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Mobile social computing not an extension of desktop: Forrester analyst

The combination of Web-based social networks such as Facebook and Yahoo Inc.'s flickr offering mobile capabilities with the pervasive use of mobile phones by young consumers will lead to the inevitable: a surge in mobile computing.

That analysis, from Forrester Research analyst Vidya Lakshmipathy, is the centerpiece of a new study called "Social Computing Goes Mobile." The research unearthed five types of mobile social technologies: mobile social networking, media-sharing environments, microblogging, social mapping services and mobile tagging. Expect all five to change social networking on mobile in 2008.

Ms. Lakshmipathy advises against treating mobile social computing as an extension of the desktop version. Marketers are also behind the consumer in this trend, she points out to Mobile Marketer's Mickey Alam Khan.

The interview:

What's the key finding of the study?
Mobile social computing is becoming an interesting and viable way to reach young consumers, but both designers and marketers need to know how to design these services right, or risk alienating already picky consumers.

Is mobile social computing simply an extension of computer-based social computing? Or should it be treated differently?
Mobile social computing is not just an extension of computer-based social computing.

In fact, the most successful forms of mobile social computing will leverage the mobile element by providing added value to users that are away from their desktops but will leverage the desktop -- most likely their Web sites or networks from more established sites -- to provide a more usable interface for users to do the more heavy lifting like creating their network, editing large amounts of content, etc.

Are users leading the push toward mobile social computing or are social networks such as Facebook or flickr?
It's a little of both at this point. Both the social computing and mobile trends are growing independently and it took a while for both consumers and companies to connect the two.

Users are going to be increasingly looking for their social networks through their mobile phone, so its provides a lot of opportunity for companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, etc., to provide users both with mobile access to their desktop social networks, but also go above and beyond that by providing valuable mobile services and features.

Who are the typical mobile social networkers?
The primary mobile social networkers are Gen Y or younger Gen Xers. They have mobile phones, text frequently, use mobile data and are active with social networking.

Gen Yers seem more active with mobile social networking sites like Facebook Mobile or MocoSpace, while the younger Gen X also use social mapping and tagging as a way to stay connected to their friends and local information.

How can social networks monetize this mobile social networking trend?
The most common ways right now are advertising and premium SMS, where users pay a fee for specific content sent to them by SMS. In addition, some sites charge a fee for services.

Are marketers prepared for this phenomena?
Not at all. There are plenty of creative ways to reach younger consumers using these new mobile social technologies.

For example, marketers can provide channels on Socialight. The key will be to provide specific, valuable content to mobile users without bombarding them with ads or information they don't want or need on their mobile phone. Consumers are already less trusting of advertising and infiltrating their personal space if done incorrectly could easily drive them away.

Reach Ms. Lakshmipathy at .

This article appeared in Mobile Marketer's Mobile Outlook 2008 . It is saved in the Classic Guides section on . Please click here to download the PDF file.