Monday, March 26, 2007

Mobile Social - It's going to be big

Google is really putting a lot of resources into mobile search. I think their unofficial base for mobile is their engineering level in Belgravia House.

If you've heard me talk about mobile search then you'll have heard me point out that there are more mobile phones in the UK than there are computers. In fact there are more mobiles in the UK than there are people. What's more - the UK public are incredibly mobile savvy and really able to use their phones.

One of the obvious areas for mobile is the social side. The mobile phone is seen as a very personal device. How often do you let a SMS sit in your inbox for a day or so before you reply? Far less often than you let an email reset in your inbox before you hit reply. It seems to be far more rude not to reply to an SMS than it is not to reply to an email. Friends know that I'm not always to reply promptly to an email but I don't have such a strong excuse for ignoring an SMS. Some friends who know my BlackBerry (work) email have started to use that address rather than any of my myriad of personal addresses. Why? Simply because they know that my work email address is connected to the mobile device.

I think a great way phone networks could encourage loyalty from their subscribers is to offer a mobile social networking platform that's coupled to the network. Leave the network and you'll also have to leave that mobile social platform behind. Many people pick their networks simply through a social selection process. My friends are on Network X and therefore it makes sense for me to be on Network X.

Of course, right now there are platform independent social sites. Google's own Dodgeball is something of an example (if a little left field from what I've just been discussing). Dodgeball is a social offering in that it knows your friends and you uses it to be social. If Dodgeball ran here in Edinburgh or in London and Manchester then I'd "ping" my friends as I traveled back and forth between bigmouth's UK offices. London friends would know when I was out and about in London. They would know that I was in the Pizza Express around the corner from my hotel if I wanted.

Last week Carat (sibling agency to iProspect) won the contract for Pitch Entertainment Group's mobile social networking service. Pitch's offering is a bit like MySpace but is purely mobile. Users can upload information and photographs. There will be instant messaging too. Instant messages from mobile to mobile is far more engaging form of IM than, say, messages from one forum profile to another.

This is reported to be a six figure deal for Carat. That's a sign of how seriously Pitch Entertainment Group are taking their mobile social site. I think it is a good idea. I think first mover advantage is still there to be had in the mobile social space. We are certainly still to see the first market leader.

2 comments:

Orit said...

Hello Andrew,

I am very interested in this post - I am an Australian PhD student researching women and mobile social networking. I have just started my studies and interested in executing a trial that will analyze behavious patterns of women using mobile phones. I will appreciate any thought you have on this. Cheers, Orit.
womenandmobile.blogspot.com

Alfie Dennen said...

Hi Andrew,

Alfie here from moblogUK. You met a colleague of mine, Jonathan Allen, who pointed me at this post.

Really interesting, I completely agree with the take on IM/SMS, but I think that with Super SMS/IMS/SMS 2.0 that a lot of the thinking that Pitch/Carat may have been making on this will be superceded by what people *actually* want to do with their phones, and what their phones are *actually* good at doing.

Web-like experience on mobile are frankly, crap, and they will remain to be so. It is in persistent presence functionality that value can be given to the user through the mobile, which of course is where SMS/IMS, and IM come into their own. Just two thoughts:

1) IMS - Integrated messaging; super sms, or SMS 2.0 - basically forget all the protocol based traffic - sms, mms, gprs etc - and just give people a unified inbox. This is coming up and will play a big part in how people treat a) messaging, and b) persistent presence stuff like twitter

2) As I said, I think it's the persistent presence stuff that is going to make mobile 'killer' for social networking; comment/post happens from a friend, you receive an sms, or even mms in IMS, you respond in text or pic/video, that is then put into the post. The user experience is seamless and they're still entirely "connected" to that post and their network, it's just that in practice the experience is much more similar to sending an SMS than it is to browsing a site.