Mobile is social and social is mobile


It’s hard to imagine that social media’s impact would have grown at the rate it has without the parallel growth of mobile access

A new statistic about mobile – be it app downloads going crazy or smartphone penetration exploding, seems to hit every week, and none of the industry pundits seems willing to suggest a slowdown will be happening any time soon.

The connection to social media is borne out in the number of social apps available for every mobile platform. App developers understand their audience, just as social media channel owners do. Three quarters of Tweets never touch, meaning that they’re generated through apps. Even allowing for a proportion of desktop Twitter apps, that’s a lot of mobile Tweeting. Sure, much of it may be about the queue in the bank or how terrible the trains are, but if you’re the bank or rail company, that neatly captures the challenge that ‘social mobility’ poses.

Because mobility equals immediacy, the filter between thought and speech – and the delay between experiencing a brand and talking about it – is largely gone now. Wanting to say something to the people we know (and the random followers we’ve somehow managed to pick up) can now effectively be the same as saying it. The trick is finding ways to turn the challenges of a talkative, mobile audience into advantages.

Of course, how you go about it will depend on the kind of business you’re in. If you’re a retailer, or have the kind of premises where customers may linger, like a café or bar; you could offer wi-fi. That way you’re enabling the mobile habit and creating a positive reinforcement in their minds.

In fact, if you’re a retailer, this becomes a bit of a no-brainer; the stats showing how frequently people browse and compare products online while actually in a shop are growing all the time. So, as long as you’re happy that you’ve got your Last Ten Feet under control and users shopping from your premises won’t be lured elsewhere, perhaps they can use the same wireless to tell their friends about your great service and products before they leave.

In fact, you can even make it easy for them to do that whether providing wi-fi or not:  location-based check-in services became a bit of a craze a little while ago, and although the buzz has quietened somewhat, they’re (mostly) still there. Amongst others, FourSquare, Gowalla, Facebook and Google’s location features give users the ability to open their lives to stalkers and businesses to gain a little visibility, and make it easy for their visitors to tell everyone they’ve been on the premises.

If your locations don’t have FourSquare listings, why not set them up yourself? That way you can make sure minor details like your address, phone number and URL are actually correct, and every time your users take advantage of that, it puts your name in front of their followers. Everyone wins.

In fact, winning is a big concept in the checking-in world, and it works on a couple of levels.  The (and I apologise now for the word) ‘gamification’ process is turning activities like checking-in, watching a film or TV programme or voting in a poll into ‘virtual competitions’. Becoming the FourSquare Mayor of a place can lead to a virtual status gain that represents one level of win; the second is when a business capitalises on the gaming mechanism for self-promotion.

FourSquare began the process of linking social/virtual activity to real world marketing with location-based promotions. “Free coffee if you’re currently our Mayor” and “3 Offers Nearby” define the location-based world. “We know where you are and we’ve got stuff for you” is the message.

Maybe you could, or should, be one of those stuff-offering businesses. Taking advantage of the plethora of Mobile:Social applications may be difficult, especially when some could be five-minute wonders, but as they establish themselves they should keep providing opportunities as well as challenges