Social Media Strategy Review – The Telecom Industry

Rakesh Kumar
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Social Media Strategy Review – The Telecom Industry

The Indian telecom sector was one of the first ones to adopt social media in its business operations. For this reason, you will find that almost all major players have a well established social media presence.

They have realized how social media can amplify the consumer voice and how important it is for them to listen and pay heed to them.

But I am seeing that most of the telecom brands are using social media primarily as a customer service channel. Also, telcos like Airtel and Vodafone have several other Facebook pages (Airtel Cricket, Vodafone Zoozoos etc) which they are using for their branding and community building purposes.

However, since not all brands have created community pages and those that have dominate engagement and growth, we will take a look at them separately and go through their parent profiles in this review.

The research was conducted for the 30-day period between 21st April to 20th May and the following were the brands that we selected:

  1. Airtel
  2. Vodafone
  3. Tata Docomo
  4. Idea Cellular
  5. BSNL Mobile
  6. Aircel
  7. Loop Mobile
  8. Reliance Mobile
  9. Uninor
  10. MTS India

The above brands have been chosen based on a mix of several factors, such as: community size, activity level on social media, prominence amongst the consumer base, media mentions etc.

Community Building

You would be living under a rock if you were not aware that Tata Docomo has the largest community on Facebook for an Indian brand. With more 13 million 'likes', it is almost three times ahead of its nearest competitor Idea Cellular, which has close to 4.5 million people in its community.

Unmetric -Indian Telecom Industry increase in Facebook Fans Comparison Source: Unmetric - Social Media Analytics Tool

Following them are Aircel (4.1m), Airtel (2.3m), Reliance (1.2m) etc.

Interestingly, if you look at the actual subscriber stats, Airtel and Vodafone are the biggest players in the mobile industry but they don't have as many Facebook fans as their competitors.

Amongst these telcos, the fastest to grow is Loop Mobile and is one of the smallest as well. It went on to add 116k people in the last 30 days, displaying a growth of 78%! Guess the brand has started to realize the importance of social media and is pulling out all stops to expand itself? How have they attracted so many users? Without inside info it’s difficult to tell but a sustained strategic advertising campaign on Facebook could explain the sudden increase in fans. On Twitter, Tata Docomo again holds reign with 68k followers. However, unlike Facebook, Vodafone and Airtel have a following better than the rest. They boast of 64k and 32k followers respectively.

Unmetric - Indian Telecom Industry Twitter Comparison Followers Source: Unmetric - Social Media Analytics Tool

Reliance Mobile (16k) and Aircel (19k) are the fastest growing telcos on Twitter as they have gained 78% and 50% of their followers in the last 30 days we looked at. The poorest performers on Twitter are Loop Mobile, BSNL, Uninor and MTS India. But any social media marketer worth his salt will tell you how important Twitter is for a telecom brand. Twitter is like the venting channel where people crib about bad service and more often than not in India, it is a telco at the receiving end!

So if you don't have a good enough presence over there, you are doing yourself a great disservice.

As far as YouTube is concerned, only the big players are getting the most views. The smaller players like Loop and Uninor are failing terribly at building a good YouTube subscriber base.

Content Strategy

Going through the content strategy of these telcos on Facebook, they all are pretty bullish with self-promotional updates. In such a cut throat industry where margins are measured in paisas, it is natural for telecom companies to have lots and lots of offers which are generously marketed on their Facebook pages.

Tata Docomo does publish a good number of random interesting tidbits (primarily celebrity focussed) on its page though, and they manage to get good traction. Aircel, on the other hand is leveraging the IPL fever and has Chennai Super Kings forming the bulk of its content.

On Twitter, all of them are focussed on addressing the customer queries. Which is quite natural considering the vocal nature of Twitter. That said, it doesn't mean that they don't do anything else. They do push out the self-promotional messages and organize contests quite regularly.

For example, Vodafone is holding an Ask Ravi Shastri for its Twitter community where they can engage in a Q&A activity with the cricket commentator.

On YouTube, all the content from all the brands is driven by TVCs and there is nothing new or unique to be observed. Only Idea seems to be doing something different by having short films and other web-only content. These videos have received decent views but I see they are not being optimized well. They could do with some decent description and title for better SEO.

Community Engagement

In my observation, self-promotional updates received the lowest engagement from the community. While updates about celebs and brand ambassadors or even random funny updates received a good number of traction.

