According to comScore, the U.S. mobile social media audience grew by 37% over the past year, a significant increase by anyone's standards. But what does it really mean?
"Social media is one of the most popular and fastest growing mobile activities, reaching nearly one third of all U.S. mobile users," says Mark Donovan, comScore SVP for mobile. "This behavior is even more prevalent among smartphone owners with three in five accessing social media each month, highlighting the importance of apps and the enhanced functionality of smartphones to social media usage on mobile devices." It seems only logical that smartphone users access social media more regularly--after all, they aren't paying those high fees for data plans just to read the occasional email
Peggy Ann Salz, chief analyst and publisher of Mobile Groove, says, "I think what's interesting about this is how it's so reflective of our evolving relationship with mobile." comScore, however, is more interested in what this means for businesses.
"Advertisers and marketers should take note - mobile users are not only engaging with their friends through social networking, but a majority are also interacting with brands in these social media environments," said Donovan. "Knowing that fans and followers engage with branded content on mobile devices opens the door to a world of opportunity for location-based services."
"What I'm really into is not that we use mobile more but that we trust mobile more...The fact that it reaches and influences us at every step of the purchase funnel," says Salz. Does reading a post from The Gap on your Facebook feed really translate to wanting the store to track your location in order to send you discounts? "I would say that is probably true if we're talking about local content," says Salz. The bookstore on the corner and the restaurant on the other side of town may see some opportunities when it comes to mobile social networking and location-based services, but Salz doesn't see a place for more global brands in this arena. In other words, does anyone really want Coke sending them coupons every time they drive by a supermarket?
"American analysts are just much, much more bullish and upbeat about the location aspect of mobile," says the German-based Salz. "What I'm much more excited about is context... There's a lot more to context than location." For example, Salz says, the weather channel has recently started using information about location and weather to deliverable applicable content and advertising to mobile users.
When people are interacting with brands on social media-whether through mobile devices or on a desktop-Salz says the most important message for those brands to take away is this: "Brands need to be listening in and answering back."
(Photo from lulemon athletica, Flickr Creative Commons.)