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Mobile Social Networking A Big Fat Failure So Far?

Despite the online popularity of Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook, a recent study shows that 93% of mobile users fail to access their social networking sites from their mobile phones. I fall into the small percentage of people who use their mobile phones for social networking pretty much every day. Why is such a small minority networking from their phones?
Despite the online popularity of Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook, a recent study shows that 93% of mobile users fail to access their social networking sites from their mobile phones. I fall into the small percentage of people who use their mobile phones for social networking pretty much every day. Why is such a small minority networking from their phones?U.K.-based market research company ICM Research conducted a study earlier this year on the usage of mobile phones for various purposes other than making phone calls. The results shed some interesting light on trends in behavior, especially regarding social networking.

It reports, "The main aim of the survey was to examine the degree to which Internet users accessed, or were interested in accessing, social networking sites via mobile devices, mainly by the mobile phone but also by other handheld devices."

It polled some 700+ people on the phone to get at the crux of the matter. It found that "while 43% of Internet users with a mobile phone and/or handheld devices used them at some point to access e-mails and the same percentage used them to access Web sites, only 24% used them for ever accessing social networking sites." Only 7%, however, use their mobile phones to check social networking sites every day.

Age definitely plays a role here. Younger users (aged 18-24) were far more apt (20% of the 7%) to make use of their phones' social networking capabilities.

When asked what is preventing them from mobile social networking, fully 81% of respondents said they simply weren't interested, even if there was no cost involved. Other factors playing a role are screen size, an issue for 42% of people, and the lack of a keyboard, cited by 37% of people as a reason to ignore social networks on their phones.

Even with these roadblocks standing in the way of adoption, ICM Research says there is hope for the future of mobile social networking. It says:


• If a quarter of Internet users are already accessing social networking sites with their mobile phones, this shows an interest in this service.

• If the cost barrier is reduced, it looks as if that interest will increase, not only among those currently using mobile phones and handheld devices for remote access but also among those who do not yet do this.

• At the moment, the people interviewed do not think that having this remote access will substantially alter the timing of when they access social networking sites.

• While many currently access those sites anytime, a roughly equal number do so in the social time of the evening.

• About a fifth are quite active on their social networking sites in terms of uploading images and using other applications, which for a relatively new Internet service is nevertheless impressive.

• It may not be as integrated into people's lives as e-mail, but after just a few years of existence as a service, a quarter of those with social networking sites thought that loss of access mattered, a half of those, clearly the committed ones, thought that it would ruin their day.

I would add that the ability to reach social networking sites from mobile phones is still a fairly new capability. Given the penetration of mobile e-mail, over time, mobile social networking will catch up.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing