- AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint — the "big four" U.S. wireless companies — are advertising high-speed 5G on social media, while smaller carriers like Xfinity, Boost Mobile, Metro PCS and Cricket Wireless have refrained from promotions for the next-generation service. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are key battlegrounds for mobile mindshare, per a study that researcher BrandTotal shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Verizon Wireless has dedicated most of its 5G promotions to Twitter, where 93% of its sponsored posts appear, compared with only 7% for Facebook. AT&T placed 68% of its social media ads on YouTube and 32% on Instagram, the image-sharing app that has driven most of Facebook’s recent growth.
- Like Verizon, T-Mobile dedicated most of its 5G social-media spend to Twitter, where 81% of its sponsored ads appeared, ahead of Facebook (15%) and YouTube (4%). Sprint allocated 100% of its 5G social-media ad budget to Facebook, per BrandTotal. The firm studied ad placements from April 29 to June 27.
Even though high-speed 5G wireless service isn't available in most parts of the country, the biggest U.S. wireless carriers have ramped up their social media promotions to target key audiences in areas where the service is available. The different social media spends, with some brands favoring Twitter while Sprint going all in with Facebook, for example, demonstrates that each is looking for a way to get the highest ROI with its social spend, especially for a product in 5G that will greatly affect social media capabilities on mobile.
"While ad campaign roll-out for 5G is happening quicker than it did for 4G, we're seeing each of the major carriers aggressively targeting audiences on different social networks," Alon Leibovich, co-founder and CEO, BrandTotal, said in a statement.
AT&T's 5G promotion was part of its "It Can Wait" public service announcement (PSA) campaign against texting while driving. The carrier touted how its 5G technology will power self-driving cars, freeing people to use their mobile devices within a car. Half of its advertising was aimed at people ages 65 and older. Most of AT&T's ads were dark, meaning they could only be seen by targeted viewers, not the broader public. AT&T's 5G campaign generated 3.2 million Instagram video views, 20.6 million Facebook video views and 1,600 YouTube video views, per BrandTotal
Verizon's social media ads for its 5G Ultra Wideband Service compared its 5G innovation to great technological leaps such as space travel. The company dedicated the biggest share (29%) of spending to reach U.S. adults ages 25 to 34 with dark ads. Verizon's 5G campaign generated 28.3 million Facebook video views, 730,600 YouTube video views, 35,000 Instagram video views and 20,500 Twitter video views during the two-month study period, per BrandTotal.
The aggressive marketing efforts of AT&T and Verizon have stirred controversy over whether their claims to offer 5G service are accurate. AT&T's 5G service is mostly focused on enterprises, and the company has been criticized for showing a "5GE" icon on smartphones that aren't equipped to connect to real 5G networks, Venture Beat reported. Verizon in April dropped a $10 fee for 5G services amid complaints that its service wasn't reliable. AT&T and Verizon use high-frequency millimeter-band airwaves as part of their nationwide 5G service, but those signals require three to four times as many cell sites as current 4G networks, Bloomberg reported.