Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider
Beyond Mobile Social's F-Words
Whenever mobile social media comes up in conversation, I tend to hear a lot of f-words. Hopefully they won't be censored here, as the ones I'm referring to are Foursquare and Facebook.
Perhaps I'm part of the problem. When I'm not writing about all the mobile check-in apps I use or what it's like to be a Foursquare Super Mayor, I'm making overblown claims about Facebook gaining a universal following thanks to growth in its mobile user base. The f-words play important roles, but mobile social media is much bigger.
To give a sense of how much bigger it is, below you'll find various forms of mobile social media that may be relevant when developing a marketing program. Perhaps mobile social media is part of the core idea, or it comes up specifically when assessing mobile or social media. However the plan comes together, the tools and tactics should come last, but understanding them provides a sense of what's possible.
Much of the information below has been adapted from a guide to mobile social media that I've been working on and has just been published today on 360i's blog. The guide has much more information overall, while I've added some color in here that you won't find in the official perspective.
Here are the mobile social media categories to consider:
Mobile extensions of online social networks: The largest social network, Facebook, not surprisingly has the most mobile users as well: well over 100 million. MySpace and other social networks have mobile extensions, such as optimized sites or apps, and many are ad-supported. In last week's column on Facebook, I mentioned "the mobile flip," where the ratio of mobile users will surpass online users. It will happen at different rates for different networks, and some networks may be spared the flip entirely, but social networks consume such a large share of mobile web pageviews (see more here) that it's largely a question of how soon it will happen.
Mobile-central social networks: MocoSpace, Mig33 and Peperonity are three social networks that launched on mobile devices and attract most of their users there. They tend to appeal to feature phone users and may specialize in reaching certain audience targets, such as MocoSpace with 70% of its 12 million members comprised of Hispanics and African-Americans. They also tend to be even more friendly to advertisers, as they need to stay competitive and can't rely entirely on coasting on their online revenues.
Location-based check-in services: Users check in to physical locations primarily through mobile applications. Foursquare and Gowalla tend to get a lot of the attention these days, often deservedly, even if they're far from achieving mass reach. A couple favorites of mine in particular include Whrrl, which centers on user recommendations, and SCVNGR, which can turn every location into a game.
Social gaming: Many mobile gaming applications are either built entirely on social functionality or rely heavily on social features. For instance, Words With Friends by developer Newtoy is an asynchronous form of Scrabble; it's part of a "With Friends" series that has recorded over 6.5 million downloads. Gaming company Ngmoco has developed a number of mobile social games where users derive in-game benefits by cooperating with each other. Social gaming is much better on the iPhone than other phones, and the iPhone 4's new gyroscope and enhanced display will only pad its lead before other devices catch up.
Mobile web-based sharing: Any mobile-optimized webpage can include various calls to action to share content and offers with friends. Mobile sharing is just one element of many to consider, though, as it only matters if you have a site designed for mobile devices in the first place. There's one other little hitch: you need to have content on your site that's worth sharing.
App-based sharing: Many applications utilize Facebook Connect to make it easy to share updates or photos directly through the social network. Apps will also often allow users to find and invite their friends through Facebook, Twitter and other networks. If your app includes certain features like photos or leaderboards for high scores, social integration is a must.
The fs are prominent in the list, but they're clearly not all there is to mobile social media. More categories will arise as well as the field evolves. It's a symbiotic relationship: Social needs mobile just as much as mobile needs social to thrive. The consumer demand for incorporating mobile and social together is already here.