Is mobile part of social media?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on the mobile web, where I stated that I was really interested in mobile technologies and the possibilities they afford.

In a recent post on The Evolutionary Role of Social Media on his site Social Media Rockstar, Brett Borders wrote about a growing digital divide. my first thought was of the growing use of mobile to share information in under-developed nations. But even as I crafted my comment, I stopped: was mobile really social media?

And what do we social media folks do when we don’t know something? Obviously, I asked folks on twitter:

In general, the response was that mobile was simply a platform, but it was a platform that was well suited to support social media initiatives. Indeed, a phone was created to facilitate interpersonal communication (in contrast to the personal computer, which arguably was intended to enhance productivity). If we view social media as being about communication and transparency – well, how many people know how to spoof a cell phone number when sending a text?

As many of the respondents stated, many of the applications now available on cell phones are related to social interaction. Some of the particular features related to the use of a cell phone may augment the user experience (facilitating the taking and uploading of photos and videos, for example), but ultimately the communication itself is not changed.

What was most interesting from the responses was that I had been more concerned about the fact that texting people was still a 1:1 interaction, and therefore, not social. That wasn’t a specific concern raised by anyone else.

Revisit: I initially wrote this post on December 2nd, then never finished it. Today I came across a tweet by Joel Kelly, where he asked: “Someone explain to me why you’d think Facebook is “social media” but picking up a phone isn’t. Is it just the difference in reach?” I wanted to point him to this post, but it was sitting in my ‘drafts’ folder. So here it is!

6 thoughts on “Is mobile part of social media?

  • I think mobile is some of the most “social” media… all about communicating, connecting, reaching out. I think it’s difficult to be a full-fledged member of the globally-connected ‘social media’ segment without an expensive mobile device and a contract.

    Brett Borders’s last blog post..The Evolutionary Role of Social Media

    • Are you thinking specifically of the mobile web? I almost wonder if I need to treat different parts of mobile differently: for example, is SMS social?

  • I think a good definition of the word media as used in the term social media is one of the means or channels of general communication, information, or entertainment in society, as newspapers, radio, or television.

    Thereby phones, mobile phones, computers, and any other type of technology which allows interactive communication between two or more people can be considered social media.

    Wardell’s last blog post..Create a Rollover Class with JavaScript

    Follow me on twitter: wardelldesign

  • Interesting question about the sociality of SMS versus mobile web. SMS is as social as is email: it can be one-to-one, or one-to-many. Somehow, the latter seems more “social,” but that’s largely the multiplying factor on virality of a message. If I send a message to someone that I received, and they send it along to someone they know, that’s still being social in my book. In a way, it’s hard to imagine SMS as not inherently social when it’s peer-to-peer … broadcast SMS is a different story.

    As for the mobile web, yeah, that’s just a platform, a substrate. It’s primed to be more social than SMS in terms of the ease in reaching more people, but the messages carry far less weight because it’s so “easy” to send them through social sites.

    Twitter on the phone is an interesting hybrid, born of SMS technology, but with smartphone interfaces; @replies are more weighty than general posts, but much easier to send than SMS messages.

    Follow me on twitter: tajmo

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