Marketers: Mobile Social Networking Scores With Users


Social networking applications on mobile devices rate highly for reach, frequency and time spent, according to new research from Experian Simmons that used metering technology to track usage of U.S. smartphone owners between March and July this year.

In looking at mobile activity on a typical day, the study found voice callling applications (usually a native app on the phone) had the highest daily reach, at 62%, followed by messaging (51%), browser (47%), email (45%) and social networking apps (38%). Almost one-quarter (23%) of users opened an app store application at least once a day, suggesting a strong interest in finding new titles. When it comes to frequency, social networking comes out on top, with people checking social apps on average 17.7 times a day.

The high frequency is partly due to the nature of social networking, where people post short messages throughout the day, such as Twitter. For similar reasons, email apps are launched 13.6 times a day, followed by voice apps (10.3). Social networking apps also led the way in time spent per day at 33.6 minutes, followed by messaging (28.6), email (22.3), gaming/entertainment (21.3), and voice (20.3).

Among the 14 app categories the study covered, search was last, at 0.9 minutes on a typical day. Discussing time spent on social networks, the report stated: “Combining this relative higher duration level with the higher frequency and probability of interfacing with a social networking application, it can be appreciated how significant the role of social networking plays in mobile behavior, and marketers may be well advised to focus their attention in this area.”

The number of people accessing social networks via mobile devices in the U.S. increased nearly 46% to 60 million in March 2011 from just over 40 million a year earlier, according to comScore data released in June. Social networking giant Facebook boasts more than 350 million active mobile users worldwide. Even so, the company still hasn’t yet moved to monetize its fast-growing mobile traffic because of concerns about compromising the end user experience.

Earlier this week, Facebook launched its first iPad app and opened up its mobile properties to third-party developers, who will be able to run ads within their mobile apps on Facebook. The Experian Simmons study, which involved 46 participants using an iPhone, or Android, BlackBerry or Symbian phone, also examined patterns in mobile use by time of day. It found, for instance, that use of news and information peaked between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., with another, smaller spike around 11 p.m as people catch up with news of the day before going to bed.

The study also presented findings about magazines and the mobile audience. As magazine migrate to mobile screens, they face stiff competition from Web browsing, video and other content-rich apps. At the same time, social networking apps can take time away from people reading magazines on mobile devices. Still, the research indicated people who tend to read print magazines more also skew higher in how much time they spend with apps.

“This is likely some positive news for magazine publishers who are wondering about the potential parasitic effects of providing some of their magazine content on another platform that perhaps might prove to be more engaging than traditional print magazines,” stated the report.

Experian Simmons said it considered the study a pilot to track specific mobile behavior within a subset of its flagship National Consumer Study. As a follow-up to this effort, it said a much larger research program is being undertaken to explore the connections between traditional media and mobile phone activity.

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