Social media spots trends among Sprint and its rivals, analyst says

The Kansas City Star

That a new iPhone? Thought so. And did you tweet about it or jump on Facebook?

Of course, you did. And Wall Street noticed.

At least one corner of the investment world gobbled up your every word about cellphone companies and switching wireless carriers during July, August and September.

The result was a 12-page report from Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson Research that says T-Mobile continued to win wireless customers in the third quarter, and AT&T did not. Results at Sprint and Verizon were eh.

Companies will report their customer gains and losses, as well as financial results starting next Tuesday with Verizon. Sprint’s report is due last on Nov. 3.

Moffett’s report drew on data generated by Comlinkdata, which he said used its own “proprietary natural language processing techniques” on 1 million pertinent social media expressions a day. From that ocean, it discerned 10,000 “actionable wireless customer conversations per day.”

Specifically, it looked for evidence of switching by the most valued wireless customers, those with good credit and who traditionally signed two-year contracts. It skipped over pre-paid subscribers that don’t face a credit check and pay for service in advance each month.

Maybe Comlinkdata picked up on Michael’s Twitter post about getting an iPhone 6 after switching to T-Mobile. He didn’t say which carrier lost his business, but the point is clear that T-Mobile chalked up a win.

And there were less obvious messages like this Florida resident’s tweet that shows clearly she’s thinking about a move from Verizon to Sprint.

Add all of them up, and the results told Moffett that T-Mobile was the third-quarter winner though Verizon narrowly added new subscribers. Sprint was “narrowly negative” in the customer switching wars, according to Moffett’s report.

“AT&T, by contrast, fared the worst, with the company performing the second worst in win share, and the second worst in loss share,” Moffett wrote.

As for Sprint, he wrote, the Overland Park-based wireless company had been posting small net gains of the most valuable subscribers, but its path “appears to have narrowly worsened” in the third quarter.

There were no net subscriber numbers tied to Moffett’s findings based on Comlinkdata’s feed, though he offered his usual forecasts. And he’s betting the data got the subscriber count directions correct.

Mark Davis: 816-234-4372, on Twitter @mdkcstar