Mobile, Social, and Search. Quick hits.

In a quest to pare down my already slim posts, I’m going to fire off a couple of quick blurbs for everyone to chew on until the next post:

  • Aside from Microsoft not backing down in it’s quest to buy Yahoo, AT&T and Yahoo have entered in a multiyear deal to share revenue from advertising on Mobile phones. Yahoo will provide search and display advertising for AT&T customers. I’m shocked that Google did not get there first.
  • Speaking of Microsoft, the Wall Street Journal just cut a deal with them in which the WSJ’s paid search and contextual advertising services will be provided by Microsoft. Not to sound redundant but, I’m shocked that Google did not get there first…
  • Social media giants Facebook and Myspace will become application hubs and launch pads for niche based “smaller” social networks. Alot of this is the residual effect of Facebook opening its platform last fall.
  • Word of Mouth marketing is the new mode of marketing on the cheap. It’s also just as effective as traditional forms of marketing and has much more of a “buzz” factor.
  • Magazines drive more than 50% of online searches, followed by reading an article in a magazine and lastly by seeing something on TV.
  • According to Anderson Analytics, 32% of  the 1700 marketing executives polled cited “Green Marketing” as an important emerging concept along with it being considered the trendiest marketing buzzword.
  • The hottest demographic that you need to be marketing too, but are probably ignoring are the hispanic and baby boomers.
  • According to Informa’s latest report entitled “Mobile Social Networking: Communities and Content on the Move,” the number of mobile social networking users exceeded 50 million, approximately 2.3% of the global mobile user population on December 31st, 2007

Mobile Marketers can fail and still succeed.

Mobile advertising is projected to generate revenue somewhere between $1 billion and $24 billion within four years. However, at the moment they(analysts) still do not know which business model or marketing approach will be successful in tapping into that money.

So you’re saying,”Well how can they come up with those projections then?”  They can come up with those lofty projections the same way analysts said that one day the internet would be really really big. The upside and the potential are so great, that even those numbers are skewed on the side of conservatism.

To put it in perspective you have to understand that nearly everyone including your average 10 year old and up is now carrying a cell phone. If you want a hard number, think north of 2 billion users worldwide. With that device is the real estate to market and advertise to a captive audience. With that device and it’s associated burgeoning high speed browser comes the ability to search, use the internet or access email. Currently in the US, there are almost 35 million users of the mobile “net”. So what comes with search? contextual advertising. What comes with surfing the net? Advertising. Or using email? Get the idea?

But see that’s the easy side to marketing on a mobile device. The challenge for marketers and advertisers will be how to create stickiness not only for search results for instance but also to geotargeted results via a mobile device. In other words, how are you/they going to create the mobile call to action?

Some of the other questions will also be; How intrusive can you as a marketer be on a mobile device? Do the devices need to also have micro-java apps for pop-ups for instance? Can a marketer hone in on perhaps using SMS alternatives or opportunities until a more solid marketing platform is developed? When you think about it, it really is wide open.

The answer is yes to all of those questions, and the best part about it is the result can be a complete and utter failure and thats ok. So now you’re saying, “what do you mean it’s ok to fail?” Well it’s ok to fail because the user has no preconceived notion or expectation as to how it’s supposed to be. And because they don’t know what to expect, they will be willing to accept, for now, whatever comes down the pipe.

But marketers and their brethren will only be allowed to fail x amount of times before the user a) finds another solution that best meets and exceeds their intial expectation or b) becomes completely frustrated by the lack of performance. And trust us, they will find it. Either through another marketer letting them know that their is a better solution out there, or they will find it virally.

Until the bar is set, mobile marketers will have a grace period to get it right. The unknown is how long the grace period will be. The unknown is who will set the tone? Who will establish the way things are done in the mobile world? Because at the moment the canvass is blank and anything can be tried and ANYTHING can be successful. In the end the ultimate judge will be your average consumer, or your average 10 year old!

M-commerce will work…for Gen Y…for now.

