This year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona — the most expansive wireless telecom show in the world — highlighted the impact social computing and entertainment is making in wireless. I attended, and concluded that while WOM marketers and PR pros may be inclined to dismiss mobile marketing as a holy grail that’s never been achieved, they’d be wise to keep close tabs.
Social networks for mobile are coming fast and heavy. These networks compete with m.facebook.com and m.myspace.com with unique, region-specific and/or geographically-enabled specific solutions. A flurry of networks are launching, and some are succeeding.That means marketers will need to get ready for mobile social marketing. Here’s a look at the seven that most impressed me.
1) itsmy.com had perhaps the most subscribers of the many upstart mobile social networks, coming in at 2.1 million subscribers. Members can engage in communities, microsites, mobile video and picture blogs, homepages, flirt functions, ring tones and much more.
Driven by ads, itsmy.com is mature compared to most mobile social networks. It’s very robust, with 60 percent of subscribers in the U.S., 20 percent in the UK, another 10 percent in the EU with a smattering around the world. Some potential for itsmy.com includes a more localized version of myCity, adding GPS functionality for by the block searching, friend finding, and security applications.
2) Perhaps the most interesting of the mobile social networks is Zyb. Self described as a “social phonebook,” this network reinvents the way users engage their phones. Results have been strong with 230,000 users attracted by word of mouth in more than 40 countries.
Zyb started out as a back-up service for mobile phone address books, but has evolved to become a Plaxo on steroids. The contact manager offers complete updates on your handset, and maps all of your contacts social capabilities, listing their various online portals such as Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, Flickr, etc. RSS-feeds create a lifestream from these applications, too, allowing contacts to view a person’s latest developments.
Privacy is protected through contacts identifying which pieces of data will be accessible by friend networks. In the third quarter, Zyb expects to launch GPS enabled search, allowing users to know where their friends contacts can be found in proximity of a users handset. Zyb has not done as well in the United States due to carrier control of network content, and phone synchronization.
3) Location-based mobile social network gypsii is picking up momentum with somewhere between 500,000 ad 700,000 subscribers. The company expects to reach 1 million in short order using community based approaches in Facebook, Digg, Hi5 and mySpace. gypsii’s strategy is to fine verticals with in the larger consumer market, such as sports fans, artists, and private label social networks for content providers. A very serious location play with lots of robust
4) Nokia’s mosh is a great social network, but one that’s completely user generated, allowing its users to add and develop everything from screen savers and ring tones to widgets and applications. This is really Dell’s Idea Storm taken to another step. The mobile phone manufacturer does not edit or license content, instead just seeking to foster a development environment for its rabid fan base. The result? More than 200,000 users, 80 percent of which access Mosh through their phones.
5) Symbian OS-only social network locatik.com was in beta and would not disclose its subscriber-base. Robust use of GPS chips and cell finder tech. provides great friend finder applications, and the ability to generate social activity on the street level. There are no plans to expand to Windows, Blackberry or another OS, and the company does not plan to leverage GPS for additional functionality.
6) Don’t think IMing offers a social network? Think again. eBuddy claims 60 million users (most of which are on carrier-branded platforms) of its general IM solution that ports into various existing interfaces like Yahoo! and AOL. Next up for eBuddy? Location, allowing users to leverage GPS capability and sort their IM contacts by closest proximity. if eBuddy extends functionality it could be a various dangerous social play.
7) POK is currently launching its beta in Spain. It’s very early to tell, but POK wants to be like itsmy.com, though simpler and more robust. It’s already got a corporate partner in Spain, and is actively seeking more partners to accelerate its acceptance in global markets. Techcrunch was supposedly interested in reporting on POK at the event.
Best of the Rest
Yahoo! Go offered a mobile package, which was basically an aggregation of mobile mySpace, downloadable widgets, local search and navigation. But make no bones about it, this package was complete and tailored towards carriers looking to define portals on handsets. AOL’s was similar minus a Facebook or mySpace component.
OZ is another IM player that works with carriers to port between IM networks. Unfortunately, OZ does not see itself adding more social functionality at this point, and may remain a pure play.