Power is shifting, as social media and mobile communication merge.
Web 2.0 and its impact on telecommunication was the most discussed topic at this year’s Berlin Telco Summit. Social media has become a massive movement and are fundamentally changing the way people communicate with one another. This development, naturally, has an impact on the telecommunication industry. Understanding Web 2.0 and learning how to connect with people in meaningful ways will be the major challenges for telecommunication brands for years to come.
The participants of this year’s summit – 17 brand and communication strategists from 11 countries – identified three major trends, all of which are indicating a shift of power and values on various levels:
Telecommunication, and nowadays also social media, are important agents for social and economic change. They accelerate the empowerment of disadvantaged people, relieve the impact of social change, level social inequalities and provide a platform for all kinds of political activism, encouraging people worldwide to actively participate in politics and nation building and giving people in non-democratic countries a chance to voice their opinion and join forces. Telecommunication and social media will become even more powerful – especially in emerging markets – as they are merging. Brands like Nokia have understood the power of this change, and are very successful in developing devices and services targeted at emerging markets. In rapidly “connecting” countries like India, which is adding 10 million new mobile phone connections each month, the consequences of this change is impressive. Mobile telecommunication is leap-frogging the underprivileged parts of the population into a brighter future, and is even helping to uncaste the society.
Many telecommunication providers are not very much liked – due to big egos. Many telecommunication companies, some of them with amazingly big egos – especially former monopolists, struggle to find their role in today’s competitive commodity market – as providers, enablers and innovators. As a result they are falling behind other, more innovative players (hardware manufacturers, software developers etc.), who are increasingly invading their territory by offering innovative solutions, applications and services. An example for this is Layar, the world’s first augmented reality browser, which was developed by Dutch software developers sprxmobile, and Apple, who is redefining the traditional business model of mobile telecommunication.
Little understanding and literacy of Web 2.0: Understanding the rules of Web 2.0, and playing an active part in it, proves to be a huge challenge for companies from all types of industries, not only those rooted in telecommunication. While being powerful and present in the real world, they are comparatively weak in the social web – despite their expertise in helping people connect. People talk to other people using social media, thus brands need to find their very specific role in this – without intruding peoples’ private conversations.
These trends result in two major challenges for the telecommunication industry:
Telecommunication companies should consider and understand their role as experts in life improvement, helpers and enablers: Making an effort to understand people – their motives, worries, desires and hopes – as well as to understand the culture with regard to communication, Telco brands will acquire valuable knowledge and insights to develop processes, technologies, products and services that help people in times of crisis and in their everyday life. This may also will also help to build relationships of trust and maybe even love.
Let actions speak. Many Telco brands have made a huge effort to build their brands. However, this effort should be at least met, if not exceeded, by attractive products and services. Such as innovative tariffs, service in