The Mobile Social Convergence

Late last year Path relaunched with version 2.0 as a mobile smart journal for you to create and share a private social network with your closest friends. Design took center stage with Path’s relaunch because it showed how beautiful and rich a mobile social network could be.

The social mobile revolution is here. Users are going mobile. Social networks are working to catch up. And marketers find themselves wondering why they’ve been ignoring “Mobile” on their to-do lists for the past few years. After all, we’ve been crying wolf on the ‘Year of Mobile’ for some time now, right? Could this really be it?

The Mobile Revolution

Social networks have realized that yesterday was the time to start investing in mobile.

With 600 mobile Facebook users Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook lost two years and fell behind on mobile. It was an unmonitized set of users. He went on to say, “We’re going to execute this mission to make the world connected and build value over the long-term. The bigger question that will define how we’ve done is how we do with mobile.”

Part of Facebook’s strategy was the acquisition of mobile photo-sharing social network Instagram, which is now sitting at more than 100 million users and growing by around 10 million downloads per month. By the way, it reached this number in two years.

There’s also Twitter, which gets 55% of its traffic from mobile devices. Over the past few months Twitter’s been making moves to tighten the app ecosystem by restricting third-party developers and introducing new mobile apps. All of this is in an effort to gain control over the ecosystem to more effectively monetize its user base.

These are just a few of the many examples that illustrate how users are forcing the hands of networks to go mobile or get left behind.

Mobile Proliferation

Why the sudden changes?

Last year a major shift finally happened. Total PC sales were outpaced by total smartphone sales with 487.7 million. According to Business Insider, smartphones will soon “dwarf” personal computers.

Devices aren’t only becoming more popular. They’re also becoming more connected. By 2015, more than 2.5 billion Internet connections will be mobile, compared to just above 500 million fixed Internet connections. Plus, global 4G LTE subscriptions are expected to reach 73.3 million by the end of the year, which is a 334% increase over last year. This means we can expect the 12% of online traffic that comes from mobile phones only to increase, especially as smart phones continue to overtake feature phones (46% compared to 41% in the United States respectively).

Social Devices Getting More Social

There’s nothing more social than the devices we carry around in our pockets. Today, accessing social networks or blogs is one of the fastest growing uses of mobile devices in the United States and accounts for 24 minutes of smart phone consumption per day. Today, 37% of U.S. smartphone owners check social networks daily, and 64% do so monthly. People are addicted to their mobile devices, and they’re addicted to the 24/7 connectivity they have to social media through those devices. If anything, we’re getting more mobile and more social.

Where Are We Going?

There’s a big change, and it seems that everyone is trying to keep up, but we can expect a few things to happen in greater frequency.

One of those is native advertising. Facebook has been dealing with being behind from a mobile point-of-view for some time and has been scrambling to catch up. One of the ways it’s done so is by introducing advertising to its mobile experience.

Mark Zuckerberg stated during an earnings call with shareholders, “I believe that over the long run we're going to see more monetization for time spent on mobile than on desktop.” Considering the fact that mobile ads just rolled out in March and now account for 14% of total ad revenue, you can bet that native advertising on mobile devices will only continue.

Twitter has also been rapidly working to gain control of its ecosystem by putting more restrictions on third-party developers while directing users to use official Twitter mobile apps over the past few months. The biggest motivation is to monetize mobile users by getting more advertising in front of them.

LinkedIn introduced new apps this year for iOS and Android devices as well as an HTML 5 mobile site. This is intended to increase engagement with the platform, which has primarily been a desktop experience up to this point.

Google, which is behind the Android mobile operating system and infused throughout a variety of mobile devices, is a leader in the mobile space. Its biggest challenge right now is a lack of social data, which it hopes to overcome with its push for Google+.

Foursquare is evolving to be a direct competitor with Yelp and Google by becoming more than a gamified location-sharing platform and instead becoming a recommendation engine that merges social data and user behavior to recommend where people should go through their mobile devices.

We can’t forget about Apple, which shutdown its botched social project Ping this year and instead integrated both Facebook and Twitter into its iOS mobile operating system. This means iPhones and iPads now have Facebook and Twitter as parts of their core functionality.

Social is Forcing the Hands of Marketers

People have always been social, and they’ve already gone mobile. We’re only going to see this very prevalent behavior become more so. Social is mobile, and mobile is social. Brands who are doing one should be thinking about the other:

  • Get Mobile Off the To-Do List: It may have been there for some time, but as users become more mobile and more social, it’s imperative that your brand’s online properties connect with that experience. The last thing you want is a customer going from your Facebook Page to your unoptimized website.
  • Share Bite-Size Content: Users are on the move, and they often don’t have time to consume long videos or posts. Balance your content with short-form content that’s easy to consume on the go.
  • Be Real-Time: The convergence of social and mobile allows a brand to have a direct connection with consumers when they’re out and in shopping mode. There’s a chance that your brand being available and being responsive will make or break a sale.
  • Make Your Existing Mobile Experience Social: Many brands do have mobile experiences, which puts them in a prime position to evaluate those experiences and identify opportunities to socialize them by incorporating sharing mechanisms and allowing users to leverage their social connections to make an already great experience that much better.