In recent weeks, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have all made news in an effort to emphasise their mobile credentials. However, mobile phones are very personal things for most people; companies will have to work hard to connect with consumers via mobile.
Social media on mobile is growing, and will continue to grow, at an exponential rate. In 2010, 20% of UK mobile phone users had smartphones. By 2011, that number had gone up to 30%. By 2016, according eMarketer, nearly four in five (78%) of UK mobile users will own a smartphone.
Twitter now has 10m users in the UK. 80% of those users access Twitter from their phones. That's eight million people, tweeting in real time. Tweeting what they see, as they see it. Taking photos and videos and sharing experiences as they happen. That is real-time data and it is valuable for companies.
Phones are personal. We protect them with pin number and put them in cases to keep them safe. We take them everywhere with us. For many, checking their phone at the start and at the end of the day is as essential as brushing their teeth.
So, we are seeing the proliferation of devices that are very personal and are seeing social media use soar. What can companies do to capitalise on this trend?
Some companies have tried advertising. This has had varied success. Surveys show that people don't like advertising interrupting them on their phones. Apps, even free ones, that contain advertising often receive reviews complaining about the presence of ads ruining the user experience. In its IPO papers, Facebook admitted that it was finding it tricky to monetise users who access Facebook from their phones. As yet, no one can really claim to have come up with a mobile advertising model that's truly effective.
It was recently reported that General Motors has decided to stop using Facebook advertising (on which it reportedly spends $10million annually) and focus solely on brand pages. It appears that GM has come to the conclusion that the ROI from advertising on Facebook does not match that of its content-centric brand pages.
With limited screen space and consumers dipping in to quickly share a moment or check what their friends are up to, mobile lends itself to simple, effective communication. Developments such as Facebook's "Top Stories" allow users to instantly look at the most popular updates among their friends. Companies that create content that is compelling and is shared, will find their content gains traction and creates conversations rather than getting lost in a stream of updates.
Engagement is the key. Social media is all about conversations. That doesn't change on mobile. The companies who are most successful on it are those that share content and build conversations.