Parks Associates today conducted an interesting seminar or the state of social media, a topic encompassing social networking and media sharing, among other spaces. Coming away, I can’t help but think that social media and mobile technology’s futures are intertwined: One helps to grow the other, and the improvement of one naturally results in benefiting the other.
First there’s the fact that, as Parks vice president and principal analyst Kurt Scherf put it, Facebook has taken on “a much more Twitter look.” That is, social networking seems like it’s becoming more about text or other small items that can easily be viewed and manipulated on a phone. At the same time that social networks are becoming more user-friendly on handsets, cell phones themselves are becoming more social media-friendly, with better Internet access and movability on the screen.
More proof of enmeshed evolution: One of the drivers to social media monetization is the “widespread ability of CE devices that facilitate the creation of social media, such as digital cameras and camcorders.” At the same time one of the most popular social media activities of mobile users is sharing their media with others–35 percent of those surveyed said they share pictures with friends using their camera phones, taking and photos either to friends’ handsets or to an online sharing site.
Thus mobile technology is one sure way to monetize social networks– least, it is for service providers. “We’re seeing mobile operators rapidly embrace (better technology for social media on phones, to monetize) years of investment in their networks,” Mr. Scherf said. ” Social network users are more likely to subscribe to data plans and are less likely to change carriers.”
Operators, then, are deeply interested in better user interface design for social sites; some outstanding examples include Verizon Wireless’ SocialLife platform, the Orange World portal, and SK Telecom’s Sky Buddy in Korea. Cellular providers are also looking to drive more mobile revenue through improved monetization tools like location-based services and gaming. (Lets hope that after social media companies help carriers realize greater revenue, the carriers don’t attempt to penalize them for “overuse” of their networks, they way they once seemed poised to do to SMS marketers.)
These combined efforts are sure to pay off. Parks Associates expects that U.S. social networking ad spend will grow to between $1.59 billion and $2.86 billion by 2013. I imagine that mobile will contribute greatly to these revenue figures.