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#NowTrending in Social Media: Geo and Q&A

August 22, 2010 Leave a comment

(Note: I’ve included a lot of hyperlinks in this post to add some context. Make sure to read them.)

There's a turf war brewing in the social media scene, and the 'mobile throne' is up for grabs.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Foursquare, the explosively popular social gaming platform based on  check-ins and badges? But did you know that Twitter, Google, Gowalla, Facebook and countless others are all fighting for the same territory? It’s true. What do these contenders have in common?

They all offer some form of geo-location-based service, which have been gaining popularity for some time now in the social media world. At a glance, it appears that each of these titans wants a shot at wearing the ‘mobile crown’.

And what about social media Q&A platforms– social sites built upon community question-and-answers, such as Formspring, Quora, Aardvark, and many more? They’re going mobile too. Aardvard and Quora have had cell-phone friendly versions for a while, and Formspring just released their mobile site a few weeks ago.

It’s clear: both geo and Q&A have been gaining steam recently in the mobile trend, and are important to the future of social media.


Why?

As the social media power players are duking it out, geo-location and community Q&A is getting bigger. Social sites and applications based on “check-ins” are quickly gaining in popularity with consumers, and it’s only naturally that businesses and advertisers are in turn responding. Social media going mobile means that ‘consumers’ are creating new opportunities for retailers and advertisers to make money. As Business Week explains about Q&A, for example:

“The attraction to business of this new flavor of search is that as users pose and answer questions, they’ll reveal more data about themselves and create discussion threads against which ever more targeted advertising can be sold.”

While I think it’s a bit early to know for sure who’ll win the mobile ‘turf war’, I’m confident about one thing: the words “cell phone” and “shopping” are about to become as synonymous as “peanut butter” and jelly.” You can bet on that.

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Geo-Shopping and Q&A are Trending Topics in the Social Media World

Consumers are snapping up Smartphones at a record clip, and there are no signs of slowing down. Smartphone sales are rapidly increasing, and predictions indicate that this trend will continue. In short: people really want their Androids, iPhones and Blackberries. And the power players in the social media industry have no problem keeping up with Smartphone technology; iPhone apps like Bakodo and Stickybits are giving all parties just what they want.

Smartphone apps like Bakodo are just the beginning of geo-shopping.

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For the last few years, industry experts have been claiming that web browsing (and by extension, social media) will go mobile on a large scale in the next few years. The limitations of currently available technology, however, challenged these predictions, as most cell phones web browsers were notoriously slow and clunky. With recent technological advances, things are changing, and according to research by International Data Corporation, for example (in addition to many more studies) there will likely be more than one billion mobile devices accessing the Internet by 2013. And IDC isn’t the only one predicting that mobile is expanding.

Mashable recently posted a list detailing their picks for the five biggest social media trends, and as expected, each of them are integrally related to geo-shopping and community Q&A. I’ve posted it below, for ease of reference (Make sure to read the original article here too):

1) Social Scanning

2) Q&A and Intelligent Information Discovery

3) Group Buying

4) Mobile Meets Loyalty

5) Checking-in to Entertainment

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So what does all of this mean for field of public relations?

Quite a bit. Here are just a few implications that these trends have for the field of PR:

  • New Technology to Learn

At the end of the day, whether you like Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla, or any of the other location-based social incarnations is totally irrelevant: you’d better know how to use them, if you want to work in PR. Your clients will want to know exactly how Foursquare can make money or win press for a company. Guess who’ll be setting up an account and teaching them?

  • Increased Immediacy

Social media’s immense popularity over the course of the last decade has already forever changed the way we consume news information. But as the social/mobile web grow, people demand information sooner and sooner. In terms of business, customer support are changing the way they operate to better accomodate consumers’ needs.  Smartphone-based scanning and intelligent information discovery, as Mashable notes, will only further drive the need for immediacy, even from PR people.

  • Increased Transparency

It’s clear that community Q&A sites like Formspring, Quora, and Aarvark are seeing popularity like never before. Right now, only a few major brands are truly taking advantage of this opportunity to connect with their customers by providing answers to their questions, but if Mashable’s list is any indication, it’s only a matter of time. As more social sites go “Q&A”-style, the more chance they can make money from their users. PR people need to know that this trend will be linked directly to geo-location. If brands and their advocates (read: us) expect to keep customers, then we’ll have to be honest like never before.

While it’s no surprise that all of these trends are mobile-based, it’s important for that they each have the potential to take advantage of geo-location technology and community crowd-sourcing. The reality is, both of these features present major implications for the future of commercialism, and therefore public relations.

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Takeaway Points for PR pros

The main thing to understand here is this: the Web’s is not just coming to our Smartphones.

Smartphones are changing the Web as we know it — through features like geo-location and Q&A.

This means that we can’t ignore them; we must change along with the web — companies, consumers, advertisers, and even us, public relations professionals. Just as we adjusted our press releases for social media, we’ll soon have to do the same for a mobile format. We must be prepared to interact with clients, consumers and the media in countless new ways.

Here’s the question: Will you be prepared?

- Robert A. Burns, II


What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Join the discussion and share your thoughts below.

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