In the next 12 to 18 months analysts predict that m-commerce revenues will reach a half a billion dollars.  Pairing that with almost 300 million wireless customers, “someone” is going to be buying something through their wireless device. The question is who is that person? Is it the Baby boomer? No, they are just becoming comfortable with their computers and shopping online. Is it the Gen X’ers? No not yet, although they will follow pretty quickly as soon as the cool and the perceptive ease of use factors rises to a palatable level.

The answer my friend lies in your Gen Y users. The 15-29 users who just so happen to be your biggest social network users as well. This is, by no means coincidental. It makes complete sense on a lot of levels but here it is in its simplest terms. This generation is so technologically saavy that buying “things” using their mobile phones is nothing more than another viable option for spending money, communicating with their friends and being in the NOW.  It’s just another way to simplify their overly simplified “Me generation” entitled lives. It is a mere blip on the landscape that is their socialized technified world.

Not to sound bitter, and if I do it’s only because this generation can embrace a new technology so easily and so seamlessley that the projections for what kind of money might be generated might be underestimating the puchasing power of this group. The only way the numbers get pushed down is by overestimating the mobile purchasing power of a 15-19 year old who might not have a credit card to complete the transaction.

Gen Y users have 2 things working in their favor as well. 1) they account for almost a 100% ownership of cell phones and 2) have a purchasing power of almost $200 billion.  Add to this the fact that this group has no problem accessing the mobile web with relative ease, and couple it with their comfort level in regards to their expectation that mobile web sites meet their demands, and you have volatile mixture of a captive audience ready to buy with expendable cash.

In the next 12-24 months, marketers, consumers and advertisers will need to look to Gen Y to call the shots in regards to usage numbers, trends, and expectations. As soon as Gen X and the Boomers see how well it works for Gen Y. Look for M-commerce to explode. Look no further than Japan for a classic example, where in the last year e-tailers rang up almost $10 billion in revenue from M-commerce sales.

7 Social Media/Tech Trends to look for in 2008

By now I’m sure everyone is accutely aware of the social networking/media phenomenon that has transformed everyone’s  old school web experience into a transparent user generated virtual world. Look for that to evolve even more in the coming months and year(s) The more that social media works its way into the fabric of our everyday lives, look for more far reaching and useful applications that hopefully have more significant value and meaning then posting pics of the drunkfest you went to over the weekend

 So having said that, the first term to wrap your arms around in the new year is:

User Generated Content– Look for this to be dumbed down(see simplified) even more, to the extent that eventually everyone will have a web bio/resume/personal page devoted to who they are, what they are about, and all the gritty little details of their life. Almost like a web based  drivers license. Our lives will be even more transparent than they already are, thanks to the tools that social networks will be providing.

Quest for Cool-The demographic of 12-24 year olds will push itself into more social relevence than it has at any other time in the history of pop culture. Because of the ease in which content can be pushed out to the masses, this demo, which otherwise would normally go through these years unnoticed, now can grab the status, the fame, recognition, and justification for social relevence that now accompany social networks. The quest for Me branding has never been more prevalent.

Individualistic Saturation– One of the offshoots of this “20 megs of stardom” instead of 15 minutes of fame, will be that we as a digital society will grow weary of tired content, quickly. In other words, as quickly as someone can rocket to digital stardom, they can, equally as fast, fall back to earth and fade into “Bolivian”-to quote Mike Tyson. This can be attributed to our homgenization of all things related to media. We need our content quick and to the point; and the minute we think it’s bogging us down, has grown tiresome, or has ceased to be entertaining, we are off to find the next great big thing.–>See William Hung.

The Age of Reinvention and Redefinition-With so many ways in which one can create alt-personas, we will hurdle faster towards an age in which there is the digital persona, the off-line persona and the “real-you”. What social media has done has given us a completely new set of “friends” that one can hang with and thus, this is the pack that people will be running with when they are online. Because of the intense focus of all things media driven, this will lead to people who will extend and break the boundaries and barriers of social acceptance. This will ultimately cause us as a society to redefine the terms,”social acceptance, social values, social morals,  and social ettiquite.

