What role will mobile play in the future of social networks?

I published my first report on mobile social networks 2 years ago (see here) at a time when Facebook audience was "only" around 50 million unique monthly visitors. At that time MySpace was a paid-for and exclusive experience on Vodafone-Live and Bebo was about to launching a mobile version. Needless to say lots has happened in the last 2 years.

Numerous acquisitions and parternships took place between the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, Hyves and with handset manufacturers / mobile operators. Several mobile-only communities (AirG, peperonity, itsmy.com, buzzcity...) have gained traction and there is plenty of innovation in that space. INQ generated lots of media coverage and interest by lauching its so-called "Facebook phone" and plans to launch new devices. I am not sure what the latest Facebook mobile stats are but not that long ago rougly 10% of the worldwide installed base of FB users had registered to the mobile version. Even more significantly, the GSMA announced a few months ago that UK mobile consumers who access Facebook via their mobile phone spend, on average, 24 minutes on the site daily, just shy of the 27.5 minutes that PC-based Internet users spend daily on Facebook; mobile users of Facebook average 3.3 visits per day versus 2.3 visits per day from PC users.

Facebook mobile

It is not clear yet who is best positioned to tap into consumers’ social address books but it is quite clear mobile phones offer a great potential as they are not only communication devices but increasingly consumption and creation tools.

I have plenty of questions and would be curious to know your thoughts. Feel free to contribute to the questions below my letting your own comments below:

- Is it just a question of who will control the social address book? I tend to believe it is (see a former post on this here)

- By easy sharing and integration, can mobile phones become the hub of social networking? - Is it key to control the core technologies (APIs and web services that use them)?

- Is there a future for mobile-only communities? Aren't itsmy.com and others overhyped in Europe?

- How will mobile be part of the social graph?

- What are the most innovative ways to connect people and to enhance social networks?

- Aside from increasing data demand and traffic, how can social networks help mobile operators?

- How can mobile operators and handset manufacturers control or facilitate mobile social network ecosystems?

- What types of business models will emerge around mobile social computing?

 

I am planning some new European research on this theme to try to answer these questions and plan to interview lots of stakeholders. If you want to discuss this or if you want to set up a briefing, please contact me at thusson AT forrester DOT com.