Airtel commenced operations in Sri Lanka in January 2009 among much media hype and great public expectations. By July 2009 they had crossed the one million customer mark, an impressive feat for just 6 months since commencing business locally. One year later they began their foray into social media by way of a Facebook fan page. Now with over two years of experience under their belts let’s look at the social media presence of Bharti Airtel Sri Lanka see what lessons can be learned from them and where they have room to improve.
The Airtel Facebook Page
In the first two months of establishing a Facebook presence Airtel did not post much content but since then they have begun posting on a regular basis (almost daily for some weeks). The content was quite engaging with many pictures and videos being uploaded. Also frequent competitions were held with giveaway’s to build up their fan base and encourage new fans to engage with them. Now however, Airtel seems to have lost that initial momentum. Only one competition was held since May 2012, and that is the Nokia 808 pure view competition.
This could be one of the reasons for Airtel having a relatively low fan base on Facebook (87,000 compared to Dialog with 270,00 and Mobitel with 435,000). Much consideration needs to be given towards building up their fan base if they are to remain competitive via social media.
Further it can be seen that although they do respond to comments and queries from time to time they do not attempt to remove negative comments and criticisms from their page. This is somewhat alarming and makes one wonder how regularly they monitor the activity taking place or if they simply auto post content online.
This oversight too could be a contributing factor to the low number of fans and could possibly have caused existing fans to unlike the page. The lack of customer service on social media channels seems to be an emerging trend as other telecommunication service providers too have fallen into the same state of complacency not realizing that in the long run this could have adverse effects on their brand identity.
On a more positive note it can be seen that Airtel is quite active in showcasing their CSR activities and sponsorships by uploading albums of photographs on the page, and these have been generating some likes and shares.
Airtel on Twitter
4,073 is certainly not an impressive number of followers on Twitter compared to its Facebook fan base. One of the reasons for this could be due to them publishing the same content that they upload to Facebook on Twitter. Airtel needs to engage more with their followers on Twitter, and try to include some corporate communication in to their Tweets. However they do deserve some praise for interacting with a few followers.
The YouTube Channel
On the Airtel YouTube channel they have a humble 94 subscribers. The majority of the content here is television commercials that have been uploaded. Most of the videos have received no comments or likes and therefore the rationale for simply uploading commercials is questionable.
A better use of this social media channel would be for screening and testing television commercials among the subscribers before launching them. This would have a twofold benefit of providing Airtel with feedback on the likelihood of which adverts will be liked and have a positive impact for their marketing efforts and at the same time it will create interest among the online community to subscribe to the YouTube channel in order to be able to participate in this.
The Airtel website quite comprehensively covers its products and services. It also provides links to all its social media channels and this is commendable. Corporate communications are also highlighted in a dedicated page on the website which includes press releases as well. On the whole it appears that Airtel is not a serious threat to its competitors on the social media front and they seem quite comfortable to be followers of the market leaders rather than trying to compete head on with them.