By - April 11th, 2012

[T]he latest research from Ofcom reveals the love affair that Britain has with the smart phone. Over a quarter of adults now own a smart phone with this figure rising to almost half when teenagers ...

The latest research from Ofcom reveals the love affair that Britain has with the smart phone. Over a quarter of adults now own a smart phone with this figure rising to almost half when teenagers are considered. With almost 60% acquiring their smart phone over the last year, the market is certainly burgeoning with handsets ready and waiting for your business’ Apps.

Ofcom also report that the smart phone is changing behaviour. In the teenage market, 23% claim they now watch less television and 15% stating they read less books. Focusing on the App market, Ofcom found that nearly half of smart phone users had downloaded an App for their handset.

Social media is moving to mobile platforms. Corporations need to understand that increasingly, their social media activity won’t be on their website.

The socially mobile consumer

Over the past few years both mobile and social media have seen a tremendously fast rate of uptake. Grasping how customers are using them separately and at the pace at which consumers evolve is a challenge, let alone trying to understand how the two trends work in tandem.

And work in tandem they do. So much that at the Mobile World Congress this year many marketers and digital industry folk were using the term SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile Search) to talk about social, location and mobile as a short way of describing the converging trend between the three.

Mobile is not going away and this trend will only increase as smart phones become cheaper and more accessible to all. Ofcom stats from last year show smart phone ownership in the UK to be at 27%.

Despite this, Gartner research predicts that while retailers and brands will turn to location and personalisation of offers, for example, via social media and mobile, 80% will fail as brands struggle to get to grips with multichannel implementation.

Phil Stewart, Director Customer Services at Virgin Media BusinessPhil Stewart, Director Customer Services at Virgin Media Business, recently ran a survey with 5,000 of its business users and found that just 8% of companies are using location-based sites like FourSquare. But despite this, he said 38% of companies think geo-location deals set up with banks or supermarkets will appear in the next decade.

“For the time being, with so few using it, this would suggest no-one’s cracked it yet. We’d love to hear about the innovative ways businesses are using it and that’s why we’ve recently set up a campaign called Innovation Nation to uncover these pearls of wisdom,” he added.

But he warned that over stretching resources to channels where your customers do not exist is a very real challenge.

“Delving into unknown digital territory can be scary. However, customers now expect companies to have a presence there. The key to making sure it works is to make sure you don’t overreach with what your resources allow you. That’s a sure-fire way of annoying people,” he explained,  “By doing this, it’ll mean dedicated social media staff can focus their efforts and deliver real value for the company and its customers.”

Tapping into mobile social networking

MTV is one of the brands looking at innovative ways to take advantage of what their young audiences are already doing, and driving revenue at the same time.

MTV Under The ThumbLast month MTV announced it was creating an app to address the fact that its young audience were watching TV while also being social on their mobile devices. The result, a mobile and tablet app called Under The Thumb, allowed users to buy subscriptions or purchase episodes on demand, but also incorporated a function in which users can schedule to watch with their mates, from different devices.

Phillip O'Ferral, MTV VP of digital media, said MTV had been following the evolution of social and mobile in relation to its TV ever since text messaging, instant messenger and now social media websites.

“The Under The Thumb App is really about customer retention for us,” he said, “Our viewers do want to watch non-linear content on other devices and the app lets us do that by also making a co-viewing experience.”

The music industry is one that is recognising this early, perhaps because consumers and fans of artists would be more open to having such a close and personal relationship via the mobile, compared to a more corporate brand.

For example, PIAS Media" href="" target="_blank">PIAS Media has released a mobile app for artists Frank Turner. The app and technology, created by Official, was intended to be used as a tool for news reporters in the field to report content back to the news desk. In the music environment the app is being used as a way for Frank Turner to send images, videos and updates directly to fans, making them feel closer to the artist.

Like being social

Twitter now runs ads on its mobile product and Facebook has announced plans to do the same, driving ad spend onto the mobile phone. But, knowing that the mobile is a particularly personal space for social networking users, both companies have been careful of how they implement paid advertising into their mobile offering. Importantly, their ad products are essentially ways to amplify a branded conversation - such as a post on Facebook or a tweet.

Being able to reach millions via these social networks paid ad propositions should go someway to pushing brands to be more aware of the opportunity but importantly reducing some of the risk.

Twitter and Facebook are both becoming familiar and comfortable places for brands, so it reduces a lot of the unknown elements when brands are looking to take advantage of the mediums.

While some innovations are coming through with the use of social media and mobile, they largely stem from brands with younger audiences, such as MTV. It makes sense as this audience are known to be avid multi-screeners and as such are used to layering media on top of one another.

This will spread outwards and reach a more mainstream audience, allowing a greater opportunity for brands in the future, as well making a social and mobile strategy a less risky investment.

Couple that with the reach that Facebook and Twitter can now provide on mobile and its paints 2012 as a very potent year for these two disciplines to really collide. The trend now, as Virgin Media’s Stewart suggests, will need to move into the more corporate and mainstream sphere, with offers and geo-located deals as a likely way for these brands to enter from.

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