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360i Report: Mobile Social Marketing

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360i Point of View on
Mobile Social Marketing
Overview
Mobile social media, any form of social media accessed through mobile devices, has much in common with online social media: the power of building relationships with consumers, the large and rapidly growing user base, and the potential to incorporate sharing and community functionality into every form of content. Mobile presents new opportunities, as these untethered mobile devices are designed for communication — the raison d’être of social media — and can harness the power of location. Still, new challenges await with more fragmentation and emerging business models that still most prove their value.

This is the fourth in a series of POVs on mobile marketing, with several more to come. Read the previous editions on 360i’s Digital Connections blog, where you can also subscribe to receive subsequent updates.
Introduction to Mobile Social Media

Mobile and social are two emerging fields that are the source of constant innovation, as consumers use what are increasingly their favorite devices (their mobile handsets) to engage in some of their increasingly favorite digital activities (social media). Marketers who can start learning what works here can wind up well ahead of their peers and provide added value for their consumers in the process.

On the other hand, there are plenty of hurdles with mobile social marketing:
These are two areas that often don’t have clear ownership within marketers’ organizations.

There’s a higher learning curve in both mobile marketing and social media as neither offers the clear-cut application of the media buying skills that marketers have honed in other media.

Metrics are still a work in progress, as are business models of many vendors in the space.

Budgets are often too small to gauge the real impact of a campaign, and the process can turn off some who want immediate results on a large scale.

Marketers, agencies, publishers, technology providers and others will need to overcome these challenges to keep pace with the consumer and where they are increasingly spending their time.

Mobile phones are designed for social media, as this Foursquare user shows

(image courtesy of Sirinyay on Flickr)

Mobile Social Media by the Numbers

ComScore’s April 2010 data reveals that social networking is the fastest growing mobile content category, whether accessed by mobile applications or browsers. There were 15 million U.S. mobile users ages 13 and up engaged with social networking via applications, up 240% over the previous year, and another 30 million users engaged with social networking via mobile browsers, up 90%.

Facebook reports more than 100 million active users access Facebook through their mobile devices. Facebook users accessing its mobile services are more than twice as active on Facebook as non-mobile users. All Facebook reports that top Facebook applications as of June 2010 include Facebook for iPhone (56 million monthly active users), Facebook Mobile (45 million) and Facebook for BlackBerry (18 million); they rank among the top twenty Facebook applications. All Facebook’s stats do not include users accessing the network from the mobile web.

Ground Truth, a mobile metrics firm, reported that in April 2010, 60% of the time US mobile subscribers spent on mobile Internet usage was on social networking sites. MySpace, Facebook, MocoSpace, FunForMobile, and AirG were the five most popular sites, in order.

Categories of Mobile Social Media

Mobile social media comprises a broad field, but here are some of the key forms it takes:

Mobile extensions of online social networks: The largest social network, Facebook, not surprisingly has the most mobile users as well. MySpace and other social networks have mobile extensions, such as optimized sites or apps, and many are ad-supported. One can expect that in the coming years, US social networks will follow the same course as Mixi, a leading network in Japan, which now has three-quarters of its users accessing the service from mobile devices.

Mobile-central social networks: MocoSpace, Mig33 and Peperonity are three social networks that launched on mobile devices and attract most of their users there. They tend to attract feature phone users and may specialize in reaching certain audience targets, such as MocoSpace with 70% of its 12 million members comprised of Hispanics and African Americans.

Location-based check-in services: Users check-in to physical locations primarily through mobile applications. See the following section for more details.

Social gaming: Many mobile gaming applications are either built entirely on social functionality or rely heavily on social features. For instance, Words With Friends by developer Newtoy is an asynchronous form of Scrabble; it’s part of a “With Friends” series that has recorded over 6.5 million downloads. Gaming company Ngmoco has developed a number of mobile social games where users derive in-game benefits by cooperating with each other.

Mobile web-based sharing: Any mobile-optimized webpage can include various calls to action to share content and offers with friends.

