When Mobile Apps Go Social

Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider

Yelp Screen Shots of Augmented Reality "Monocle" Feature on iPhone App


When Mobile Apps Go Social

Not
all mobile applications are social, but those with social elements will keep
pushing social media's boundaries forward.

Last week, we took a look at how
consumers use mobile social networks
. This week, we'll look at four mobile
applications, and to keep things focused we'll stick with the iPhone. One thing
these apps have in common is that they were used as examples at 360i's Digital
Marketing Summit last week, covered on the
agency's Digital Connections blog
, either during my presentation on
emerging media or in roundtable discussions.  Here are how four different
apps incorporate social elements.

Yelp

Here's a classic example of a site fueled by user-generated
content running as a mobile application. It doesn't become any more or less
social in this context; Yelp is one of the more intuitive review sites, with an
active community constantly contributing. In a mobile social context, Yelp
needs to make sure it's just as easy to access and write reviews and then share
listings with others, and all of that can be done here.

Yelp delivers a new twist with augmented reality (read more on the
subject in a
column posted earlier this month
). Through its Monocle feature on the
latest iPhone, users can see listings appear in their surroundings as viewed
through the camera. This makes the reviews more accessible, but again the
social functionality isn't, well, augmented here.

Sit
or Squat

Like Yelp, Sit
or Squat
's a user-generated content site accessible via the Web. Yet as any
parent who's tried it knows, this bathroom-finding program is far more useful
via mobile, and the iPhone app is especially intuitive. I've tried it for
finding bathrooms, and I've even contributed one with photos (just look for the
New York City Westin around 43rd St and 8th Ave). The
overall social principle is similar to Yelp's, though: get users creating the
content, and make it easy for anyone else to benefit from it.

Foursquare

It's a game, a social network, and maybe even a social experiment.
 With Foursquare, users check in wherever they are (right now it's just
for select North American cities) and earn points for doing so, while earning
extra points for going out several times in a night or visiting new places.
There are other hooks to keep users coming back. Badges are earned for
completing challenges like going out four times in a night or, for New Yorkers,
going out north of 59th Street. If you visit the same place often
enough, you become the Mayor, another bragging right.

Unlike the other applications mentioned, the whole point of
Foursquare is the social experience: telling others where you are, seeing where
your friends are, and earning more points than others in your city. There are
also reviews and tips for each location, so this too fits in with the user-generated
content realm.

2012

The app for the upcoming disaster movie originally wasn't social
at all. The point of the app is to complete a number of survival trivia
questions and complete your journey to the other side of the world. I'm
horrible at it and wouldn't be inclined to share my score with my friends —
until I get some practice.

Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider

The app has since evolved. First, it incorporates Facebook Connect
to share certain questions. Oddly, sharing your final score isn't an option,
and I couldn't actually get Facebook Connect to work. Still, the movie's not
out for a couple months and the app's already getting updated, so the studio
has time to work out the few kinks. It's a terrific app and now includes
multiplayer functionality, taking advantage of the latest iPhone release's
social functionality.

Will all mobile be social?

Incorporating user-generated content, location-based social networking
and multiplayer gaming are just some of the ways mobile apps can be social. Not
all apps need to be social at their core, but it's increasingly where they're
going — just like the Web itself, where even the most traditional and driest
sites are incorporating social functionality. That doesn't make all mobile
media social, but the best apps in the space will incorporate what's especially
social about mobile devices and create a unique experience combining those
elements.