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The Back Deck

Our view on navigating today’s marketing landscape

20 May
2009

The Codependency Relationship Between Mobile and Social

As I sit here at Gate E2 at PDX enjoying glorious free WiFi, I hearken back 15 years ago to the days when being “mobile” was much more of a big deal. I remember one particular East Coast business trip in ‘97, when because I had to be reached remotely, my cellular phone involved a backpack-sized device and a handset the size of a smallish terrier. Fast forward to now and I’m more concerned about which new, cool application to download to my iPhone.

So, we all agree that social web is on the cusp of becoming something even bigger and more valuable to large organizations and global brands. What’s more important is how it affects each of us. Everyone is writing about the stages of social media adoption, conversations, relationships, and metrics and I can’t discount any of it – as a digital strategist it’s what I live and breathe every day. As an example, just a couple weeks ago, Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester posted his take on The Future of Social Networks.

The thing I’ve noticed the most is how everyone tends to agree with what social is becoming, but nobody wants to have opinions on what’s holding back the proverbial floodgates. If I had to point at one single thing holding us back right now, I’d say it’s mobile infrastructure. Last summer, I had the chance to briefly entertain a group of Japanese ambassadors. We talked about the current state of technology in the U.S. and Japan, specifically mobile. What became glaringly apparent is the sheer proliferation of Internet usage via handheld device in Japan. It’s not only happening in Japan, but also in Western Europe. With advancing improvements like 3G and Intel’s WiMAX 4G network, devices, operating systems, and applications will also get smarter.

When we can shoot, edit, and publish video quickly from one device; when we can sync up, beam out, capture, and create other forms of media; and, with that same device we can transact, do business, entertain ourselves with downloadable and streaming media, and most importantly, do the stuff we’ve been doing already, called “social media,” then truly the social web just becomes an extension of us. A daily accessory we automatically carry like the shoes we put on every morning. In this framework social media is the interim vehicle to continue relationships and conversations when we can’t be face-to-face. It’s something more creative, more emotional and therefore exponentially more appealing than an email or text message. Consequently, in the future we’re all going to look back on Twitter (and SMS) like a scene where Indiana Jones brushes the dust off the etchings of the Ark.

Again, in this construct there will be no excuse to be AWOL from your clients, friends and family for multiple days just because you can’t get back to your hardware. That is, of course, unless you’re leaving the grid on purpose.

So don’t worry too much about whether or not you should do something because @Oprah or @Pepsi is doing it. Worry about whether WiMax is coming to your major metropolitan area and keep abreast of the latest handheld devices coming up by grabbing RSS from Techcrunch, Wired, mobile blogs, etc.

In the meantime, I’ll be firing up Tweetie (my favorite iPhone application) and getting into the conversation; that crazy social web just might lead me to a handshake (offline).

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6 Comments

  1. avatar Julie Yamamoto says:

    There are some rather astonishing statistics out there about how sharply the data push over mobile devices and networks will increase in the coming years. The most amazing stat I recently heard is that data volume will increase more than 60x in just the next few years. With that in mind, it truly is all about infrastructure and how service providers respond.

  2. avatar Peter Kim says:

    Let’s hope that culture and society change fast enough to facilitate the shift. Despite our being in the “information age,” plenty of workers still feel pressure to sit in the same cube every weekday during the same time span as face time. It will most likely take a generational shift as managers that cut their teeth in a pre-Internet era transition out and others with new ideas and insights step in.

  3. I agree that mobile infrastructure is one thing holding us back. I think that isn’t not just the network but also the platforms. The more carriers start supporting devices that are more open to sharing all types of data the faster adoption of mobile as a extension of lifestyle will be. Too many carriers and device manufactures have a closed system mentality about photos, videos, browsers, etc. (I’m looking at you Kindle) – freeing up the sharing of media is still key.

  4. I sort of disagree, I don’t think the issue is too much data for the existing pipes, but with what we’re putting into them. I think the largest social network enhancement will be bridging offline (real) content with online information. Things like gps, facial recognition and speech recognition are really the things that will advance social networking.

  5. avatar Scott Queen says:

    Improvements to the mobile extension of Social Web are moving very slowly, but thankfully are moving. I agree with Keith Anderson’s comment that the cross platform limitations are a major hurdle. The carriers see these limitations as a competitive advantage but are trapped in legacy phone company thinking. Years ago integrated voicemail was an offering and now it is an expectation. The social media toolsets will soon be expected and the mobile carriers will have to quickly follow suit. Nice blog post Dean.

  6. avatar Dean McBeth says:

    First, thanks for all the comments! The post (post) discussion is always the biggest benefit for me; to read the opinions and start the conversation. Again, want to clarify that I’m not talking bandwidth necessarily. More so, I’m talking about the hardware and software that will enable us to do more with our hand held devices. To Peter’s point, truly be virtual when we want to (or are required to). Don’t get me wrong, I am saying that infrastructure (like WiMAX) is a part of the equation to facilitate the future. Keith and Scott’s comments about the carriers barring up the gateway to existing pipes is assuredly also valid. It will be exciting to see the evolution, especially how we handle it domestically.

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