The EIAV Phenomenon– The Everyone is a Videographer phenomenon has changed the landscape of acceptable video content. What used to be taboo now has it’s own portal. What used to be objectionable is now made into a low budget high grossing movie released on 120 screens nationwide.  Everyone is capable of filming anything and uploading it to social sites worldwide in a matter of minutes. This cottage industry will continue to boom as it is  now easier for someone to film something and upload it versus writing about it. This has also led to the drive for fame through one doing something so mundane as filming oneself doing absolutely nothing.

MOSO- Mobile Social-Look for the boom of social networks tied to mobile networks. As it has slowly started to happen, watch for the big players to  rapidly start to crank out  more user friendly interfaces and applications on mobile devices that will  converge with high speed networks, resulting in keeping social media freaks engaged with their social networks at all times. An advertisers dream, this will further solidify the mobile device as the most important devleopment since..well the internet!

Search Explodes– As Google continues to swallow up all aspects of what drives the user expereince online, look for search to become more integrated into how one conducts or initiates any type of online endeavor. What has happened and will continue to happen is that the re-emergance of the portal will become relevant again.  As we get closer to the launch of the “G-phone”, be prepared for a massive push towards a mobile-social-search environment that will redefine portability and world wide exposure to all things global.

I said 7 but one more merits mentioning:

S-Commerce– As social networks continue to expand and grow at exponential rates, look for their to be more creative ways for users and advertisers to push products that are niche like in their importance and acceptance to the users. I have written about this before, so for reference, look to Lemonade.com

There is certainly more to discuss in the coming months but, for now  lets work off of these 7 and see what else is under the hood. Is there a glaring omission here? Please feel free to contribute your thoughts. Certainly, we should not igonore how we as a digital culture need to address the oil shortage, creating a more eco-friendly environment, homelessness, world hunger, genocide, corrupt politicians and Britney Spears, but for now we will continue to focus on the biggest sea change in the online world since the advent of… well the internet.

Social Networks cutting deals left and right with mobile carriers

As was previously stated in earlier entries, something had to give in the wonderfully bloated world of social networks. It actually has been in play for awhile but, lo and behold, mobile carriers are realizing that the next big thing for their continued world dominance will be the melding of social networks with mobile carriers. Thus the following news doesn’t really surprise me:

 MySpace Mobile to be Packaged with Sprint

Fox Interactive Media and Sprint have hooked up to offer MySpace and other FIM properties to mobile customers. Under the deal, MySpace will come as a default option on Sprint’s mobile portal, meaning that the site can be accessed directly as opposed to typing in a URL (in this case, mobile.myspace.com).

sprintCurrently in beta, MySpace Mobile will launch officially early next year. Other FIM properties included in the deal are IGN, FOXSports, Photobucket, Rotten Tomattoes, and AskMen.

Why is this important? Because the users of social networks use something even more frequently than their respective social network. Namely, their cell phone.  So the thinking is; If you can pair the 2 digital beasts, then you have a match made in marketing heaven. A captive audience 24/7/365. Now this comes on the heels of the announcement in October that:

O2 Partners with MySpace and Facebook for Mobile access in the UK

o2_logo.gif

O2, the UK mobile operator,  announced partnerships with MySpace and Facebook, giving its users access to these social networks from their mobile devices.

This partnership provides  MySpace and Facebook users, access to their profiles pages for viewing and editing via their cell phone or hand held device. Granting mobile access to the major social networks is another way in which consumers, especially in the teen and college demographic can stay engaged with not only their social groups but also with advertisers and marketers. Virgin, Nokia and Sprint have all gone this route as well.  O2 already has a deal with Apple for exclusive sales of the iPhone in the UK.

And this comes in from the vapor trail of a July announcement in which:

Sprint Nextel had announced two new services  which enabled users to access social networking sites, and let customers locate each other using GPS technology.

Providing better browsing options for access to social networking sites such as Xanga, Rabble and LiveJournal meant that users would now have more reason to use mobile browsing and stay better connected with friends.  Partnering with Loopt, Sprint Nextel is also allowing users to geo-locate one another via GPS, within another private network of friends.

