Operators find new way to communicate with clients

Telecoms operators are beginning to get their message out to their customers, even if it is at 140 characters a time.

Telecoms operators are beginning to get their message out to their customers, even if it is at 140 characters a time. Local users "tweeting" their frustration and questions for their mobile or internet service are finally getting answers from Etisalat and du representatives on the microblogging platform Twitter. Etisalat, the UAE's largest telecoms operator, formally launched its official Twitter profile - @EtisalatUAE - on April 7, and has 508 users following its tweets. It registered the account on January 20.

"By having a presence on Twitter we will have another voice to reach our customers," said Khalifa al Shamsi, the senior vice president of consumer marketing for Etisalat, adding that a team of about 12 people manages the account. "The whole strategy is to provide a way to provide responses to people wherever they are. We're taking it day by day but we're seeing a lot of changes and growth since we started the service."

There are about 15,000 active Twitter accounts in the UAE, representing about 40 per cent of the entire user base in the Middle East. A year ago there were only 3,000 users in the country. The second-largest telecoms operator in the UAE, du, has 1,225 followers since officially launching its Twitter account, @dutweets, in January. Since then, many users have complimented the operator on its Twitter profile for its prompt replies and daily links to news in the technology sector.

"Twitter is an important and fast-growing social media platform which enables us to connect with people in a very personal, open and frank way," said Hala Badri, the executive vice president of brand and communications for du. Carrington Malin, the managing director of Spot On Public Relations, said there was still plenty of room for telecoms operators to find their way around Twitter but the strategy could pay off.

"I feel a lot of people will know the brand better if they communicate with them on Twitter," Mr Malin said. "Everybody on Twitter typically uses it in the daytime when they're working. If they're happy with the telecoms service, they could tell their whole company. It becomes worth a lot more than purely the number of users following it online." Other businesses in the UAE, including RAKBank (@RAKBANKlive) and the InterContinental Hotel (@InterConDFC), have also adopted a local a Twitter strategy.