Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"It's 10 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Friends Are?"

Caroline McCarthy has a post on C/Net today that highlights a trendy beta, Brightkite. We all know how popular social networks are. A recent eMarketer newsletter (May 1, 2008) shows a high and growing level of use among all age groups. Not surprisingly, teen use is high, but so are “adults.” I’m willing to bet that the word “young” would account for a great deal of the social network usage in the “adult” category.

There have been a number of attempts to take social networking mobile. Some have already foundered over cost issues, privacy concerns and simple lack of usage. Brightkite seems to be the latest hot entry in the field. My students have been talking about a service like this for several years. Having an up-to-the-minute view of where their friends are and what they are doing has appeal. It has more on Friday or Saturday night than on a weekday afternoon, probably, but it is an option desired by connected young adults and teens.

Usage of mobile social networks is still in its infancy (eMarketer, February 27, 2008). The same newsletter quotes a UK study that finds 25% of mobile phone users citing social networking as their most desired content, close behind email at 33%. The potential for growth is highlighted in that same newsletter. A Pew study found that the mobile phone was the main daily communications method for teens who used the Internet, had mobile phones and used social networks. The potential is there; the execution has been a problem.

Brightkite describes itself as a location-based social network. Users can take their online profiles, including their network connections, with them onto this service. They can see where their friends are, join them at a given location, keep track of the locations they’ve visited, send SMS messages, and more. This is a shot of their app for the iPhone, although they are careful to point out that their service is available regardless of carrier.
It still requires an invitation to get into this beta. For most of the time I was working on this post the site was down (did Caroline’s post crash the site?), but it’s clear that they have more invitations than they can accommodate for now. Not that I was planning to sign up anyway; it’s not for my demographic. But blogger Josh Lowenshon obviously has; you can see the service from a user perspective on this post.

It’s the principle more than the specific service. The space is still full of churn. What doesn’t change though, is the desire of teens and young adults (who will grow older; wonder what will happen to their media habits then?) to be connected. Also not changing is their rejection of traditional media. I don’t think that any marketer can hide from this trend/ these developments. Large markets are already firmly in the new media camp. Rapid growth is predicted. No age group seems totally immune from the siren song of new media. Question is: how will we engage them around our brands and around issues of interest? We’re just beginning to explore the answers!
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1 comment:

sachendra said...

Mobile social networking is on the rise, but it's a long way from reaching its full potential. I have gone through a couple of mobile social networks out there and they are nowhere near my expectations. So I decided to list down a few scenarios.
http://sachendra.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/what-i-want-from-my-mobile-social-network/