Social Networking On Mobile Expected To Keep Growing In 2011?

Social Networking has seen a sudden boom in India during 2010. A lot of this is due to the use of social networking services through smartphones. Analysis Mason has revealed that the number of users in India who use social networking services on mobile web would reach 72 million by 2014. The major factors behind this are the receding cost of smartphones and data charges.

Smartphones running on Android are being manufactured by Indian companies also, which is allowing the price of smartphones to go down in the country. Micromax, Intex and Olive Telecom are the companies worth mentioning here. Google’s Android has revolutionised mobile communication, according to former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

To ride this growing trend, social networking companies are launching apps to make it easier for users to use their services on smartphones. LinkedIn India country manager, Hari Krishnan, said, “A new application for the Android platform from LinkedIn will provide users of this fast-growing operating system to connect with professionals on their tablets and handhelds.” Apps to access Facebook and Twitter on smartphones are galore.

But, it is not just social networking which is a major trend amongst mobile users. Mobile searching was used mostly during 2010. Informate Mobile Intelligence, a specialised telecom research agency, revealed that Indian mobile users used their smartphones more for searching than for social networking. Opera, had also revealed similar stats which showed that Google was the most used service on it’s mobile browser, Opera Mini, over Facebook.

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But, social networking still had more page views than search. Social networking accounts for a third of all page views through mobile web. Informate president, Kedar Sohoni said, “More people used the search tool on the mobile but more pages were viewed on social networking sites. In volume terms, social networking ruled 2010 among mobile Internet users in India.”

In August comScore had revealed that Facebook has become the top social network in India overtaking Orkut. Similar sentiments were reflected in Informate’s report — Facebook has around 45 percent penetration amongst Indian mobile users, while Orkut has around 20 percent. Same time last year, Facebook had just over half the number of users Orkut had.

Sohoni explains, “Over the last six months or so, Facebook has really caught up with mobile users in the country. Facebook has managed to maintain the consistency of user experience across PCs and mobile devices. People don’t want to lead different lives on the mobile phone or the PC. People are attached to brands not devices. Google has set its focus on more on brands that add to its search product. The key thrust for Google this year has been on Android to push its search market where with the tablet or even mass market devices such as the Micromax handset.”

Surprisingly, Twitter had only 5 percent penetration and stood below Mygamma and Mobiluck.

Will the advent of tablets in India change the mobile web usage trend? Sohoni says, “The tablet needs to find a niche. It will be clear in a few quarters as to how the device will be used and if it is used for browsing, whether it will be for search or social networking.” Krishnan explains, “As interfaces on handheld devices evolve to enhance user experience, communication in social and professional contexts is bound to increase over the next decade.”

How will the 3G service help the evolution of mobile web? Initially, 3G service would limited to metros and tier-I cities only. It might not be before 2012, that a considerable number of cities will be availing 3G service. Moreover, 3G data plans need to be cheap and simple to attract users. The effect of 3G on mobile browsing would definitely be there but it will be dominant only after couple of users.

Will mobile web usage change in 2011? Beerud Sheth, CEO SMSGupShup, has an answer to this, “Within social media, the most heavily used services on mobile phones will be messaging and photos. Besides social media, we will also see increased usage of other web-based services such as content, travel, commerce, education etc.”

But, Informate’s results are only for 3000 users. So, this is just a trend and not a fact. Mobile web usage in India is young but growing fast. But, Krishnan wonders, “Educating customers on web usage is a particularly unique hurdle in India — if users don’t know the benefits of using the web, how can we expect them to use the mobile web?”

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