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Social Media’s Challenges and Telcos’ Opportunities

March 8, 2022 - Frank Healy

Social media’s continued challenges coincide with opportunities for Telcos including VR and AR

In the run-up to its peak retail season at the end of 2021, UK-based cosmetics retailer Lush announced that it would withdraw from social media to better protect its consumers. It seemed like odd timing from a brand with a youthful image and target market. It was especially strange during a pandemic while some other firms had become totally reliant on social media. Lush deactivated its Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok accounts on Black Friday amid concerns for the mental health of its customers and impacts from social media. It expected a blow to sales of around GBP10m. Other large brands have started to express and, sometimes, act upon similar concerns. Regulators are certainly watching closely.

Trust, as the saying goes, is hard-won but easily lost. But if it’s being easily lost by social media right now, relatively good levels of trust never really went away for many telcos. It was just never fully leveraged and other factors such as their struggles with digital engagement seemed to overshadow. Back in 2018 (ahead of 5G and not exactly a high point for many service providers) we were able to show just how and why service providers had the edge in terms of trust of end-users. At the time it was mainly due to data and privacy concerns. Now, concerns have shifted to social media addiction, its impacts especially on millennial and Gen Z mental health and susceptibility of users of all ages to “fake news” and fraud. 

The cravings for quality news, information and entertainment continue of course. Excitement around augmented reality (AR) has continued to gather pace. According to eMarketer, over 80 million US consumers are already using AR per month for a range of activities from gaming to immersive shopping. Disney is committed to its use as an addon and showcase for its fairgrounds. It is a vast opportunity for partnership. 

For telcos who never really owned social media channels this means there is an emergent opportunity to participate in a more acceptable, considerate, and richer service portfolio than many social media brands will manage. Expect to see services like Verizon’s BlueJeans take hold, not just as a direct-to-consumer brand but as a platform by which other VR and AR specialists with vertical focus can be “powered by”. AR uptake is still likely to be driven significantly by the excitement and hype around the “metaverse” generated by the early social media powerhouses such as Facebook. Many users are however now focused on the quality of time spent online rather than the amount of time online. 

Service providers can fill the increased void of trust and participate in richer services such as those enabled by AR and VR, aided by trusted partners such as Disney. It will require lateral thinking for some providers. For many, it will require the ability to see their 5G investments as platforms for partnership with other responsible enterprises and entertainment brands. This is much easier than it used to be. Trust remains high on the agenda in 2022. As geopolitical events of recent days have shown the role of telcos is perhaps more important than ever in this regard.

 

For more on how service providers can expose their 5G networks for better partnership see details of the Amdocs Network Exposure Function (NEF).

 

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