How is Mobile Changing Social Media?

iphone-toastLast week, I received this question from @dbaron in my weekly webinar and wasn’t able to get to it. But I also felt that it is a larger topic that warrants a blog post. It’s a question we get frequently at Powered, typically with a follow-up question about how our platform handles mobile.

The answer right now is, at the same time, a lot and a little.

In terms of participation in social media, much is now driven by mobile devices. The iPhone and similar new smartphones by Blackberry have become portals into popular services like Facebook and Twitter, cameras that post pictures instantly for friends to see, an outlet to let your friends know where you are and what you are doing. In terms of content creation for social networks, I actually do a lot more on my iPhone than I do on my laptop now. When I’m out and about I often have lot more going on that is post-worthy. I think the emphasis on the newsfeed and short bits of information in most networking services is a response to that behavior.

Networking is just becoming more interesting and powerful with GPS-enabled devices and location-based services like Brightkite (geotagged photos) or Moximity (geography-based networking).

However, the world of social marketing hasn’t been impacted much by mobile yet. This is for two reasons.

First, marketing through services like Facebook is still being figured out (and Facebook Connect offers many of the answers there), as ads don’t perform very well and pages don’t create long term engagement. If the model is still evolving for the broad web, the much younger mobile web has nothing to emulate.

Second, these networking services are communications tools, and mobile devices are still at their heart communications devices. While people may browse for the odd piece of information like a sports score or Madonna’s age (to settle a bet), it is rare to see prolonged sessions of browsing on mobile devices the way you see them on laptops. Mobile has narrow attention that allows little space for marketers to squeeze in without angering the user.

But small geography-powered services that address particular mobile use cases – like finding a restaurant, checking movie times, or delivering timely updates on events, will find niche audiences where offers could be served within the narrow attention of mobile in a relevant way. And once Facebook and other networks get a firmer grasp on how best to integrate marketing, those models can be extended into the mobile space.