Potential of Mobile Social Networking
Human beings have always lived in communities and have extended the communities whenever they got an opportunity to do so. Internet was a great enabler for communities and people started to network with long lost friends and found new friends. Now mobile has unique features that can extend this experience for communities
Always on and always in pocket – Mobile is a ubiquitous personal device and is hence the best medium of access for social networking. The updates can be sent and received on the go. When accessing the internet on PC, one is accessing the information about some past event and not real time. In contrast, with mobile phone one can take part in the event, capture it, provide comments and share all this with others. Mobile phone therefore provides richer social interaction. Twitter is a shining example of being part of the event. During the Mumbai terrorist attack, the Twitter updates were faster than the media updates which increased its popularity in India.
Camera – Camera on the mobile phone is a convenient tool in the hands of the users. The photos and videos can be directly uploaded from the mobile phone to the social networking website. In case of a digital camera, the process is not as easy as it is not connected to the internet.
Location – Mobile phones are location aware and hence can add another dimension to updates which is presence or context. Even the non-GPS mobile phones can pass on the location data on the basis of triangulation of the cell site data. This would help the communities to develop around a certain location or geography. User generated context information on point of interests or restaurant reviews would be very useful to a traveler. Dodgeball allows users to set up publicly-articulated social networks of friends so that they can broadcast their location to the individuals’ mobile devices. For example, when users get to a bar or cafe, they can “check in” by sending a text message to Dodgeball such as “@ Irish Pub.” Dodgeball then broadcasts their location via text message to people in their Dodgeball network. Users can also be alerted when friends of friends who have checked in to Dodgeball are within a 10-block radius. GyPSii, Google Latitude and Pelago are other good examples of location based social networking. ABI Research estimates that by 2013, the global revenues from Location based mobile social networking would be $3.3 billion (Link)
Phone Book – So far, mobile phone book was considered as an important asset of a phone. However, now there are phone directories on Facebook and LinkedIn as well. The users can use both the online as well as the mobile directory and it is possible that the users could soon stop using the phone directory as the online directory would be more up to date. Even the mobile phone book can be used as a starting point for creating a community. Zyb was launched as backup to the mobile phone is now a social networking site around the contacts. Zyb can be used to find out who has you in their phones as a contact and even discover friends of friends. In a survey conducted by Stratemerge Inc., 2008, 87% of the respondents agreed that the combination of Social Network services and phone address book would appeal to mainstream consumers (strongly agree:30%, agree:57%)
Additional Access Device – Many users in the developing world do not have access to PC but have mobile phones and hence can use only mobile social networking. MyGamma, a social network run by the BuzzCity has over 3 million in Asia and Africa. These 3 million people have mobiles as the only way to get on to the internet.
What is the size of the Online and mobile Social Networking?
As per ComScore, over two-third of all internet users across the world are active users of social networking. There are 1.1 billion active internet users in the world and out of them 738 million people use social networking sites regularly (pure social networking sites not counting blogs. Including blog sites, 76% internet users use conversational sites). 42% of time spent on internet by users is on social networking sites. Almost 46% of Facebook users are over 35 years of age and surprisingly even the gender split is almost equal.
Considering that almost all the current internet users are mobile phone users as well, there is an opportunity of getting the current online social network users to mobile phones which in itself is over 738 million people. Add to this the millions of people in the emerging countries for who mobile would be the first internet access device, and then the opportunity is huge.
Visiongain believes that revenue from mobile social networking and user generated content will grow to around $60 billion in 2012
Advances in smart phone, browser and web application technologies are boosting the take-up and usage of mobile social networking sites through improved user experience and engagement. In a forecast last year, eMarketer had estimated that the mobile social networking users would exceed 800 million by 2012.
At Nokia Developer Summit 2009, MySpace reported that their mobile usage increased almost 450 percent in 2008, with 7 billion mobile page views per month. Vice President of Mobile Operations John Faith revealed
“We’ve seen greater user engagement in MySpace mobile applications than we have on the mobile web. Smartphones are creating a culture of expectations among users.”
400 K MySpace applications on Blackberry were downloaded within a week of its release. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook claimed at Davos in February, 2009 to have 25 million mobile users which is a five fold increase in one year and out of 25 million mobile users, 10 million users are in US alone. Facebook has over 8 million users on Apple iPhone and 6 million users on Blackberry.
There are over 4 billion mobile users in the world which far outstrip the internet usage (1.1 billion) and hence if the mobile social networking is adopted on mobile, it would help increase the mobile internet usage even for general surfing. This would be good news for carriers who are under EBIDTA and revenue pressures. I would write about the benefits of social networking to the carriers and what should the carriers do to increase its adoption in my next post. Till then stay tune!
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