Monetizing Social Networks and Data
By Jessica Zimet
One panel at Management World this week took a look at the opportunities for monetizing social networks …which quickly devolved into a discussion on data charges. Andrej Mekionis from EITC and Karl Whitelock from Stratecast discussed how social networks aren’t just online – that they are the people who you are connected with, and that operators already know this information – they know whom you call, whom you are friends with. And that you can use that information to determine who the thought leaders are in the community, based on calling patterns.
Whitelock mentioned that the fastest growing group of tablet technology are two year olds, and encouraged the audience to think about what these kids will be like as consumers in the coming years. He also polled the audience on their use of tablets – everyone’s using them, but very few will turn on 3G, preferring to stick to Wi-Fi. Even in telecom, as consumers we live in fear of bill shock. Yes, even the social-media panel the topic of data charges. Service providers still face the challenge of trying to educate and force the market away from all you can eat – Whitelock discussed with John Myers of Enterprise Management Associates how provider behavior incentivizes consumers to stay off their networks whenever possible.
Mekionis emphasized that if you can crack the puzzle of how to reach your audience on social networks, you can be in for great results – EITC achieved much higher pickup of services on the BBM community than its other channels once they got it right. But there were a few LOLs when he mentioned that they are afraid that posting to Facebook will ruin their targeted marketing efforts, or make it so easy for customers to top up on Facebook that they move to the competition, where it might be just as easy.
In contrast, Whitelock says that operators MUST start living the life of a retailer, launching new products and services quickly. That they must find a way to embrace social media, not run away from it. He suggested that the challenge around getting users to pay for data roaming is lack of information – that if consumers knew exactly what they were spending, they would be more willing to spend. (Which is very possible with today’s integration of policy and revenue management, real-time advice of charge, and better packages.) That consumers pay for roaming if there were a way to bring the rates down. That if you can put a package together that makes sense to the consumer, they will buy it. Customers like to know what they’re spending – this is where the mindset has got to be. He cited one operator, unnamed, who managed to reduce the volume of messages while increasing revenue, all by just approaching the customer differently. The bottom line, said Whitelock, is to come up with better packages, more personalization, and educate the customer.
Questions from the audience included whether operators are agile enough to respond to business and consumer needs, and why service isn’t more personalized – one person complained of being business travelers getting random SMS messages about youth-targeted concert tickets. Of course operators understand and are trying to solve these challenges. Agility is required not only from the business, but also from the backend, which is especially difficult for those managing a “spaghetti" of attachments to legacy systems. Business and IT must come together to determine what’s possible, what the goals are, and how they can best achieve it.
Jessica Zimet is head of social media marketing at Amdocs – this week she’s tweeting live at TM Forum Management World from @Amdocs (hashtag #MWD12 ) and blogging on the Amdocs blog network .
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