Twitter and Friendfeed are great ways to start making connections, nothing compares to face-to-face interaction. Mobile social networks like Brightkite aim to bring users together by allowing users to connect with others that are in the same location and interact more honestly with one another beyond the virtual world.While social media services such as
However, the very reasons that such networks exist are also proving to be their weakest points. In this post we look at the current market for mobile social networks and try to understand some of the issues they face.
Location, Location, Location
While mobile social networks promote and encourage users to meet offline, this is also the biggest obstacle for networks to overcome. GPS may not be a requirement, but honestly, who's in your neighborhood and using these services?
The majority of the users of mobile social networks congregate in one specific city and rarely move outside of it. These areas are normally cities that the product premiered in, or a city in California (Silicon Valley anyone?). However, step outside such hot spots and users will hit a desert that stretches across many states.
Marketing To Mainstream
It's no secret that most mobile social networks are not catering to mainstream users. Take a look at the who's using Brightkite and we'll guarantee that the majority of users are part of the early adopter crowd. While this is fine, mobile social network developers need to realize that such products don't have to run into the same issues that hinder services like Twitter or Friendfeed from going mainstream. The mobile market is already mainstream, with over 1.8 billion cell phone users worldwide!
Anyone can sign up for mobile social networks such a Brightkite, Zyb, or Groovr, regardless of whether or not an invitation is needed. However, the majority of users are greatly disappointed afterwards because phone compatibility is another issue that plagues mobile social networks. They aren't the only ones with this problem either. Even services such as Qik have limited compatibility with mobile phones. It seems that if you aren't using the latest high-end phone made by Nokia, which runs well over $400, you're given the cold shoulder by these services.
Bleak or Bright Future?
Unfortunately, mobile social networks still have a long way to go. Other outside issues such as network compatibility can also affect the number of active users of mobile social networks. Despite these issues, we continue to look forward to the development of mobile social networks and services. However, developers need to take a moment and look closer at the problems that they may be creating just by developing networks that are as immobile as their users.
In the next post we'll review some of the aforementioned mobile social media contenders.