There's a new air of excitement behind the mobile Web. Initiatives like Verizon's recent announcement to open their network, Google's Open Handset initiative (dubbed Android by Web 2.0 pundits), new wireless auctions, and the iPhone have energized Internet users.

In turn, companies want marketers to develop possible marketing solutions for the new wireless environment.

Discerning the future of marketing tools for social-media usage in this kind of environment can be extremely frustrating for the best technology minds, much less for marketing executives and non-industry-specific CXOs and entrepreneurs.

In the past, the new media form has always offered promise but it has never truly matured to become the powerhouse industry evangelists have hoped for. Even today, according to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, data accounts for only 15.5% of all wireless service revenues.1

So for the intelligent marketer the question must be, "Is mobile the right medium to reach my constituencies?" To make that decision, marketers have to be aware of three critical trends that focus on mobile data usage:

  1. The end-user of mobile data tends to be younger. According to the Pew Internet Project, approximately one-third of all adult American internet users (34 percent) have logged onto the internet by wireless means using a laptop, PDA, or cell phone. These users are younger than traditional Internet users: 37 percent of 18-34 year-olds, while only 18 percent of the 35-49 group use wireless.2
  2. A wide variety of factors—low bandwidth, hundreds of different devices, small screens, different viewing environments and standards—have prevented widespread adoption. They have forced many mobile applications to reduce visuals and rely on simple text applications.3
  3. While wireless data is still in its childhood, wireless mobile social media is in its infancy. That means social applications like mobile Facebook, Jaiku, and Twitter are still very early, and unproven from a marketing standpoint.4

In the short term, marketers need to make sure that their constituency is mobile friendly (less than 34 years old), and that they can convey value across diverse devices on various mobile networks. If the recipe is right, then its' time to get cooking.

Case in Point

Quicksilver opted to use Access 360 Media to create a mobile application for the annual Big Wave surfing competition on the north shore of Hawaii. Big Wave attracts surfers from all over the world, and Quicksilver wanted to engage customers and members of the surfing community in their stores and get them to recognize that the Quicksilver brand was really a leader in the Big Wave event.

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image of Geoff Livingston
Geoff Livingston is an author and marketing strategist, and serves as vice-president of strategic partnerships at Razoo, a fundraising site for nonprofits. He is author of Marketing in the Round and the social media primer Welcome to the Fifth Estate.