O2 Launches A ‘People-Powered’ Network For The Social Age

It already powers Tesco Mobile’s network, now O2 is launching its own UK virtual carrier with a difference. Low-priced PAYG Giffgaff is entirely owned by the Telefonica (NYSE: TEF) subsidiary though operated separately, depending on its users to do its crowdsourced marketing, sales and customer support

A spokesperson tells us it’s inspired by collaboration found in Wikipedia and social media. To gain launch traction, the PAYG, SIM-only operator will give big rebates to users who upload videos of themselves performing a variety of predefined marketing stunts. “You can get a gimp couriered out to you,” the spokesperson said (See the videos for the full surrealism).

Once aboard, customers can then earn kudos points – redeemable as further rebates – by helping out fellow users in Giffgaff’s community forum and by further spreading word of the service. From the website: “Find a new member, help a giffgaffer, or design an advert for us and we’ll give you giffgaff payback points. 100 points = £1.”

Outsourcing these functions to users themselves has reduced overheads and allowed Giffgaff to offer calls at just £0.08 a minute and SMS at £0.04. “There’s no call centres, it’s all people-powered,” the spoksperson said. “Data is completely free for next six months,” he added (can an iPhone accommodate a Giffgaff SIM for cheapo web browsing?). PAYG top-up is done online.

Why is O2 indulging this? “It came out of a round-table discussion at O2,” we’re told. “They thought it would be an interesting way to tap in to the current behaviours of consumers, beginning to own brands. They wanted to give consumers a brand they could wholly own.

“They are looking to target people who are quite in to technology, social media and mobile tech-heads, as well as students on low income. It’s a social experiment; they are looking at finding out how people engage with mobile brands.”

Is rebate-for-UGC the next big mobile strategy? In theory, what O2 learns from the endeavour could inform its activities back on its proper network. But this is only day one for Giffgaff, so we’ll have to see how it goes.