Ten Mobile Social Trends For 2012

How prepared are you for the mobile social tidal wave, tsunami, hurricane, and  Bieberquake that will hit us in 2012?

You’d better get ready. Gartner forecasts that there will be 7.4 billion mobile connections in 2015, when the earth’s population is expected to be a mere 7.2 billion. And you know what everyone’s going to be doing with their 1.03 mobile connections per person? They’ll be undressing catalog models with augmented reality apps. But when they’re not doing that, they’ll probably be engaging with some kind of social media.

Following a keynote I just delivered at Customer Engagement Technology World 2011 on mobile social media, which you can download at, here are the 10 trends to follow. You can find even more examples of these trends in the talk, with links in the appendix.

Here are the top-10 mobile social trends:

1) Social Fashion

Why it matters: Mobile experiences can change the shopping experience to provide real-time feedback from friends, experts, and sometimes brands.

Watch out: Retailers and fashion brands might not love the real-time feedback when it’s negative.

Best in show: Go Try It On is one of my favorite digital experiences, especially for an app I don’t need personally (being married gives me all the real-time feedback that I need, and then some).

2) Tag, You’re It

Why it matters: Tagging is cool again, thanks to Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and other services built on tags, let alone the humble hashtag popularized by Twitter.

Watch out: Keep tags simple and relevant. No one will use a tag just because a marketer tells them to do it.

Best in show: If you haven’t tried Pinterest yet, you’re missing one of the great phenomena migrating from trendsetters to the mainstream.

3) Interactive TV

Why it matters: Interactive TV is here. Almost all mobile Internet users access their mobile devices while watching TV, and most of that activity involves socializing.

Watch out: Check-ins and other gimmicks won’t have the same staying power as experiences that provide relevant content and active communities.

Best in show: There are some great contenders here, but I like IntoNow to use during TV programs, and Shazam during the ads.

4) Q&A

Why it matters: Mobile social media makes it possible to get instant feedback from local experts.

Watch out: Very few local apps scale, especially for real-time experiences.

Best in show: Opinionaided is addictive. More than 100 people bothered voting on whether I had something in my teeth. Oddly, they couldn’t agree.

5) Putting ME in RecomMEndations

Why it matters: We’re not all the same, so how come recommendations are the same for everyone?

Watch out: Few services do personalization well, either because the social graph data is limited or the personalization takes too much work.

Best in show: Foursquare still nails this better than any newcomer I’ve tried so far. Seeing where your friends have been and what they recommended is both powerful and rewarding

6) Social Context

Why it matters: For people sharing their location, you can find out who is nearby and what you have in common with them.

Watch out: Many find this creepy, even if it’s all opt-in.

Best in show: Sonar has become one of a handful of apps that I use regularly; it’s perfect for habitual location-sharers.

7) Geo-Gaming

Why it matters: Mobile games can be far more fun if they’re based around real-world locations.

Watch out: A lot of people just want to kill pigs and cut ropes.

Best in show: I’m addicted to Traveler’s Quest for burying and finding virtual treasure all over the globe, but Life is Crime is also a well-done version of Mafia Wars using real venues, and the latter runs on Android.

8) Augmented REALity

Why it matters: Merging digital experiences with the real world offer imaginative new ways for people and brands to tell their stories. New applications will have people using AR to find people, not just places.

Watch out: So far, it’s still mostly gimmicks.

Best in show: The Airwalk virtual pop-up store by Goldrun may be the best AR campaign run so far.

9) Near Field Community

Why it matters: Near field communication (NFC) becomes far more interesting when it taps into social media.

Watch out: Hey, Jack, in Springfield! Can we borrow your phone? The rest of us 300 million Americans are waiting for our turn to try NFC since our handsets don’t have the hardware.

Best in show: Look how excited this guy from Engadget is to buy a Coke from a vending machine just because he’s using NFC. Now imagine if there was an incentive for him to buy one for a friend.

10) Facial Recognition

Why it matters: Mobile handsets are getting just powerful enough, with fast enough connections to process facial recognition. Whatever you’ve seen so far, using webcams will seem like child’s play.

Watch out: It better be 1,000% opt-in or people will flip out. And it doesn’t play well in places with more sensitive privacy concerns, like schools, strip clubs, or Europe.

Best in show: has processed 34 billion faces so far and is just getting started. isn’t the only one. We’re all just getting started. How are you planning to use mobile social media in the months and year ahead? I’m excited for the opportunities we’ll have to learn from each other.


2 comments about "Ten Mobile Social Trends For 2012".
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  1. Jay Levin from Kerr Hill Inc., November 15, 2011 at 1:49 p.m.

    Nice piece. Even better opening.

  2. Amy Greenlaw from Tomorrowish, November 15, 2011 at 2:59 p.m.

    I think social TV is going to be huge. You should check out

    This is what the site says about the service:
    Conversations from a Few Minutes or Few Years Ago...

    TweePLayer was inspired by a love of social media conversation and lives that were too busy to catch TV shows and events as they happened live. We hope this will let people enjoy all the conversations online that matter to them and add more value to those conversations.

    TweePLayer was launched at SXSW in 2011 and already has a growing stable containing over 9 million tweets from more than 5000 conversations about TV shows and events.

    We want TweePLayer to be the place you can be certain to find great conversations from a few minutes ago or few years ago.

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