This year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona — the most expansive wireless telecom show in the world — highlighted the impact social computing and entertainment is making in wireless. While WOM marketers and PR pros may be inclined to dismiss marketing as a holy grail that’s never been achieved, they’d be wise to keep close tabs. Things are moving fast.
Of particular importance: most global internet users access the Internet through their phones, not more expensive compurters. Operators are moving towards a flat rate data package between $20-$40 a month in an effort to augment their voice revenues. To get subscribers to adapt data, mobile operators are doing everything in their power to push data applications like video, social networks and local search to the handset.
As a a result, we are seeing a new wave of dynamic handsets and applications from many manufacturers. New players are creating social networks, and mega Internet players like Apple and Google are trying to get into the game. It’s exciting, and you cannot help but sense the exciting optimism from attendees as they approach this immediate, wide open opportunity. Of course with new media adoption, comes new media marketing.
Here are my three big takeaways from this show for marketers:
1) Local search is here. There were several companies taking advantage of white and yellow page directories mashed up with social ratings AND maps from Tele-Atlas, Google Maps and Nokia’s Navteq. Thanks to GPS chips getting added to many handsets on the market, navigation is already making huge strides.
Next up is socializing location… and adding local advertising. Google is already serving up GPS and cell-site driven ads in Europe. U.S. operators are a barrier in the U.S., but the capability is available. It’s only a matter of time now.
2) Social networks for mobile are coming fast and heavy. Operators are not thrilled with Facebook and MySpace’s approach to social networking and the lack of revenue it creates. As a result, they are actively exploring for more local and geographically specific solutions that they can have more influence in. A flurry of networks are launching, and some are succeeding ( a full report on individual networks will be featured on Now Is Gone tomorrow morning). That means marketers will need to get ready for mobile social marketing.
3) Carriers vs. Handset Manufacturers vs. Internet Services. The big fight between operators, manufacturers and content providers for subscribers’ minds and dollars is intense. When carriers win this, you end-up with backwards markets like the U.S. As the battle proceeds, so does innovation. More than anything this power struggle is the greatest barrier to mobile social media.
Again, mobile social media and local search are not an immediate trends. This is particularly true for American marketers who can enjoy another year or two of status quo thanks to our backwards wireless carriers. But don’t be surprised to see more and more energy and headlines driven to the handset… Literally.