I sought answers from my friends at mobile advertising platform AdMob. They're able to run surveys through their mobile ad units, and they can target consumers by which phones they're using, among other options. They ran a brief study for me and received responses from 71 iPhone users, 43 smartphone users, and 38 feature phone users (essentially any other mobile phone). It's not a huge sample size, so consider this more of a glimpse than a deep dive. But it's a start for understanding consumer interest in mobile social networking. The full presentation is available on SlideShare.
The study covered eight social properties: Facebook, MySpace, Digg, Twitter, LinkedIn, Mocospace, Peperonity, and Mig33 (the last three are mobile social networks). To get some sort of benchmark, respondents were asked about their favorite social networks they use both on mobile devices and on their computers. Here are some of the findings by device:
· Over half (52%) of iPhone users preferred to use Facebook the most from their phone. MySpace (11%) and Twitter (8%) also ranked, but nothing else came close, unless you count "other" and "I don't use social networks from my phone."
· MySpace is much more popular on the PC than it is on the phone for iPhone users, while Twitter is the other way around, overrepresented on the phone compared with the PC.
· Twitter is more popular among iPhone users than it is among any other device user.
· Nearly two-fifths of iPhone users often engage with social networks from their phones.
· Facebook is again the hands-down favorite for the most visited mobile social network by smartphone users (44% said it's their top preference).
· The spread is much more even when asking which network smartphone users engage with at all from mobile devices: 63% for Facebook, 44% for MySpace, and 30% for Twitter, with another 12% noting Mocospace. The PC usage patterns are very similar, with slightly fewer accessing Facebook and Twitter from the PC.
· Smartphone users were more likely than iPhone users to say they often use their phone for social networking, but also more likely to say they never use their phone that way.
· When it comes to social network usage on mobile devices, Mocospace is the dominant network, with 47% of feature phone users calling it their favorite.
· Leading networks used by feature phone users on the PC include MySpace (66%), Mocospace (55%), and Facebook (42%).
· More feature phone users say they use their phone for social networking often -- more than they use other devices.
The results directionally show some of what you might expect: Consumers with higher-end mobile devices gravitate toward Facebook and Twitter, and the likely younger feature phone user base is the most interested in Mocospace. Meanwhile, LinkedIn and Digg are not yet viewed as mobile properties.
The numbers themselves are just a hint of the research that can be done as we gain a better understanding of how mobile social networking differs from the Web experience we're used to. As more research comes out, we'll explore it here to gauge what's a fluke and what's a trend.