One prediction I have for 2009 and the future of social media is the development and adoption of mobile social networks. What mobile does for social networking, if done correctly, is it effectively and seamlessly connects online relationships with offline experiences. The most popular features of social networking, like Facebook events, already do just that. With mobile social networks though, this can be accomplished with a lot more immediacy. There is the argument that online social networks causes people to become isolated and relinquish their need for real human interaction, but I think it actually enhances it. Once you are able to move outside of your house with these capabilities, I think this medium will begin to reach its full potential.
eMarketer released a report yesterday claiming there is major growth in mobile social networking. Overall, the number of people who accessed social networks from their mobile devices increased by 182% from September 2007 to October 2008.
From eMarketer — “eMarketer forecasts that by 2012 over 800 million users worldwide will access and participate in social networks via their mobile device, up from 82 million in 2007. Although the total mobile social network user base in 2012 will be under 20% of the worldwide mobile user population, it is likely that these users will have a disproportionate impact on marketing, media and mobile communications because creating and sharing digital content (user-generated and professional) forms much of the social networking experience.”
While I agree “creating and sharing digital content (user-generated and professional) forms much of the social networking experience,” I think the ability to easily make real world connections with friends in your social network is what will drive the future.
ReadWriteWeb posted an article earlier this year listing 10 mobile social networks to check out, besides Facebook, MySpace and MSN. The ones that really stand out are the services that attempt to enable real world interactions through mobile technologies.
“Brightkite allows for your network of friends to keep track of where others may be at any moment. Since no GPS is required, users can send updates to the service via text messaging or email, to update their profile with location updates, pictures, and notes. With a host of privacy settings to prevent any form of stalking, Twitter users are increasingly using the network to update friends with status locations sent to their Twitter streams. Brightkite may be one of the best mobile networks to use, especially when going to a conference or big event in town.”
“Developed by MoBlast Technologies, Fon11 could become the hottest mobile social network for the iPhone. With a nice UI (of course) and great features like the ability to see just how far away your contacts are from you, availability status messages, visibility settings and more, it seems Fon11 has a lot more to offer than the rest of the pack. Fon11 has already been ported to Android and Nokia Web Runtime with development plans in the works for J2ME and Windows Mobile platforms. While GPS remains an issue through no fault of Moblast, we’ve been assured that there are many strategies in development to find a resolution.”
The mobile social networks that solely mimic social networking technologies for the PC will lose. The services that are able to truly connect people through technology, bridging the gap between on- and off-line will be the ones that lead this market.