Another Social Media Reality Check

Last year about this time I was preparing to lead a discussion at the newly founded UnSummit in Minneapolis. To inspire conversation about the realities of social media and it’s use I decided to send a brief survey to my social community. No, not the social media “crowd” I run with as part of RemainComm and other projects in which I’m involved. I mean my social circle. Those “real” people that live their lives much more off-line than on.

As the UnSummit became a year old and another event took shape this year, it seemed to make sense to revisit the topic. 2009, thanks to media coverage, saw the meteoric rise of Twitter and the domination of Facebook it seemed like a good idea to see if the everyday Joe had changed their habits. So, with a few modifications, I dutifully sent off the survey to the same group of friends, neighbors and acquaintances. I got darn near the same number of respondents (26 vs 27 last year) from which to crunch and analyze data. As I said last year. I’m sure my researcher friends could poke all sorts of holes in the methodology. The data should not to be construed as scientific. It isn’t meant to be. It is simply a vehicle to use to fuel discussion and I thought you might find it interesting. I’ll touch on some highlights here, but you can also download a PDF.

As I said, the age of my respondents was almost identical as last year with nearly 90% falling between 35 and 54 years old. Yep, still my peeps. There was also slight difference in computer access with a home some home computers being replaced by a laptop form year to year.

A more meaty graph shows the awareness and use of the many social media tools out there.

Note from year to year the increase in use of sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Also note that while Twitter increases in awareness, it’s still not widely used. Of course, it had zero use last year, so it is making in-roads. I think we can chalk that one up to Oprah. Overall, these folks are starting to get involved but are not really enamored with the less literally social functions like bookmarking.

This year I decide to abandon the blog use analysis in favor of the mobile space. That is more a reflection of the audience I was sharing it with at UnSummit than any other reason.

I started with finding out what considerations people took into account when buying a mobile device. As an aside, I approached this question with the educated assumption that real people call them cell phones and are less hip to terms like Smartphone or hansdset. (See, not scientific) If it fits in my pocket and makes calls, it’s a cellphone. Text messaging, web access, email, etc. are features of that cellphone.

On a scale of one to five here is what was most important when it comes to buying cell phone.

Like me, you probably noticed that it’s all about the price and provider. In our discussion we came to the conclusion that “provider’ most likely implied coverage area. (Again, that non-scentific part.) You’ll also see that apps are not a deciding factor and video is the least of their concerns.

You can also see that this group is concerned about text messaging and that is confirmed in the amount of texting they do now. Those that send 20-50 texts a week more than doubled from year to year.

Finally, I was curious to see if my respondents knew their phone very what kind it is. As an aside, less than a third knew the exact model of their phone.

You can see that though it seems like all you hear about is that the iPhone is sweeping the nation, ot everyone has popped for one.

So, as I said last year, it’s vital to remember that while you may be an adopter of social media and are watching episodes of Glee on your mobile device, most are texting on their cell phones.


MMS, SMS, and M&M’s

As part of a project that I’m working on, I’ve been spending
a bit of time in the world of mobile and cell phones. While clicking around the
ether I became curious about what was going to be the next big thing. That
actually led me to start wondering, if there is a “next big thing” what will it
mean for past big things, specifically SMS, or as you and I know it, text

I’ve always been a fan of Steve Smith at Mobile Insider so,
what the heck, I’ll pose the question to him. That question, “What’s next for SMS?”  More specifically, will it remain just a way to talk without using voice or
paper and a way to vote for your favorite Dancing With the Stars
couple or will it become more or…for that matter…less?

Steve’s response was quite simple, “I don’t think that text is going anywhere. Until the carriers get MMS
cross-carrier compatible and alter user habits, they have nothing that is so
compatible, easy, familiar and ubiquitous for users.” This is point that I have
addressed in the past. The massive need for The Easy Button as it pertains to
using a new tool is paramount.

Steve goes on to
say that familiarity and ease is also important. “A lot of people, especially
younger ones, prefer the curt, uncomplicated mode of communication of the SMS
environment.” He continues, “One thing we didn’t anticipate when it comes to
digital communications is how much less is more for a lot of people.” In the
last week, in playing with a new mobile application and juggling the
bowling balls involved in accessing it, I thought, “Texting this would be so much easier.” It’s like my fondness for chocolate; for me, even with all the fancy candy
out there, nothing beats a bag of M&M’s. I know them, I can get them anywhere, and their cheap…easy.

Of course, I’m
always looking for the monetization of our communication and Steve commented, “I
think SMS will remain the main revenue driver for the (mobile) carriers when it
comes to data and a primary trigger for initiating off-deck relationships with
users. It isn’t going anywhere because people like it, know it and have no viable
alternative on the horizon. Everything else is R&D and nice technologies to
wait-and-see with, but nothing even remotely challenges SMS.”

So with that said,
here’s the challenge; how do we push the capabilities of mobile farther without
making it too complicated. What is the next need for mobile users (“almond M&M’s”) and more
importantly, how can we satisfy it simply? Then, who will pay for it? This
platform offers so much let’s not waste it…at the same time, let’s not abuse
it. The users deserve and will demand it.