies are the most advanced when it comes to internal resources for social media marketing, with 83% stating they have a dedicated social media team, more than the retail (58%) and FMCG (53%) sectors
  • The telecoms sector is the most confident of its ability to quantify the impact of social media initiatives. As many as 91% of telecoms marketers state that their campaigns are effective and 60% claim that they can establish a link between social media spend and profitability. Across the board, only two-thirds (66%) of marketers surveyed class campaigns as effective and one-third (33%) say they can demonstrate profitability
  • While the survey shows that consumers are not very receptive to social media marketing, telecoms marketers are also amongst the most positive (79%) when it comes to assessing consumer’s responsiveness to social media marketing, with only the FMGC sector more confident (89%)
  • Confirming the link between online engagement and converting new customers was highlighted as the biggest challenge by telecoms respondents (56%), with analysing the impact of campaigns on cross-selling and up-selling following at 37%.

To read the White Paper ‘Social media: contrasting the marketing and consumer perspectives’ –– download now

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For further information, please contact:
Richard Simpson or Deborah Reid, Six Degrees
richard.simpson@sixdegreespr.com / deborah.reid@sixdegreespr.com Tel: + 44 (0) 118 900 0860

About the study

In August and September 2012, Vanson Bourne conducted online interviews with 300 senior marketing decision-makers working in business-to-consumer organisations across five international markets (UK, France, Germany, Australia, USA) and seven economic sectors (Retail, Insurance, Retail Banking, Utilities, Telecoms, FMCG and the Public Sector).
The questionnaire focused on their use of social media as a marketing channel, including aspects such as marketing spend, channels used, social media tactics used, measurement and challenges associated with social media marketing.
At the same time, 3,000 adult consumers in the same regions, who use either use or have previously used social media, were interviewed online to explore corresponding areas of interest, such as which social media they are using, what they are using them for, along with their response to receiving marketing messages and providing personal information.

About Pitney Bowes Software

Pitney Bowes Software (PBS) was formerly Pitney Bowes Business Insight (PBBI).
Pitney Bowes Software provides multichannel solutions that optimise data to create relevant dialogue between organisations and their customers. These solutions enable lifetime customer relationships by integrating data management, location intelligence, sophisticated predictive analytics, rules-based decision making and cross-channel customer interaction management to increase the value of every customer communication while also delivering operational efficiencies.
Pitney Bowes Software is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI), a customer communications management technology leader. For more information, please visit www.pitneybowes.co.uk/software and www.pb.com/software.