In a world where "find me on LinkedIn" or "follow me on Twitter" has become as common as "nice to meet you," it's undeniable that social networking is redefining human interaction.
Whether that's a good thing, both personally and professionally, is less clear. But it's one of the reasons we've conducted our second annual social media survey. This year, we surveyed 910 telecom professionals, including 234 service providers, to see how their social networking habits are evolving. (See Light Reading's 2011 Social Networking Survey.)
By and large, the mood was one of "wary acceptance" toward social networking. Case in point:
- Twenty percent of respondents said Facebook was their least favorite network, yet nearly three-fourths use it on a weekly basis or more.
- Sixty-three percent say they use social networks get information, expert opinion or data related to a business issue, but 43 percent said information on social networks is not accurate.
- Just under half would not pay for any social networks. The rest found enough value in at least one to cough up if the free version went away.
The past year has seen a number of social networks like location app Gowalla exit the scene and a number of new players like Google Plus and Pinterest emerge in a big way. At the same time, bigwigs LinkedIn Corp., Facebook and Twitter Inc. have expanded their feature sets, built up their mobile presence and continued to capture the most attention amongst telecom professionals.
There's certainly been a lot of change, but our survey respondents have, for the most part, continued following the usage trends we observed in 2011 -- with a few notable exceptions.
Why should service providers care?
This survey isn't necessarily unique to telecom -- although social media is made possible by this industry -- but service providers need to be aware of what people in their industry are doing on social networks. At a minimum, it's a major way consumer-facing brands like the wireless operators do customer service. But, Jessica Zimet, Amdocs Ltd.'s social media manager, says that the vendor, as well as some of its service provider customers, is doing much more with social media, including integrating it with their customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
"I think [service providers] are very focused social because they have to be," Zimet says. "Social media brought these customers back their voice. And, social CRM is really important for them."
Amdocs, for one, uses social media to reach trade media and potential customers, disseminate messages to large groups of users, facilitate discussions, encourage employees within the company to become brand ambassadors, promote events and to add an extra layer to marketing campaigns.
On the following pages, the survey responses paint a picture of how other telecom professionals of all ages, job functions and geographies use different networks, how they feel about them and how they're changing their professional and personal lives.
Here's a hyperlinked content list:
â€” Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile