When researching my post last week on mobile social networking, I canvassed several industry bigwigs to get their views on how well the likes of MySpace and Bebo would translate to mobile. Helpfully, Gmail chose to file the response from Angel Gambino, VP of commercial strategy and digital media at MTV Networks UK & Ireland, in the spam folder. It’s not as if she mentioned viagra or offered to transfer a huge sum of money from a deposed dicator into my account either.
Anyway, her answers are interesting, so I wanted to put them up. MTV recently launched its own user-generated service, MTV Flux, so the company has a direct interest in the evolution of social networking, including its transition to mobile. Read on to see what Angel had to say.
Social networking is primarily about communicating, so social networking translates well to mobile. Communication is still the primary use of mobile handsets. Mobile is also a highly personal screen, so the personalisation and self-expression common to many social networking sites is a natural fit with mobile as well. Whether these brands can maintain their current growth or can translate their growth trajectory in mobile is an entirely different matter.
The simplicity of Bebo is a great driver of its success. However, people who use Bebo are very young. Our research indicates that audiences of their demographic prefer free services. Bebo is free for now, but unless they are effective at working with mobile network operators and aggregators to create better bundled lower tariff services this demographic may not be as attracted to Bebo on mobile as it may be viewed as too expensive.
Will they dominate the mobile social networking space, or will they face stiff competition from mobile start-ups, or even the operators?
Flirting and dating has fuelled the growth of MySpace and other social networking sites. The mobile social networking sites that are successful so far are explicitly dating and flirting services, so there is potential for these brands in this space.
What challenges will they face?
Moblogging is already a phenomenon amongst niche audiences and is becoming mainstream. It will be quite a leap in understanding for existing pure online social networking sites to become successful at social networking on mobile as it requires different technology, different features and different behaviour patters. If some brands choose to use the mobile purely as a publishing tool initially, then while they build experience and audiences they have a better chance at sustainable success.
With MTV Flux, we’re enabling Fluxers to get their personal avatar on their mobiles and to communicate to other Fluxers on the TV or on the PC via their mobiles. We’re also making it easy for them to upload text, images, photos and videos to their profiles via mobile. We’ve seen some healthy usage so far and some truly creative content being shared by Fluxers.