“Social” and “Mobile” Commerce is coming of age

I have been getting back into the world of “Social” since returning from my trip and was questioned by my friends as to why I had not been very “Social” online whilst I’d been travelling. When the phone operators finally sort out offering some decent rates for mobile internet connections I will be one of the first converts but unfortunately the phone rates alone were £1.80 per minute from South America and I needed a break anyway.

For those who have been able to take advantage of wi-fi zones whilst on the move there have been some interesting developments. I read in Wired this(1) week that mobile use of Facebook has now climbed to 200 million members which is a staggering 40% of their base and it’s interesting to see which fans are using which platform (Android, iphone etc.) when they make a comment. I’m just waiting for Facebook to share that aggregate data with us so we can prioritise which apps to build first.

A staggering statistic I also read in the same Wired article from Comscore was that Facebook already accounts for 23% of all display ad impressions in the US, compared with just 2.7% for Google. I mentioned some months ago that Search was going Social and even in the UK 1.75m users were referred from Facebook to one of the top 200 ecommerce sites in October 2010 which is about 7% of the total UK Facebook population. I noticed that Google and iphone have been busy reorganising their executive teams ready for the battle ahead with Facebook.

There are more brands now starting to realise the power of Social and my prediction is that this is the year that the Community Manager will be the person with most of the customer insight, driving the future CRM plans for the business and also sharing power with their “Customer Champions” recruited from the fan base to help drive up greater engagement levels.

However the biggest challenge is not only building the number of fans but developing engagement with them. We all know that often 95% or more are happy to lurk but not to contribute in online communities. This is why we have to innovate to find new and easy ways for them to take part in the online conversation.

Kevin Partner at PCPro(2) likens Facebook to the AOL walled garden and talks about the opportunities to build games in Facebook to achieve better engagement. There are now brands which are taking the lessons learned in the gaming world such as rewarding those who engage with the right quality of content. I can see that all the lessons learned from games such as Farmville, which has been very successful, will help to improve engagement and understanding of our customers. As Facebook has now encouraged us to make the page our homepage and to hang out within their walls I can see that major advertisers (e.g. Unilever and Proctor & Gamble) are looking at new ways to engage with their key audiences. As Kevin rightly points out we just have to remember that the walls may come down at any time restricting applications and the costs of reaching the fans within them may go up at any time.

(1) Wired UK Edition. February 2011 Commerce gets Social pg 89

(2) PCPro – Mar 2011 edition “Bring Games to Facebook” p126

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