The only sticking point with all of these announcements is that there is still the speed issue that all of the carriers and the respective social networks seem to be ignoring. Granted the iphone seems to have all the speed you need with their Safari browser, but not everyone can go out and afford an iphone. Having said that, what is the 15-18 year old supposed to do with the free phone their parents got them that can only text 50 times a month, supposed to do?

It’s too soon to tell, but don’t think that we’re the only ones who have mentioned it, or have thought about it. The bottom line is this: That the social networks know that a key to their survival will be extending the social network beyond the confines of the home/bedroom. Until they do that, like I said, They’ll all eventually end up standing around staring at each other saying, “Now what?”

The “real” Cyber Monday…was December 10th.

According to the Atlas Institute, which has analyzed online transaction data over the past 7 years, the “real” cyber Monday , or busiest online shopping day of the year would have been December 10th. For the past 7 years the Atlas Institute has observed a number of online shopping patterns with the most obvious being that online shopping peaks in the weeks leading up to Christmas, there is a period of depressed sales immediately before Christmas, and most online shopping occurs on Mondays and Tuesdays during business hours.

For instance in 2006, the busiest online shopping day was Monday December 11th, which recorded activity 89% above average. The following Monday, December 18th, recorded the second highest online shopping volume during the season; and the last Monday before Christmas, with adequate shipping time, had also established itself as a strong day for online sales. This would make sense, as this is the last day that online shoppers feel they can order and expect their purchases to arrive on time.

Interestingly enough, after the second monday in December, online shopping starts to dramatically decline until Christmas day. Which begs the question, the Atlas Institute says; What are online marketers doing after this date? and what should they be doing differently to counteract this?

The bottom line is that retailers, advertisers and online marketers need to essentially gear the months of November and December towards Christmas. They need to concentrate their efforts on Mondays and Tuesdays and from the hours of 8am to 4pm. And They also need to make sure that their sites, are intuitive, easy to understand, easy to shop, easy to checkout and they damn well better deliver those packages before December 25th!

Mobile Marketing by the numbers

As if you needed a reason to pull your head out of the sand other than to breathe, you might want to consider what will be happening with mobile marketing within the next 4 years. According to a recent study by the Kelsey Group, the US mobile ad market will grow from it’s current level of $32 million to $1.4 billion. That’s Billion.

This can be attributed to some obvious trends that swirl in, out and around the online world as we know it right now. In other words, there will come a point where online ad spending will become saturated to the point that it levels off and marketers and advertisers will be looking ( as if they have not already targeted) new ways to reach consumers. Look no further than the next frontier. Mobile devices. Picture if you will Vegas, about 50 years ago.  Now look at Vegas today. Now, multiply the speed of growth of the mobile marketing industry and compartmentalize that into 4 years.

Additionally, advertisers and marketers can look to the mobile universe as a place where they can see growth exponentially. Why? where else can they grab their dempgraphic, know everything there is to know about them and then target an ad directly to them based on the data? Why? because mobile and search will be walking down this aisle hand in hand. Believe me, Google knows this, Microsoft knows this and they are doing everything they can to prepare for it. If you don’t believe me just look towards the G phone. A Google phone. What does Google do best? Search.  How does Google make money? Paid search. So now they will have a phone thats best feature will be it’s ability to search. And what will you see while searching? Paid advertising. Thank you.

So if you’re asking who the players will be in the next 4 years, you don’t have to look any further than Google, Microsoft and Apple for obvious reasons and the usual players in the carrier industry. If you want to see this burgeoning new market in play right now, then all you have to do is look to Japan. Japan is in play. If a marketer wants to get their feet wet and prepare themselves for what will happen here in the US as well as the UK, then Japan would be a good test since they are accustomed to mobile marketing as an accepted form of advertising.

So is this an emerging market? No. We are beyond that. It has emerged, just not here, not yet. In the same breath, we are behind as well.  Hard to believe I know, but watch what happens within the next 4 years. You will see the emergence and convergence of devices and media like you have never seen before.