App-based sharing: Many applications utilize Facebook Connect to make it easy to share updates or photos directly through the social network. Apps will often allow users to find and invite their friends through Facebook, Twitter and other networks.
Location-based Check-in Services

An emerging field within mobile social media is location-based check-in services, where consumers use mobile devices to say where they are, often to earn virtual rewards such as badges and virtual goods. The crowded field of these services includes: Foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown, Whrrl, Buzzd, Loopt, BrightKite, and SCVNGR. Google and Yelp have also incorporated check-ins into their mobile applications. CauseWorld has turned these actions into acts of kindness with a philanthropic hook. FoodSpotting lets consumers upload photos of what they’re eating wherever they go.

Most of these services don’t have the scale to attract marketers looking for mass reach, but many have growing and dedicated audiences with disproportionate numbers of digital influencers, and there are opportunities to reach consumers with the right psychographics and demographics for certain brands.

Here are a few examples of how they’re being used:
TV network Bravo offers branded badges on Foursquare for those who engage in activities mirroring the characters on their reality shows. Checking into a New York City restaurant, one might earn the martini glass badge that says, “Way to drink, eat, shop and spa like a Real Housewife!”
MyTown, more a game than a utility where players can buy locations and collect rent as they upgrade, offers branded virtual goods from H&M to players who check in at their stores. These goods provide large point boosts in the game to help players level up. Ad Age reported, “During the campaign, H&M was the most searched location within the game, 700,000 users checked in to its retail stores, and 8 million saw its virtual goods.
CauseWorld encourages consumers to scan select Kraft products in stores to earn “karma points” that can be donated to charity.
IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) partnered with Gowalla to extend its Hit It Big promotion. When users check in with Gowalla and various IHG properties, they may win prizes such as double air miles or gift cards at national retailers.
Loopt launched its companion app Loopt Star to reward consumers’ loyalty for checking into local businesses. Promotions include Gap offering 25 percent discounts for consumers checking in twice to one of its stores, and Universal Music giving five free songs to people checking in at any bar with two friends. Loopt emphasizes the power to get consumers into stores with its “cost per visit” model, similar to Whrrl’s “pay per visit” approach.

Because of all of the options, now is a good time for marketers to experiment with location-based social promotions, as there are opportunities to build a fun and creative promotion that meet a brand’s objectives. Yet given how new most of these offerings are, marketers will have to figure out what value they provide.

Left: Bravo rewards “real housewives” with Foursquare badges.
Right: H&M’s real products offer virtual rewards in MyTown.

Developing a Mobile Social Media Strategy

When planning a mobile social marketing program, marketers don’t have to reinvent how they go about developing a strategy or determining whether opportunities make sense. There are four criteria in particular you can use, as described in 360i’s Social Marketing Playbook:

Does it meet your marketing objectives? What are you looking to accomplish, and how does this play a role in it?

Does it use your arsenal? What assets do you have that could resonate well across mobile social media (digital content, physical or virtual goods, celebrity spokespeople, etc)?

Does it follow best practices for social media — and specifically mobile social media? Does it fit in with how consumers are using mobile social services and technologies? Does it take advantage of the functionality of mobile devices (voice, location, SMS, the iPhone’s accelerometer, etc)?

What is the value exchange between the consumer and the marketer? Or to put it simply, what’s in it for the consumer? Do consumers gain information, exclusive access, social currency, or physical goods? Why will they care?

Answering all of these questions will help ensure the program is a success, and just as important, it will help avoid some common pitfalls.
360i’s Concluding Thoughts

Social media is driving much of the growth of mobile media, just as it has fueled much of the growth in online pageviews and content. New sites and applications seem to sprout daily, while business models of existing players continually evolve to meet marketers’ needs. Marketers should continue to turn to the strategic lens to evaluate opportunities, as it can increase the chances of success for any social marketing program, mobile or otherwise.
Next Steps
Contact your strategic advisor at 360i to further your goals through mobile social media.