Within two years, I believe mobile social networking will become the most valuable business application since e-mail.
Instant messaging started out as a social life booster for teens, but evolved into a vital form of business communication. Social networking also got big first on MySpace, where teens decorated their pages with goofy pictures and the latest MP3s, but evolved into a widely used business networking tool on LinkedIn and other sites.
As we speak, the convergence of social networking and mobility is starting to grow worldwide among teenagers and young adults. ABI Research predicts that mobile social networking will reach 90 million new users over the next four years and rake in US$3.3 billion.
Soon, like IM and PC-based social networking before it, the phenomenon will spread to business users for business purposes.
What is mobile social networking?
Mobile social networking is similar to regular social networking, but on a mobile phone rather than a PC, and using location-based applications and hardware to augment social interaction.
Social networking is all about maintaining relationships and fostering community. Obviously, business people need to do that as well. But the mobile upgrade of social networking lets you get out of the office and connect with people face-to-face and take better advantage of in-person meetings and interactions that you're already having.
The idea of mobile social networking is to take advantage of four things:
- Location, which will be figured out by our cell phones using GPS, tower triangulation (how close to cell phone towers) and Wi-Fi (when indoors).
- Communication, both voice and data.
- Social networking software.
- Products and services.
The secret sauce here is location. Services will know where your phone is, and therefore will know where "you" are. That will improve the relevance of searches and facilitate real face-to-face interactions that will change how business works.