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Mobile, social networking: A two-for-one punch?

Businesses finally understand the benefits of social networking and the advantages of mobile marketing.

Getting them to accept the two as a one package deal may be a bit tougher, though.

"Teens are the early adopters of mobile social networking because they tend to have more time on their hands," said Catherine Brown, director of enterprise social networking at Dotster Inc., Vancouver.

With the launch of Facebook Mobile and Myspace Mobile comes the realization that not only can marketers reach communities of similar people, with comparable interests, but they can do it through the most personal device: the mobile phone.

House of gab
Social networks are where consumers gather to share information, pictures and just be in a comfortable environment.

Many businesses have built social networks or mini communities within a tab on their site.

"The mobile social networking revolution is expanding beyond the youth market," Ms. Brown said.

Mobile social activity started out as a youth-driven phenomenon with popular sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Friendster. Social networking is now filtering into all age groups and has made its way onto mobile phones.

Businesses of all sizes are beginning to understand the major benefits of social networking and are readily adopting this essential communications and marketing tool to proactively reach consumers and customers on-the-go.

Businesses are now engaged in social networking via various services including LinkedIn, Dotster Connect and other enterprise social networking platforms.

Marketers from a wide array of markets are bringing social networking into the mainstream and using the strength of this valuable communications platform to reach consumers and potential customers.

Cases in point:, a fusion of social networking, social media and hip hop culture made popular by the rapper T.I.,, which caters to a targeted fan base of country music lovers who want to meet fellow fans who also share similar musical and life interests and Capstone Cellars winery.

These companies have built social networks right into the tabs of their existing Web sites and have given the online social communities mobile functionality to further cater to consumers.

Companies can look at the conversations going on within their business' community pages to segment consumers in terms of interest.

But don't for one minute think that all social networkers are the same.

Mobile social networkers are very different from those on the Web.

Mobile social networkers are checking into their accounts during the down-time of their day. They have less time and need to get to where they are going fast and without interruptions.

Ads catered to these social networkers should reflect their mobile mindset.

Savvy marketers have already realized the potential of monitoring these communities and serve targeted ads to them, promoting their own products.

I got what you want
Consumers tend to use social networks, whether online or mobile, to connect to friends and people. They talk to one another about their interests, likes, dislikes and needs.

Facebook and MySpace use this data to sell ad space to brands.

For example, a girl who changes her Facebook status to "engaged," may be served ads about wedding gowns, tuxedo rentals, limousine services and photography packages.

The same is true for Facebook Mobile.

According to Informa Telecoms, 50 million U.S. mobile users, or 2.3 percent of consumers are using a mobile phone for social networking.

The drivers of online social networks are evident. People want to stay connected, among other things.

But how does a business go about driving consumers to its social community micro site?

"You need to provide good content like trend related stuff," Ms. Brown said. "Consumers have to feel like you are being of service to them. Provide them a benefit and fresh content."

Also, a bit of marketing is needed.

"Your site, mobile site, all Web properties need to advertise the fact that you offer consumers the option of joining a community of people who all have something in common," Ms. Brown said.