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Friday, January 02, 2009

Mobile social networking - how I'll know when it's going mainstream....

This falls into the category of "amusing personal anecdotes" rather than "rigorous industry analysis". But it also reflects on the complexities of getting user experience right, and mapping telecom and mobile services onto the way people actually live their lives.

One of my close friends is, for want of a better term, "a bit of a player". Trying to keep track of the various females in his life is a fulltime job. One thing is clear though - FaceBook is pretty important to him, as is SMS, MSN, Gmail and obviously mobile voice. He doesn't have a landline, and his Blackberry is strictly work-only.

But although he uses FaceBook as a hub for his busy social life, he does not really appear bothered (yet) about getting mobile access to it. He'll ask people he meets "Are you on Facebook?", remember their name or email address, and add it later via the PC.

I'm the same - even though I do look at FaceBook on mobile, I think I've only ever once "added a friend" on a phone - and that was in the relaxed confines of a conference, rather than in a noisy bar. (Note to readers: I don't have work contacts on FB, so please don't request it).

Conversely, if my friend wants to swap phone numbers, he'll type in the number and "give the other person a missed call" so they get the caller ID. Sometimes he'll just hand the phone to a new acquaintance and invite her to type her own name & number directly into it. He might also add an email address or IM nickname.

I've seen various people suggesting that mobile "will become the new social network". I'm not 100% convinced, especially because of the incumbency of Facebook / Myspace / Bebo etc. On the other hand, whoever gets the "add friend" experience working first is probably going to get a huge advantage.

When I see my friend say "Hey, you're really cool, we should meet up some time. Put your Facebook ID in my phone" I'll know it's really going mainstream...


Craig Plunkett said...

It is inexorably moving there. How many amusing personal anecdotes does it take to start to become rigorous industry analysis?
This weekend, whilst enjoying a particularly delicious breakfast at a local diner, I was compelled to do a mobile update to FB. Shortly thereafter, a friend working in an office nearby the diner popped in for a quick chat as a result of seeing the update. Geolocation, presence, etc.

vinnie mirchandani said...

Dean, thanks for finally, crisply defining what "social networking" really means :)

Anonymous said...

Just read this dean - sorry I requested you to be a facebook friend :-). You ignored it anyway as I would have realised had I read this post first.

Interesting to see people's perspectives on this. I use facebook mostly for work though I do have non work friends on it as well.

As much as anything I use it to promote my blog but also to experiment.

I do wonder sometimes about what others can see in respect of my non work friends but I think they have to be mutual friends for the info to be viewable. Some of the youngsters in the office are fairly explicit about their weekends so one does have to be careful.