Social networking and the mobile phone

Social networking via the mobile phone is a big buzz these days. MOBILE user generated content and social networking was worth 3.45 B in 2006 (don’t have access to current numbers but I bet it’ll be more than double that). New services for mobile phones have been developed that allow people to create, develop, and strengthen social ties. MySpace and Facebook have each made deals with wireless carriers to develop limited versions of their services on mobile phones.

The core values that a mobile phone brings to a social network are:

  • Always-on communication medium
  • Location

Always-on Communication Medium

When I say communication medium, I don’t just mean 2 way communication, it also includes the 1 way feeds on status updates, picture/video/audio uploads, group messages etc;

Mobile phone enables real-time feedback from the users and enables “living in the moment”. When you are surfing the Web with a stationary PC at home, you are either accessing information about some past events, or some real-time information about some event a distance away. In contrast, with mobile phone you can take part in the event, capture it, provide comments and share all this with others. Mobile phone therefore provides richer social interaction.

Location, location, location

Mobility implies movement and therefore location-based/location-aware services become more important. There are already some location based services which take into account user-generated content. For example traffic jams and radars can be detected based on information shared voluntarily by other users of the system. However, the core of mobility is not movement but context. Adding context-awareness to services brings about complexity, but at the same time lots and lots of possibilities.

Adding tags to physical world instead of only in the Web is interesting. Physical places could be valuated: Getting good service or alternatively stomach disease in some restaurant.

The impact

Interest groups and friends are closer to you when you and they are mobile. People can engage in joint tasks with the mobile community in ways not possible with stationary communities.

Mobile user-generated content can bring a new kind of warmth and deepness to familiar things. If a restaurant review comes from someone having a particular relationship with you – be it a friend of yours providing a review of a new restaurant in your home town, or your fellow countryman providing a review of a popular tourist restaurant in a foreign city it probably feels different than reading a review written by a professional restaurant critic.

Added value for mobile user-generated content is easy to imagine for a tourist who does not know the surroundings. Practical information created by other people who have visited the same area depending on the need either other tourists or locals would be of use as an alternative to “official information”, provided for example by local travel agencies. The same model could work for buying a microwave: Access to user-generated information about microwaves in an electronic store, as opposed to the information provided by the manufacturer or the seller, would assist the buyer (kinda like book reviews on Amazon but in a physical world).


About Sachendra Yadav

Mobilist and Social Media enthusiast
This entry was posted in LBS, Mobile, Social Networking and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Social networking and the mobile phone

  1. Kesh Patel says:

    I totally agree. I don’t think we have tapped the true potential of mobile phones in the market place, especially in relation to social networking sites. I think acclimating users to begin using certain apps and programs at this stage is great, but over time we will see more and more users spending more time on the phone than on actual PCs. With GPS enable chips and cheaper rate plans, consumers will be able to take advantage of many Web 2.0 services for free. We are in an exciting time….can’t imagine how different and crazy things will be in 5 years!

    I know for me, I user the Treo 750 (WinMo) with HSDPA – lightening fast speed, but there are only so many people like me in the USA taking advantage of this. I use FB on my phone and love it. I know when I am shopping at stores, I tend to search Google on my phone and see what the going online prices are. I rarely seem to buy things from bricks and mortars any more.

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