The Explosion of Hyper-Exclusive Mobile Communities

Now three months into 2011, it’s clear that the integration of mobile, social, and geo-location is about to take off in a big way. Companies looking to further grow their online communities and conversations amongst fans have never had so many options on different types of networks and devices. In the past six months, and especially during March at SXSW, two new mobile social community categories have dominated headlines:

• Photo-Sharing
• Group Messaging

Photo Sharing

More than ever, brands are starting to realize the benefit of generating content and not just text based. Over the past six months, the biggest trend in generating content is to ensure that your brand or company is striving for context and providing value. Mobile photo sharing on iPhone and Android has never been more popular amongst smart phone users than in the last six months. Brands have found a distinct advantage in becoming part of mobile photo-sharing networks because users have fewer issues over privacy on these networks than Facebook.

Mobile photo-sharing applications don’t ask for permission to gain access to sensitive personal information such as your name, phone number, address, date of birth, etc. Instead, users around the world are free to share photos amongst their friends and other network users while also choosing to see other cool photos from anyone they choose to follow. Consumers, specifically young adults, enjoy creating a community around interesting and fascinating pieces of art, in this case, photos. Brands that have experimented with photo sharing include, Levis Brazil, San Diego Chargers, Starbucks, NPR, Brisk Iced Tea, and many others.

Depending on your industry and company, brands are using the tools to give users a “behind-the-scenes” look at their events, meetings, product development, or other things and to share with their fans. Fans of mobile photo-sharing networks seem to be interested in sharing these photos as a “cool way” to socially connect with the community. Mobile apps to watch out for are:

Color (New – Launched March 24th)

Group Messaging

The early micro-trend in 2011 is all about group messaging and the ability to create small networks of friends labeled as, for example, “Sport friends”, “Coffee Mates”, “Shopaholics”, etc. The idea that mobile apps could provide an organized, interesting, and relevant experience to keep track of micro-conversations amongst group of friends is very appealing. Brands think so too! Companies are starting to explore ways of how to use these platforms and developers are already trying to build brand incentives into their apps.

GroupMe launched “Featured Conversations” on March 28th that allows users to talk in groups of people about their favourite brands or companies (if they are featured). For instance, group conversations can happen around the Vancouver Canucks, Gap, Bon Jovi, Randy Jackson’s America’s Best Dance Crew, etc. This is just the beginning of this new category of mobile apps. Other companies that made a splash in this space at SXSW are:

BelugaAcquired by Facebook on March. 3rd
Grouped{In} – Launched at SXSW 2011
Google’s Disco – Launched March. 26th (USA only)
Fast Society – USA only right now

The future of online and mobile communities is growing significantly, but it will be interesting to see the choices companies make in the future.

Over the next two years, communities will blur or merge from larger online social networks (ie: Twitter and Facebook) to more hyper-local exclusive networks on mobile apps. Let the fun of mobile communities and user adoptions begin!

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