Mobile launches: a social snapshot


Last week, we published a snippet of our social media research in Marketing (you may have seen the resultant coverage in the Daily Mail, The Metro, CNET or ABC News, amongst others). It looked at the launches of four major mobile handsets over the last 12 months – the Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S4, Blackberry Z10 and the Nokia Lumia 920. We analysed the social media strategy for each launch, as well as consumer reaction to each on the day the handsets were revealed.

There was a huge variation between each launch, from the level of conversation generated, all the way through to the tactics each used on social media. Take the iPhone 5 for example, which on the face of it, was the perfect launch. It generated over 1.7m mentions on social media platforms, a number unmatched by any of its rivals.

Launch day conversation 

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However, Apple was not proactive enough pushing positive messages about the iPhone 5 and any innovation it offered, resulting in a low level of conversation around its features. It also received a high level of criticism – 20% of its launch conversation. Apple has established itself as being more innovative than its rivals and some fans felt that the iPhone 5 didn’t deliver on this reputation. And Apple did little to answer these questions.

In contrast to the iPhone 5, Samsung, Apple’s key rival, received only 140,000 mentions on social media on the launch day of the S4 – coming in 3rd place, after Blackberry Z10 generated 300,000 in 2nd and with the Nokia Lumia 920 picking up 45,000 in 4th. However, it’s not all bad news for Samsung – just 11% of its launch conversation was criticism of the brand; this was the lowest of all four launches and features such as its new eye tracking technology were successful in capturing the imagination of social media users.

Launch day conversation topics

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In terms of social media tactics, they were used with varying degrees success. Take hashtags – Nokia’s effort #switchtolumia offering a clear call to action generated 4.4k mentions, second only to #lumia920. Both these hashtags had a higher volume of use than the z10 (2.4k mentions), despite having a fraction of the Blackberry’s overall conversation volumes.

Blackberry subsumed the Z10 under Blackberry 10, its new operating system. Blackberry’s Twitter account drove the #blackberry10 hashtag, but rarely used the #Z10 option. As a result Blackberry was the only launch not to have the handset name as a popular hashtag, with #blackberry10 followed by #bb10 and #blackberry dominating, and with key influencers Piers Morgan and its own ‘creative director’ Alicia Keys choosing to use #blackberry10 to highlight the model.

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Ultimately this emphasis led Blackberry 10 to feature in over 70%  of the conversation on the launch day, compared to just 21% for the Z10. This created confusion, with some analysts even pinning an awareness problem for the Z10 as a reason for disappointing pre-order volumes in the US. When using social media, clarity and consistency is key to keeping your audience engaged.

Samsung used social to invite its fans to be part of its launch. In the build up to its launch event, Samsung gave sneak previews, teaser content and encouraged fans to ‘come and meet the next Galaxy’ and ‘mark your calendars’, in numerous countdown style posts in build up to the event.

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This represents a very small part of our overall research but it still illustrates an interesting picture. What have we learnt from these four very different launches? Well for starters, nobody is perfect. Apple’s iPhones are still the conversational benchmark for all competitors to aspire towards, but its lack of proactivity and staid marketing tactics leave the social space open for other brands to take advantage. For now, each brand will have a very specific set of challenges to address when they launch their next handset and should be making preparations now.