Mobile Social Networking Opens The Door For Advertisers

Mobile social networking -- I have to admit that this one takes me a little by surprise, but only because I hadn't thought of the implications and the ways that it could be used.

It hit me while I was flying this week to Orlando for a series of meetings and catching up on the reading I let pile up while I was busy the previous week. Time magazine, my continued source for the establishment of mainstream thinking, wrote an article concerning mobile social networking and some of the tools being developed to allow customers to keep tabs on their friends using mobile GPS devices and software integrated into their cell phones.

The part of the article that woke me up was the part about the guy who checked in on his roommate, saw that she was at Wendy's, so he called her up and asked her to pick up some 99-cent chicken sandwiches. That single sentence launched a plethora of epiphanies in my head and probably the heads of many other entrepreneurial advertising execs. There was finally a concept that resonated in the mind of the consumer with an obvious marketing extension.



To date mobile has been a category all about promise. There is the impending promise that carriers are seeking out ways to monetize their customer base further -- and with decreasing sales for new handsets, the only options they have are increased data services or advertising. While data services are certainly important, they will undoubtedly become cheaper in the coming years because no one (myself included) wants to spend $200 per month on their cell phone.

Advertising is certainly inevitable in the mobile environment, but it's a pickle to figure out how and where. Users don't like the intrusive nature of push ads displayed on their phones, plus they cost money to receive, which can be a nightmare of consumer backlash. These mobile social networking opportunities finally present something that can be used for marketers to tap into a customer's mindset.

The obvious opportunities are those where consumers can identify some of their favorite brands -- and their phones could alert them whenever they are in proximity to those brands. For example, are you a BMW fan? If so, the phone could alert you whenever you're near the BMW dealer with the new 6-series. Are you a Burger King guy? If you are near a BK, say within ½ a mile, your phone could ping you to let you know! Are you a mom with kids eight to 10 years old? Then your phone could ping you to let you know that there's a Chuck E Cheese just around the corner, and they have a special today!

The slightly more advanced opportunities would be for the phone to become a true "smartphone," where it learns the people you call, keeps track of these people, and applies this information to your GPS map. For example, if you regularly call your friend at 555-1234, then the phone may let you know that your friend is at Safeway or is around the corner from you. If you typically call the doctor because you're a hypochondriac, then maybe the phone will alert you the fact that Safeway is having a sale on vitamins. Of course, you would have to initiate these types of services, unless the carrier just decided these would become standard with your service, for a reduced monthly charge, of course.

For these ideas to truly become commonplace, the next generation of phones will still need to step up. The interface still needs to improve and the delivery speeds for data services will still need to accelerate. That will happen, certainly by next year, and possibly by June when the Apple iPhone finally comes out -- provided it's not nearly as buggy as some people are saying.

What are your thoughts on the future of mobile?

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