One of the more interesting mobile media trends we may see more of this year is mobile social networking. Simply put, that means the ability for one person to connect with another via a mobile phone or other device while on the go. Think of your cell phone saying “hello” to another cell phone within a certain geographic proximity, based on identified shared interests on publicly available profiles.
Typically one must sign up for or opt in to a service designed for this purpose, set up a profile, and make one’s cell phone available via wireless technologies like GPS or bluetooth so that one phone using the same mobile social networking service can “detect” another. If I put “French Poodles” in my profile, for example, I could detect or be detected by another user with “French Poodles” in their profile as we pass each other on the street. We then have the option of connecting directly or sharing information virtually.
Mobile social networking is not new. Services like Dodgeball and Meetro that provide alerts to friends within a given geographic location have been around for a couple of years, and companies like Nokia have been experimenting with it for longer than that. But as social networking moves from the desktop to the mobile device, more services are emerging to connect strangers with shared interests – following the same pattern of social networking that has occured on the Web. But what makes mobile social networking fueled by Mobile Social Software (MOSOSO) a tad more interesting, is the return of social networking back to the physical world.
One of the most intriguing questions at the heart of on-the-go social networking is whether or not people will tend to engage more or less in the real world than they do with online social networking platforms like Myspace and Facebook? Online social networking is “safe” in the sense that you don’t need to look a person in the eye or face the immediate possibility of doing so. Text messaging, while mobile, is also done from a distance.
With mobile social networking that allows you to engage strangers in the real world, interactions become more risky and less controlled. One wonders whether such services, if/when they reach critical mass, will also become too distracting. Imagine running down the street late to a meeting and getting bombarded with messages from interested singles nearby wanting to chat or have coffee. (You should be so lucky ;-). Here’s a good review of current mobile social networking platforms that talks about why many haven’t really taken off.
But If services like Twitter are any indication, mobile distractions will become increasingly socially acceptable. And there is always the opt out choice for those who hate uninitiated interactions on the fly.
At the end of the day, and likely by the end of the year, I bet you an iPhone we will be seeing alot more mobile social networking. The technology and services are getting better and more easy to use. Most importantly, as the shift to everything mobile and local contintues, and as we become more comfortable with our smart devices doing the connecting for us, mobile social networking is likely to boom.