Mobile social networking – show me the brands?
The internet will be remembered most for how it has changed the nature of human communication, spanning the globe and allowing interaction between people who would otherwise not have come into contact. While traditional media had a broadcast model, where the owners of broadcast technology acted as gatekeepers for content, the Internet as social media is far more egalitarian. These days, everyone can generate their own media for easy (and rapid) sharing, with the internet as the channel for distribution. We have all become content creators, telling stories using blogs, recording music in home studios and pulling out our mobile phones to make videos.
The internet also has a back channel – so content producers can not only create content, but that content is open to commentary and discussion. People are now more connected than ever before, participating in conversations and communities of interest, where geographic location is no longer a major limitation. The real internet revolution stems from the level of community and interactivity that it offers. This is not limited to specific networks: these days, almost all websites offer some form of commenting system or forum where interested parties can participate in conversations. Whether it is a food review website, or a personal blog, the social component of the internet is how it allows communities of interest to form around topics, activities or even products.
The best-known social networks (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) offer individuals the chance to create their own profiles, and then use those profiles to engage in these conversations. No small wonder, then, that the culmination of the social nature of the internet is the social media network. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and now Google+ are the platforms for the majority of the social interactions online, although there are other such platforms.
These platforms are increasingly becoming mobile, as the mobile phones become more sophisticated. Armed with the right device, and supported by the correct infrastructure, taking a photo, adding a caption, throwing it online and then participating in the resulting discussion is a piece of cake. In the mobile space, then, these social networks gone mobile are the next mobile development, a factor that mobile marketers will do well to take note of. While there is a certain amount of activity online (in the form of banner ads, promotions on corporate pages, online campaigns), this is still a space that remains relatively unexplored.
This is unsurprising – marketers are still grappling with the fluid nature of social networks, let alone their mobile cousins, and coming to terms with them. The issues of a lack of accurate measurement and inability to calculate ROI still dominate, and in this there is a great deal of similarity with mobile advertising in general. The bottom line is that media in general (even traditional media) has become more social, now that the internet, smartphones and better broadband access have integrated new and old media models. Users can watch a TV show, discuss it on their social network of choice, watch snippets on YouTube – the list goes on, but the choices continue to grow every day. Understanding the interaction of these different media, coupled with a more sophisticated understanding of media audiences will eventually lead to models for measure ROI on mobile marketing efforts – which can only help brands and agencies alike measure the impact of their efforts.