As a reminder that social networking is permeating all aspects of our lives, I saw an interesting article on SFGate.com this week about the mobilization of social media. Smarter telephones such as iPhones and upgraded Blackberries are placing more computing power in your pocket, and advertisers and marketers are anxious to adopt new strategies to get your attention while you are on the move.
The Gate article talks about using mobile social media applications to track your friends in real-time. You check your mobile tracker and find out that the gang is at your favorite watering hole, or one of you BFFs is getting coffee at Starbucks. With the new GPS and and smart phone capabilities being built into today’s mobile handsets, it’s easy to pinpoint anyone with a mobile phone. Combine the tracking capability with social media and the world can follow you anywhere:
“We’re seeing a renaissance in mobile services,” said Alok Deshpande, co-founder of Loopt, which was started in 2006. “People are trying it for the first time and seeing what they can do. A lot of that evolution was catalyzed by improvements in the iPhone and new BlackBerrys. That changed the game a lot.”
As the article notes, it’s going to take some time until one service or another reaches the critical mass of a Facebook or Twitter to be a viable mobile social media platform. The same is true in the world of instant messaging. To be valuable, your posse has to be using the same service, whether it’s Skype or Yahoo or MSN.
Now let’s throw mobile marketing into the mix. When you combine the ability to track mobile presence with data delivery, advertising can turn your cell phone into a personalized billboard. You are walking by Old Navy and “buzz,” there’s a clothing special just for you. You are near Amici’s pizza and “beep,” they have a linguini lunch special. If you haven’t seen it, the mall scene from film “The Minority Report” has some of that same creep factor. Imagine if advertisers were able to target you by taste and interest as well as location. This is as close to one-to-one marketing as I want to get.
I have to wonder about the tolerance of mobile users for cell phone advertising. I know I find the random text messages from my service provider annoying to say the least, but the novelty factor may overcome initial objections, particularly if the mobile ads can be targeted to your areas of interest.
So I am wondering if we are ready for a world where microblogging and micromarketing converge. You can check on your friends on the go, using your handheld computer with the build-in GPS to track them and check in in real time. At the same time, marketers can stalk you in the real world, serving up cybersuggestions based on your online history and location. It’s an interesting variation on the concept of free, perfect, now articulated by Rob Rodin, CEO of Marshall Industries over a decade ago. The basic idea is that the Internet has engendered the demand for instant gratification; I want what I want now, exactly as I want it, and I don’t want to pay much for it. Clearly, technology is changing the rules of marketing for all of us.