The Telecom Industry – Impact of Social Networking
There’s an entire generation paying tribute to social networking as a substitute to services offered by traditional Telco’s. Of course this means the business of telecom providers has changed and must evolve to remain relevant today, afloat tomorrow and alive in the coming years.
For this very reason I was inspired to write “The Telco Industry – Challenges and Solutions”, which described among other things, the changing communication landscape, key communication trends and the importance of CTO’s to embracing social networking in order to enhance and protect their place in the Telecom Industry.
After an overwhelming positive response coupled with questions about additional matters not covered, I am writing this follow up to address those queries. Before I begin I would like to point out to the readers that I am answering the most repeated questions and can not (b/c of work and time constraints) answer all the questions, at least not here – in other words, check your inbox!
Q. What is your understanding about the psychographics and behaviouristic patterns of the new end user?
My observation is that the new generation grows up in a world that is highly connected and uses this new tech as part of daily routine. While baby boomers would adapt to them during maturity stages, your prime young market has not only tested the new service but also mastered it.
They are so attached to it that the privacy concerns that you and I have, do not apply for them and likely never will. Private data is shared and displayed as part of casual routine, which to me is a cause for concern, but even here I see an opportunity for Telco’s to partner with social networking sites to create systems that protect clients and serve them in the best possible (intended) manner; lest we forget that Telenor ad with the boy stalking the girl.
What we need to address here is that this generation is more ‘me’ oriented and interested in products and services that work for them better than it does for others. Bearing this in mind, we also know that this life pattern will vary the when and how element of the services use. The need to stay connected and share points of very and any issue, keeps this generation connected in a group so that sense of belonging is never far away and is easily achieved.
Q. What is the overall effect of the new end user on communication patterns?
Glance at the desktop of your average tech savvy user today and notice the 5+ chat windows, coupled with facebook pops and Skype rings. This exists because the sense of belonging to a group predominate all impulses in the next generation. The in ‘scene’ is to have many-to-many conversations all at once at one time.
This is nothing new; we’ve already seen this happening with news media. In the beginning, we had what is called static media – newspapers published to inform and educate about yesterdays event and maybe tomorrow’s float/parade. (I hear Karachi was a happening place to be in the 70’s).
Then radio came along and you knew at least a few hours ahead which bridge to take to avoid the traffic jam on the regular route. TV came along to inform ‘as the news unfolded’ and entertain (Fox News and her brown sister GEO only do the latter).
And finally we had the internet, which was all about the now and interactive media. The trend is about being excited – all the time – the end user is so used to constant interaction, that it’s become far too much of a sacrifice to go back to a life without on the go knowledge of what’s happening. The power to know before you know; which is why this whole shift in communication patterns is occurring.
The entire new tech is now a necessity and has been ingrained into the communication infrastructure. The way forward is to innovate on pre-existing models – which is exactly what social media is.
The mature world lives on broadband and our everyday tech of today – laptops, Blackberry’s and cell phones – is assisted by it to keep users connected.
The driver to this shift in communication patterns, one that I feel had the greatest role in empowering users and thus encouraging to stay on board is the software of communication tools like Blog Culture, Wiki’s and Forums. Recently twitters users expressed joy when the company introduced integrated social media on its page allowing tweeters to connect with Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn among others without leaving the main page. This vast collaboration is necessary today to avoid the need to outsource tomorrow or worse, merge with the competition (that followed user patterns) to avoid market death.
By linking everything under one network, a company can create the group culture earlier discussed and gives it meaning to its loyalists internal and external.
Q. What does your research suggest about the best business model out there and its ability to retain value proposition in this time?
To answer this particular question, I went back and read the best chapter from “Blue Ocean Strategy”, to really formulate and communicate my initial thoughts towards the query.
As mentioned in the book, to succeed in new markets, one specific business model does not equate positive immediate or eventual results. As much as this is the case for most traditional Telco’s it is no longer the case for the one’s they will have to become; because as I mentioned earlier that the customer demand is unpredictable and variance from past service quality is quick to agitate these spoiled brats – you don’t want them tweeting about you in a bad light! (They’re black belts in exaggeration).
So I guess the answer to that question is that there are a number of models that could work, and they will vary with internal strengths/weaknesses as well as externalities as is always the case. But the one point I have to mention now is just this – social media is still new. We in Pakistan can in fact leverage this point with the providers to gain the best possible service margin in our favour. It is imperative to get this collaboration early and exclusively to avoid backlashes in the future.
But there is a way, one that is common to maintain or enhance value proposition; partnering with horizontal and vertical integration is (as far as I’m concerned) the best way to attain value innovation with this new tech.
One way to do that is to simply focus on being the retailer; another approach could be to provide the infrastructure exclusively to past competitors. This will be the challenge to the Telco looking to evolve by picking one aspect of the value chain and contributing towards it. By wanting be a retailer and infrastructure provider, the Telco will not succeed in the latter as competitors would consider their stance biased against them. I don’t think this point needs further explanation.
Q. Out of all the points mentioned, what will be key to success in the future?
The underlying message of the question answered above is based on an idea utilized by most management consultants to keep their clients afloat in times of crisis.
Collaboration is what makes social networking what it is today, it is the prime pull bringing in more and more users by the day. The connected patient is now well informed about his or her varying options for a procedure or treatment thanks to collaboration. We now know the varying estimates of car prices in our areas before meeting dealers at showroom and blowing their minds with our insights. We now frighten vendors by sharing our bad experiences with friends who go prepared to them and ask difficult after sales questions before making a purchase.
This is what collaboration is all about; informed and planned collaboration is essential to the success of all individuals and companies with a common goal. The consumer space has proven this works, now is the time for the enterprises to take a leap of faith.
As I pointed out before, companies can save a fortune by maximizing usage of social media to host conferences and negotiations without leaving their offices; the naturalist upside of this is going green!
Information across the supply chain can be shared easily, avoiding discrepancies as witnessed by Chinese toy manufacturers and Tylenol in the past, making it easy to track the point of failure and either remove or improve it. This was used by PEPSI in Pakistan when Sukkur Beverages lost its license after repeated complaints regarding their output. So you ca either wait like the Pakistan Cricket Team till the media controls the story or control and fix the situation before it gets out of hand. Your choices – lose brand equity and customer trust
or maintain it.
I see social media as a great starting point towards service improvement and cost reduction – Telco’s should start providing their enterprises with cost controlled mechanisms and unified communications.
To conclude, I’d say that social networking needs to be embraced fast, even in Pakistan. I understand that less than 2 million people in the country are recognized as unique users, but the fact of the matter is that we as a nation and people can not get ahead without embracing the future, which this clearly is.
Google has video and audio calls now, but how many people use it and save a fortune in communication?
The answer is ‘hardly in Pakistan’, but just about everyone the world over does on the non commercial side while businesses utilize many-to-many variants such as Skype and CISCO.
We can use these new technologies to host meetings with global leaders and business partners instead of flying half way across the world to meet them. If we embrace them, then perhaps so will our leaders. And no triple alphabet political party leaders can continue using their private jets to keep meetings. All this is now possible in the comfort of your home.
In Pakistan alone, UPL introduced a work from home option, in light of terrorist attacks or regional unrest, their employees can stay connected and efficient what ever the externalities may be. We sure can’t control the environment, but we can better ourselves.
Managing Director of Sociality360, Program Director of the Fat Torching Plan™ at BodyBeat Recreational Centre and believer in summoning eagles as a mode of transport to destroy rings instead of walking across provinces. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/babarkj Twitter: @babarkj LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/babarjaved Email: email@example.com