There is no lacking for advice on the best ways to improve your social media strategies via the latest go-to social networks. Presently, much of the emphasis is on Twitter and Facebook, but not too long ago it was on MySpace and YouTube. Yet, even with the aid of the growing cadre of social media specialists and consultants, advertisers are still finding it difficult to build and execute strategies that resonate with consumers while delivering consistent tangible results.
In my opinion, this is largely due to an overemphasis on online marketing strategies and tactics that consumers have become immune to as they have grown more comfortable and familiar with the internet. To break out of this cycle, advertisers need to focus more of their efforts on getting ahead of social network users with new strategies that intersect with significant shifts in users' behaviors. This will allow advertisers to deliver new value that social network users may not yet know they even need.
An example of a seismic behavioral shift in social networking is the growing number of consumers accessing and managing their social network experiences via their mobile devices. In the short amount of time that mobile access to social networks has been enabled, the adoption rates have been staggering. As an example, MySpace's general manager of mobile, John Faith, recently announced that the firm is experiencing a 450 percent year-over-year growth rate in mobile subscribers and expects that within two years, half of the site's traffic will be from mobile devices. Additionally, Facebook now boasts that it has over 30 million heavily engaged mobile subscribers, in a little less than two years since announcing its mobile plans. This fast growing trend is expected to gain steam as consumer adoption of sophisticated smart phones continues to grow.
So if you are an advertiser eager to tap into the unrealized potential of social network marketing, here are a few reasons that you should consider incorporating mobile into your plans:
- The future of social networks is indelibly tied to mobile: In the eyes of consumers, social networks and mobile phones have become highly synergistic; they use them both to stay connected to the people and things they care about most.
But the two platforms also feed and sustain one another. Consequently, as the market penetration of sophisticated mobile devices continues to grow, so too will the number of consumers accessing their social networks over those devices. In fact, research firm eMarketer forecasts that the number of mobile subscribers accessing social networks from their device will grow from 243 million in 2009 to over 800 million in 2012. Mobile social networking is also driving up usage and sales of mobile data packages -- a fact that hasn't been lost on wireless carriers. And the majority has rushed to build relationship with social network providers to keep consumers on their networks.
- Mobile social networking experiences are becoming ever more compelling. Research firm ABI found in a recent study that presently more than 60 percent of those who presently access a social network on their phone do so mainly to check for messages or comments from friends. However, social networks are moving quickly to integrate a range of advanced mobile functionalities that will make it easier for users to manage pages and share real time experiences via their mobile devices.
For example, location and presence services, such as Loopt, allow users to see one another's location and collaborate using their cell phones. In addition to giving users more reasons to stick around longer on the sites, the hope is also that these new functionalities create attractive marketing opportunities in local advertising and local search for brands that want to engage consumers looking to conduct real-time transactions.
- Mobile social networks could deliver where their desktop counterparts have failed. There is growing evidence that social network users that access sites using their mobile phones are more engaged than those who do not. For example, Facebook recently reported that people who access its site via mobile devices are almost 50 percent more active on the site than non-mobile users.
This is good news for social networks and, potentially, for their advertising partners. The low CTR rates typically associated with social networks advertising are well publicized. Whereas, mobile advertising enjoys a reputation for exceptionally high click-through rates compared to its web counterparts. Combine this with the unique targeting options available on mobiles (geo, device specific, contextual, etc.) and mobile consumers' desire for immediate action when they are on the go and there is the potential for marked improvement in the performance of social networking ad campaigns.
- There are plenty of mobile social networking options. Most are aware of Facebook's and MySpace's mobile presence -- these two industry giants have 30 million and 20 million mobile subscribers, respectively. However, there are plenty of mobile-only alternatives that are in many ways ahead of their traditionally PC-based counterparts in terms of innovative offerings. In fact, the last time I counted I found over 50 established mobile-only social media networks with sizable reported subscriber bases.
Most of these predate MySpace's and Facebook's mobile offerings, and some are investing in innovative technologies and strategies to compete with the market giants for users and advertisings dollars. For advertisers looking to test out cutting-edge strategies or desiring a glimpse into some of the exciting things now possible, these providers might be the perfect starting point.
Below are a few of the most notable mobile-only social networks that I've seen:
- MocoSpace is an ad-sponsored social community that claims over 6 million subscribers. The company is one of the most well known mobile social networks and, as of March 2009, it was averaging over 1 billion page impressions worldwide, most of it in the U.S.
- MyGamma is a mobile social network run by the BuzzCity, based in Singapore. The site draws over 3.2 million users from developing countries in Asia and Africa.
- GyPSii is a locations-based mobile social network based in Amsterdam. The site allows users to locate where their friends and other members are in real time. GyPSii just recently secured a deal with wireless service provider, China Unicom's Shanghai Unicom, to become the premier mobile social network solution for its new consumer offering.
- Peperonity. Germany-based Peperonity lets users create their own mobile pages with video and photo sharing, friends list, downloads, chat, and flirting. The site is available in German, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Polish. It also claims over 3.5 million mobile pages and 12 million unique visitors per month users and Admob's largest publisher.
- Itsmy is a purely mobile, free, ad-supported social network. Registered users can create a mobile home page with profile, blogs, and a guestbook and can participate in chat, flirting, forums, and private messaging. Itsmy claims over 3 million total and over a million registered users. In March the company had 500 million page impressions. Itsmy's users are concentrated in the U.S. (over 50 percent of the total users), followed by South Africa and India.
- Zannel is a messaging service that lets users post video, picture, and texting updates to communicate with others across various devices. The site is frequently described as a "multimedia Twitter".
When it comes to mobile social networking, there is no longer any question whether or not consumers will bite. Social network users are demonstrating daily that mobile can be a natural part of their overall experiences. The only question that remains is whether advertisers will be among the beneficiaries of this growing trend. My belief is that those advertisers who are willing to undergo a paradigm shift in their social networking strategies will find mobile marketing to be a useful and compelling way to get the returns that have thus far eluded them in social network marketing.
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