Bake Social Into Mobile

There is no question that social media has gone mobile. According to a new eMarketer, Inc. report, "Social Media Marketing on Mobile Devices: Turning Challenges Into Opportunities," the key opportunity for marketers in the shift toward mobile is engagement. Mobile users not only log in more frequently, they also spend more total time on social media sites. As devices integrate social media more deeply, engagement reinforces the mobile-social virtuous circle, making it even stronger.

With such a heavy emphasis being placed on social and sharing by major companies and brands, it stands to reason that there is plenty to be gained by encouraging engagement with your mobile app.

If you don't have a mobile app yet, then consider the hard truth that it is going to be the next necessary step in your comprehensive multichannel strategy. If you are already mapping out your mobile app then here are some takeaways from my recent white paper on the subject, "Communicate, Connect & Curate: 3 Ways You Can Encourage Mobile App Re-Engagement With SMS."

The question becomes, "How can content companies leverage the power of mobile to not only build a social presence, but also translate that into increased business?" The quick answer: Bake social into your apps.

Reach a new audience (your user's circle of friends) by making it easy for people to tell their friends about your content and invite them to check it out. BLUE LION mobile GmbH-named as one of the best technology startups in Europe and a winner of the Red Herring 100 Europe Award-is a company taking advantage of the ample opportunity that exists at the intersection of mobile and social. The company, which developed Qeep, one of the world's largest mobile social discovery platforms, counts more than 18 million users in 200-plus countries.

Key to BLUE LION's success is a strategy that includes a dead-simple "invite-a-friend" feature that allows people to do just that. The company's approximately 15,000 active users per month send out two SMS inviting a friend to Qeep. This results in 30,000 invites per month-yielding an impressive conversation rate of 50%.

Making your offer social doesn't stop at invites. You also have to show that you are genuinely interested in cultivating and curating a community around your content-and your mobile app. While there is merit to establishing and nurturing a community of app fans on a free and popular social network destination such as Facebook, there is a serious downside. The community belongs to Facebook, not you. This means you don't guide it, and you can't monetize it.

Build your own community, and create ties that bind by enabling frequent "conversations" (perhaps harnessing text messaging the way Qeep did). You will not only encourage engagement, you will build stickiness into your app.

So, how can content companies cement the ties that bind? The big opportunity here is for companies to be the intermediaries in their fledgling mobile app communities, brokering the contact between members. In other words, borrow a page from the strategy embraced by social networks such as LinkedIn and enable contact between people-without divulging personal information-and charge members for the privilege.

You must provide an attractive incentive for people to join your app community. For example, via the app, you might allow members to access special content and cool offers, or they can connect with other members.

It's not hard to imagine scenarios where people pay (in real or virtual currency purchased from you) to connect with the stars who make your content a must-have: a champion gamer, a great columnist, a sports figure, a life coach, or a thought leader. The list goes on.

Influential members in a community have a direct impact on the behavior of other users in the community. Amplify the power of those members, giving them a voice that allows them to engage with other users. This helps you to develop your own content community.

No matter how you approach this new opportunity, you should be aware of the benefits-and responsibilities-of building a community around your app. This means creating a policy that clearly identifies what community members can and can't do, as well as how violations of the policy will be handled.

You won't always have to lead the interaction, but you do have to listen. Make sure your community gets value out of involvement and then focus on building that value, and your community will become a huge supporter of your app.