Mobile Web 2.0: Gen Y Embraces Mobile Social Networks

Where does your company need to be to reach Gen Y? On their smartphones: The number of people using phones to access mobile social networks should jump from 210 million users today to 975 million in 2012, according to new research.

Correction: Due to inaccurate information originally provided by In-Stat, the number of people the research firm expects to use mobile social networks in 2008 has been changed from 525 million to 210 million.

People born between the years of 1981 and 2000, or "millenials," are leading the move to mobile social networks and Mobile Web 2.0, which includes cell-phone-based blogging, multimedia sharing, location-based socialization services, gaming and chat, according to new research.

Five major types of mobile social networks dominate the landscape, according to market research firm In-Stat, which released the report:

  • SMS Messaging Networks

  • Friend/Community Networks

  • Personal Content Networks (Photos and Blogging)

  • Location-Based Social Networks

  • Dating Networks

The total number of global mobile social network users will jump from 210 million this year to 975 million in 2012, says In-Stat Wireless Analyst Jill Meyers, who authored the report, released yesterday.

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With the worldwide smartphone market expected to expand by more than 30 percent each year through 2012, it's not surprising that global usage of mobile social networks and other Mobile Web 2.0 technologies, many of which require Internet-enabled smartphones, is predicted to rise accordingly. (Mobile Web 2.0 technologies include social networking sites and applications optimized for use on mobile devices, blog services, photo and video sharing sites and programs, location-based socialization services and more, In-Stat says.)

This rapid uptake of mobile social networking will lead to a boost in associated advertising revenue, which will equal $1.5 billion in the United States in 2008, according the report. But that increase may not be as large as one might expect, Myers says. Myers doesn't expect related revenue to grow nearly as fast as the number of mobile social network users.

"[Revenue] probably won't be much higher than $2.2 billion [in the United States] by 2012," she says. "Social networking advertising hasn't been doing as well as expected. This is not to say that the potential is not there -- it is. I think the problem so far is that there isn't an effective way to measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns and that the advertisements being run on social networking sites aren't particularly relevant for the market they are reaching. "

Juniper Research, another technology market research firm, estimates the total global market for all Mobile Web 2.0 in 2008--including mobile social networking/user generated content, mobile search and mobile IM--will be around $5.5 billion. That number is expected to grow more than 400 percent to $22.4 billion in 2013, according to a report published by Juniper this month.

A few examples of existing mobile-specific social networking sites are ZYB, MocoSpace and Mig 33. Social network leader Facebook also offers a mobile application for popular smartphones like the iPhone and BlackBerry, as does Twitter.

And as Facebook and Twitter's popularity with business users demonstrates, mobile Web 2.0 is not restricted to consumer use. IBM also recently announced that its Lotus Connections blogging and social network software for enterprises will run on BlackBerry smartphones.

Currently, the largest markets for Mobile Web 2.0 are the Far East and China, Western Europe and North America, Juniper says. However, significant growth is expected over the coming years in developing regions like India, South America, Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the remaining parts of Asia, with these regions collectively eclipsing the current leaders by 2014, according to Juniper.

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