Mobile social networks – when can we expect the boom?

These days it rains announcements of social networking sites that are starting to build their mobile offer. Both MySpace and Facebook have created adapted versions for the mobile phone. With OneConnect, Yahoo! offers a specific application with the ambition to integrate all mobile social networks. For professionals, LinkedIn has prepared a mobile version. In our direct environment, we haven’t noticed much impact or use of these. Yet we expect that the uprise of mobile social networks will become strong in our area.

“Today, social networking is already thè killer application on the mobile phone.” This quote from Tom Weiss at the Web Goes Mobile seminar, organised by, surprised many attendees. “The mobile phone is by default equipped with a contact list and most people use their GSM to transmit messages. Isn’t that exactly the definition of a social network?” wondered Weiss.

Indeed, in the large sense of the word the mobile phone is already today the ultimate social networking device. The success of mobile telephony can be explained mostly by the inherent basic need of human beings to communicate with family, relatives, friends, colleagues. This is – one way or another – what it’s about for social software providers.

Social networking communities that want to be successful on the mobile will have to deliver an extra additional value, on top of the communication possibilities that the mobile phone already offers today. International research by Informa Telecoms & Media proves that this is working nicely. According to their recent report ‘Mobile Social Networking, Communities and Content’, the amount of worldwide users of mobile social networks has risen in 2007 to 57 million, which is double of 2006.

Mobile social networks

Mobile communities are most popular with youngsters, in the age category 14 – 20 years. In general, teenagers delivers the most active contributions. For many of them, an important part of their social life happens amidst these new community tools.

The most successful mobile communities position themselves in the same way, which we’ll here call ‘Make Me Rich & Famous’. Many teens want to have their ‘Moment of Glory’ within their reference group. They’ll do anything to post the most attractive and creative content, hoping to build fame and status. Mobile communities such as SeeMeTV (UK) and SelfCentral (New-Zealand) encourage this strive for fame by developing ‘stars’ that are rewarded by their fans. They can generate additional revenue for every download of self created content.

At this moment, the business model behind mobile communities remains pretty vague. Most of the revenues end up at the operators: Informa estimates that the average social networking user is worth 5 dollars of data transfer per month. Other money sources such as transaction fees on consumer generated content or advertising revenues are currently rather poor. Whether mobile social networks will break through on a large scale and on the short run will depend mostly on whether the mobile operators will be open to share data revenues with the content providers.

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  • Comments (6)
  1. Been reading for a while now. Just wanted to say good job.

    Chris Tackett

    • zrock
    • April 28th, 2008

    Neat!! I like the write up. I love mobile networking. I use networking mainly for music. I have been a part of Mozes for a while now and I love it. I started a band and it’s so easy to send updates to the mob and get honest feedback from the members. I think mobile networking’s the thing now and it’s not far from the boom.

  2. In our experience at MobiLuck ( there is clearly a strong interest from the younger crowd to use mobile social networking to show off and to have fun. In countries where mobile is just starting to take off, many don’t have PC access and the mobile is their first experience of the internet, so they’re also going through an exciting discovery phase. In addition to this mass market for user generated content and chat, we should not forget that there are other niche markets, such as business networking. The Mobile Monday chapter in Paris offers MobiLuck to its members so they can check out the business cards of everyone else and search for people to network with at the events. For example you can search for an investor, send them a message asking to meet, recognize them from their photo, and then find a restaurant nearby to go to afterwards to continue the conversation. There are many mobile social networks out there that offer mainly UGC and chat, but in the next couple of years we will see more services like MobiLuck appearing that are based around the user using their location to enhance their social networking experience – for example showing off to friends, geo-tagging photos or getting alerts when friends are close by. The boom is already under way!

    • mobilist
    • May 13th, 2008

    “The mobile phone is by default equipped with a contact list and most people use their GSM to transmit messages. Isn’t that exactly the definition of a social network?” completely agree that. Mobile Social Networking will succeed where MMS failed, providing a richer interaction with the community.

  3. FierceMobile has posted some interesting figures on the topic of Mobile Social Networking here and here.

  4. For mobile social networking to succeed the experience has to be complete, which is not there in the current crop of apps out there. I’ve listed a couple of must have scenarios for a better experience.

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