Tuesday, October 02, 2007

4 Reasons Why Mobile Social Spaces Will Not Work

Danah Boyd from Berkely & Harvard is, as the Financial Times referred to her, “the high priestess of social networking”. She spoke at the MoCollywood mobile conference that I was on a panel at, on social networks and the issues and opportunities around their adoption in mobile.

She started by clarifying Social Networking vs. A Social Network. Networking is meeting strangers whereas Network is about building existing relationships. Nice distinction.

Then she gave a explanation and history of social spaces.

Real life social spaces are social dip-sticks. They allow us to understand people. Looking at “publics” (parks, squares, gardens) and how people interact and communicate allows us to understand a society at large. Online spaces also allow us this insight.

Online social spaces moved from groups based around common interests on usenets like – “rec/pets/cats” for those who had a particular interest in cats – then on to groups centred on “me & my friends”. This gave friends has a new definition, they are not your nearest and dearest but friends allow you to build out your context – building out who you are. It turns out that 2/3 of people use comments pages not the email functionality. Part of this is for show, signalling that I know this person.

Offline you exist online you have to write yourself into being. Friends are a key part of that, as are the apps and brands that are part of your profile.

Social networks online are different to offline "publics" and throws up very different ways of behaving for individuals and brands: Persistence, Searchable, Replication, Invisible Audiences, Context are the 5 key areas that i really should cover in a separate post.

Danah then moved on the talk about the reasons why social will find translation to mobile difficult.

Fragmented conversations
Mobile conversations are one to one, they are node to node vs internet social sites where they are more connected – on mobile other can’t see whole of conversation – making it lopsided.

Asynchronicity vs Synchronous
Asynchronicity is the norm online but synchronicity is norm on mobile. Mobile is an immediate, push with an expectation of immediate response, it is more intrusive but internet social sites allow the receiver to decide when to read and respond.

Browsers largely present the same experience and functionality – mobile has different handsets and platforms and pricing plans which mean you can never assume your receiver can actually do what you do. Standardization is therefore a big barrier

A mobile user is very identifiable vs the often anonymous web potentially hindering social spread.

Her key point was that you can't translate internet into mobile, they have different structures and ways of working and in the current structure.

This final point I agree with but "mobile and social not suited" I beg to differ...

As more devices have the ability to browse the internet the experience will become more and more consistent, in fact much of it is already bar the size of your screen. As brands develop mobile versions of their other social offering - mfacebook & mtwitter or bloger & sony mobile - they will compliment and enhance not replace their web offering. Adding mobility and geolocation to comments and posts is a huge opportunity.

Mobile can and should be very much be at the heart of social networks.



Anonymous said...

Imagine if we were allowed to choose a party line--like the old days--with a different social purpose.

john dodds said...

I was there too and in the panel session later on she made what is I think the key point - that people using social networks via the computer are in a different frame of mind (that of seeking boredom-relief) from those people using a mobile because the latter are out and about, less likely to be bored and will not want the same thing. It may be possible to repliucate social networks on mobile but whether people will want them is a moot question. Behaviour not technology is the limiting factor.

Giles Rhys Jones said...

a nice round 5 points; behaviour - boredom vs objective.

but i would again take this to task, more and more people are using mobile devices for tasks they could achieve online - blackberry being a killer example.

understanding peoples attitude to both and where they fit is key for a very bright future for mobile social networks.

behaviour is the driver not the limit. siloed mentalities are. damn thats 6...

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion. Thanks for the write up.

Anonymous said...

Dahah Boyd must not have a phone with SMS or mobile Internet.


Unknown said...

Hmm, yeah, nice write up but I tend to agree with John and with Giles here. I think behaviour is a limiting factor but that also can be circumvented once you reach a campaign which includes every age group and makes it easier for all. Just ran a mobile campaign through Mozes and the response was tremendous, especially considering the age group was between 30-37. All you need is a well thought of campaign. Mobile is a good marketing platform and I think it has a future.