Unmetric - Indian Telecom Industry Facebook Engagement Comparison Source: Unmetric - Social Media Analytics Tool

As expected, Tata Docomo has the maximum engagement in terms of Likes, Comments and Shares for its updates, but that is natural considering how big its community is. From this data, what surprised me was that Aircel managed to get almost the same traction with a community third the size of Docomo's – given their content strategy, it appears India’s obsession with cricket will never wane.

Maybe Aircel is promoting the updates to increase the reach of its IPL-centric updates. I am assuming this because all the updates about Chennai Super Kings is getting phenomenal reception.

Well, if you look at the graph and think why no other brands have any engagement, then you will be mistaken. They do have some engagement but since the graph is relative in nature, the data for Docomo has dwarfed everyone. Except BSNL Mobile, which is seeing no engagement at all.

It's Facebook page is almost dead, which a cynic might add much like it’s network.

Customer Service

It is nice to see brands with Facebook pages open for posts from others. Not many do, especially when you're in the service industry, like we saw with the BFSI report. On Facebook, I have noticed Airtel being super quick with responses and so is Reliance and Tata Docomo.

But for some weird reason, I failed to see fan posts on the wall of Idea and Vodafone even though both of them allow it – perhaps they are somehow hiding the fan posts?

On Twitter, Airtel and Vodafone are the most active ones interacting with people. Earlier in this article, I had discussed how Airtel and Vodafone are the biggest players in the field but don't have a community as big as Tata Docomo. You can see the difference shining through this graph.

Unmetric - Indian Telecom Industry Twitter Comparison Frequency Source: Unmetric - Social Media Analytics Tool

You can see how many queries Airtel and Vodafone handled and compare that with the ones handled by Tata Docomo. The difference is huge!

Almost all the interaction on Twitter is pertaining to customer service, where a huge majority of the replies are looking to take the discussion to a different platform, like Email, DM or Phone. Telcos prefer to solve the problem privately.

Unmetric - Indian Telecom Industry Twitter Comparison Replies Source: Unmetric - Social Media Analytics Tool

But you have to look at the response time stats to see how effective their customer service channel is. As you can see in the chart below, Airtel and Vodafone again trump everyone else here by a long shot. While Vodafone takes a little over 13 hours, Airtel responds within 30 minutes!

Unmetric - Indian Telecom Industry Twitter Comparison Average Response Time Source: Unmetric - Social Media Analytics Tool

Responding quickly is one thing, but I have seen people often complain about the 'bot-like' nature of @airtel_presence, let’s not forget that a reply isn't necessarily a resolution.

It is disappointing to see Tata Docomo faring below average here. Having the biggest community amounts to nothing if you are not good at servicing your customers.

However, the biggest culprit here are BSNL Mobile and Loop. Both are scraping the bottom of the barrel here with not a single reply to customers. They just don't like being on Twitter or have the budget and strategy to make it work, I guess.


On Twitter, sentiment is evaluated by the replies of brands to the tweets. MTS India seems to be responding to a lot of positive tweets as almost 80% of its replies are to positive tweets.

Unmetric - Indian Telecom Industry Twitter Comparison Sentiment Source: Unmetric - Social Media Analytics Tool

While Uninor, Aircel and Airtel are the top 3 brands facing negative reaction from Twitter. Uninor faces the worst here as 40% of the tweets it replies to are negative in nature.

The scenario on Facebook is completely different however. Evaluating the sentiment of fan posts, it has come to the fore that Airtel and Vodafone face a barrage of abuse and upset customers from its community, almost 30% of posts are classed as negative.

Unmetric - Indian Telecom Industry - Facebook Sentiment Comparison Source: Unmetric - Social Media Analytics Tool

There is very little positivity on both Facebook and Twitter for telcos, which some would say is pretty understandable for the service sector, although few would say that it’s acceptable. People don't often mention brands when they are very ecstatic but are quick to voice their displeasure at the slightest bit of annoyance.


Overall, I am satisfied the way Telecom brands are using social media. I would want them to be more active on YouTube and create content that is more valuable than self-promotional.

I also hope the rest of players learn from Airtel and Vodafone a thing or two about online customer service.

Vodafone Airtel Tata Docomo IDEA Cellular Aircel Reliance Mobile BSNL Mobile Loop Mobile MTS India Network Providers Telelcom Industry Uninor