Telstra allows pre-paid customers to top up on Facebook, but social media expert warns SMEs should think twice

Telstra has made another push forward with its social media strategy, allowing users to now update their prepaid mobiles using a Facebook application – but experts warn other businesses that want to do the same should think carefully before they try.

The move comes as Facebook has just launched its own app centre, allowing businesses a space to show off their software and actually charge users for programs. But SR7 co-founder James Griffin says anyone adopting a transactions-based app needs to think extremely carefully about the ramifications.

Telstra said this morning it had launched a new app through Facebook to help its three million pre-paid customers top-up their handsets through the social network.

The company’s executive director of mobile, Warwick Bray, said pre-paid customers spend a lot of time on Facebook, so the app will help them top-up while they’re using the site.

“My Telstra Pre-Paid Facebook app…lets customers track their mobile balance, recharge their service and view usage history from one of the most popular places on the web,” he said, adding there’s also a feature for users to ask their friends to top-up their own accounts for them.

Gerd Schenkel, Telstra executive director of digital, added the app allows the company to “build out the online sales and service experience”.

The growth in the company’s social media strategy comes just weeks after chief executive David Thodey revealed the company has more than 70 staff on its social media team.

The move fits in well with Facebook’s own app strategy, which has seen more companies – including more media publications – integrate their services with the users’ news feeds to help market through word-of-mouth. The Telstra app fits into that strategy of allowing users to conduct their personal lives on the site.

Griffin says while more businesses are set to try this transaction-based app strategy, including more SMEs, he warns there are several hurdles to jump before a business should even think about conducting such a launch.

“From a business point of view, I think they really have to ensure they have all the processes and checks and balances in place before they go and start engaging in social business.”

“In many instances, you’ll get a great benefit, but the hope is that you’ll get far more people than you would on traditional advertising and get swamped with people using your product. You need to protect yourself by making sure you have the resources to handle that.”

Griffin says when a business launches a Facebook-style transaction scheme, they need to treat it the same as any other channel, including an online store – and have all the necessary legal and technical backing.

“If they have an app that launches and they don’t know how to follow up queries, that’s a critical point.”

“Also, you can be sure not everyone is going to have a positive interaction with your services; that’s just business. Businesses need to be able to address concerns on the Facebook platform, and realise when they should be escalated or addressed privately.”

“It’s a good opportunity, but the resources need to be there.”

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