Earlier today I wrote about the LinkedIn Mobile announcement, but I have to confess that I’m not a big mobile app user myself. I use my cell phone for one thing and one thing only — voice conversation, and generally as little of that as possible.
So I asked my business partner and coauthor Jay Deragon for his thoughts on the big picture implications. Here’s what he had to say:
The Human Network Is a Mobile Network
Online and mobile markets have been converging to enable people to do more wherever they are and through whatever device they use. Consider what is happening in the telecommunications industry. Mobile devices have advanced to the point of enabling users to watch live and on demand broadcast, receive emails, surf the net and now the fastest growing mobile applications are aimed at social networking. Mobile devices have a shelf life of six months only to be replaced by a newer version having increased functionality. Information and communications technologies are advancing faster than ever before.
Wireless industry giants aren’t sitting still either. Since last year Facebook began allowing users of Cingular, Sprint Nextel (S), and Verizon Wireless to receive friend requests on phones and reply via short text messages (SMS). Last year, the world’s largest cell phone maker, Nokia (NOK), said planned multimedia phones will come integrated with Flickr, allowing users to post photos shot with their mobiles onto the Flickr site with one click. “Virtually every online social network application is going to have a mobile component over the next year or two,” said Jill Aldort, an analyst with the Yankee Group, in BusinessWeek in 2006.
While the youth market has driven the wireless SMS messaging adults and businesses are finding more and more wireless applications as useful productivity tools. “Let’s face it, every professional today is carrying a wireless device,” said Dan Nye, LinkedIn CEO. “Many of these professionals are on the move, attending conferences, sales meetings and client events. Making LinkedIn available on mobile devices responds to both these business realities and will be great for our users.”
Wireless social networking could mean big bucks for the service providers that charge $5 or more a month for Web time. MySpace users spend an average of 215 minutes a month on the site. Cingular, which currently hosts four social networks — Rabble, CoolTalk, MySpace, and The Facebook — hopes to host as many of those networks as possible in the future, says David Garver, the company’s executive director for segment marketing and sponsorships. The carrier also is working to extend the number of features offered to mobile social network users. “Will social network applications be some of the biggest applications Cingular sells? Yes,” Garver says.
Much still remains to be done to smooth out the wrinkles of mobile social networks. Phones have to allow for easier typing. Carriers have to introduce more features, making mobile social networking a truly rich experience. And mobile communities may have to grow from tens of thousands of users today to millions of users.
As wireless networks matures with such features as GPS tracking, advanced multi-media features and better interfaces, professionals and business alike will become more and more dependent on “connecting with associates, suppliers and customers” on the go and instantaneously. The move by Linkedin is just the first move and we can expect many more as the “mobile network” matures and more adults adopt social networking as a main stay of doing business in the networked world. These developments support the premise of The Emergence of The Relationship Economy.