Category Archives: Mobile Marketing

There is no Facebook Phone – but wouldn’t it be great if there was?

Reports of Facebook building a phone with their own proprietary OS (like Apple and Google before them) are untrue. It’s a rumor that’s been floating around a lot lately, particularly after another story was released this week that they were not only developing one, but that HTC was due to launch it.

Facebook phone

Well, so what? A lot of rumors get floated around all these Internets – we’re all used to it by now. But given Facebook’s new messaging platform, which includes SMS updates and a @facebook.com e-mail address, doesn’t a phone actually make a lot of sense for them?

The Apple phone made sense when it was launched, as it is an extension of the user’s Apple computer experience. Android was an extension of people’s Google experience.

But Facebook, which is frankly in the business of content developed by all of your friends, would make the most sense as a phone provider. A phone that’s an extension of the interaction with your own contacts? And is tied into this messaging nexus they’ve rolled out? Why not?

It would make particular sense for a company whose value is in the billions, but doesn’t have any discernible income. There have been rumors of charging people to use Facebook even longer than the phone rumor – but that would never happen, as they know people would leave the site in droves. The biggest revelation of the Internet revolution is that we want everything free, and there’s enough of us we can demand it.

A phone, on the other hand, requires payment just to get it working. The site itself could remain free, as a vestigial attachment that’s a little easier to use when you’re not on the go. All of the jazzy stuff, however, could happen on your phone – wherever you go. The “Facebook experience” would then be truly opened up to the rest of the world – and things like Facebook Places might actually make sense.

All of the Facebook apps available for all the existing phones are fine, but what if that app was the entire operation system for your phone? You’d not only have a contact list already in place, but multiple options for contacting them – phone, text, chat, e-mail, post, comment… even a “Like” if you’re particularly lazy, I guess.

Certainly Facebook has to do something if they want to keep themselves from withering away in the next 10 years. People didn’t think that could ever happen to Yahoo!, and it did. People didn’t think it could happen to Google either, but with the right eyes you can see they’re in the middle of it already.

Expanding their market to devices their users already use, with content their users already want, would be a no-brainer.

Is T-Mobile offering 4G or not?

I’ve been doing a lot of research on cell phone providers lately, and the big attraction for all of them seems to be 4G. It’s the, “no trans fats” or “it has electrolytes” of cell phones.

So what is 4G? The easy answer is that it’s the “fourth generation” mobile wireless standard. 3G being the current smart phones, 2G being that garbage you had in 1998, and 1G being those analog phones that were the size of toasters.

I know, scary.

The longer-but-still-short answer is that 4G lets your phone download information much faster than 3G phones. 3G will download on average somewhere between 600 Kilobits per second (Kbps), and 1.4 Megabits per second (Mbps.) 4G grabs information at between 3 Mbps and 6 Mbps.

Sprint has come out with their 4G plan this year in select cities. Verizon and AT&T have both announced their own plans would be available in 2011.

T-Mobile has taken a slightly different approach, and it’s confusing a lot of people. Rather than invest in 4G technology, T-Mobile is bragging that they will deliver “4G speeds” with their current network.

In short, they’re using the marketability of the 4G brand without actually having to give 4G. It’s their version of “genuine fake leather seats.” They can reproduce these speeds in their labs I’m sure. If they don’t deliver at speeds as high as +3 Mpbs, however, they can always shrug their shoulders and say, “hey, we never said you’d get 4G.”

What I can’t tell is if there is any reality to the speed of HSPA+. There are reports that it runs faster than Sprint’s WiMax 4G network. Also, if you are already on T-Mobile and have an Android phone, you won’t need to change out handsets. Maybe. I say “maybe” because T-Mobile is also leaking details of their coming HSPA+ handsets – which suggests you’d need one to use this improved network.

If nothing else, this is a smart marketing move by T-Mobile to keep their customers from leaving. They are already in deep trouble as a company, with many wondering if they will still be around by next year. Since they don’t have the money to invest in a 4G network, they’re offering upgrades to what they already have. I’m sure Verizon, AT&T and Sprint would have loved to offer “4G speeds” without the cost of actually building a 4G network.

That they haven’t suggests to me that it doesn’t really work.

Picking the right Cell Phone Provider: AT&T vs Verizon vs Sprint vs T-Mobile

[Update: Verizon will begin selling the iPhone as of February 10, 2010.]

Oh, the hellish work of picking a new cell phone provider! I just spent the week going over EVERYTHING I could find on each provider, and the phone they offer. I’ve made a decision, but thought I should share with you the process I went though. After all, I need a post.

T-Mobile

I’ve been with T-Mobile for about a year or so – I bought a G1 a couple of months after its release. It was a good phone at first, but there were a lot of problems with the provider, T-Mobile. First, they stopped supporting said G1 – so the version of Android the phone uses as of the last update is the one I’m stuck with now.

T-Mobile logo

Then the battery died horribly. It was fun to hear a T-Mobile employee explain to me that, “yes, your phone is still under warranty, but the battery isn’t.” Which is an interesting sort of philosophical discussion: I am Ciaoenrico, and my finger is part of me. But if I lose my finger, I’m still Ciaoenrico. So how important was that finger really?

Personally, there are a few things I would like to chop off the T-Mobile lawyer who came up with this loophole after they discovered G1 batteries fail in large numbers.

Finally, they’ve been dropping calls and service a lot – to the point I’d get e-mails from people asking me why they couldn’t call me. Then there’s the touch-and-go data service, and GPS coverage that – I swear to you – thought I was in Manitoba, Canada last week.

When I tried to upgrade my phone to a newer T-Mobile handset for the remainder of my contract, I read that doing so requires starting another two-year contract, or else I buy the phone at cost. So rather than give them more of my money, especially since they’ll be going out of business very soon, I’m going to gladly pay the $200 early contract termination fee to be rid of them.

AT&T

So my first thought, like any red blooded American consumerist stooge, was to get an iPhone 4. They’re sexy, everyone has them, the whole “dropped data” problem has supposedly been solved… let’s go!

AT&T logo

Also, my Girlfriend needs a new phone, as her dealings with Virgin Mobile are almost as bad as mine were.

The first thing I must say is, if you’re thinking about an iPhone, don’t get it from an Apple store. The millennial douchebag (sorry, I meant “genius”) working there quoted me a price of $170 per month for phones for the two of us. Since she only wants a good enough phone, not a smart phone, the plan we needed had a much lower quote – roughly $144.00

I then looked at what everyone says about AT&T as a provider, and the baleful consensus is that they suck. Data runs very slowly, though the phone call quality is good. Well, we all use data networks now, especially if you’re investing in a brand spanking new smart phone. So that was definitely a problem. I also remember AT&T stories this year where they couldn’t handle the load from before the iPad, and how things would only get worse now.

This is to say nothing of the disappointment my Girlfriend said she would have in me if I actually became one of those Apple Fanboys. I agreed, so the search continued.

Verizon

Signing a contract with Verizon is not unlike signing a contract with The Devil. The possible difference being that with The Devil, you know up front a hell is in your future.

Most customers will tell you Verizon sneaks hell up on you.

Verizon logo

I’ve heard both sides of Verizon from people who sign with them, and it breaks down something like this:

“Verizon has the BEST coverage!”

“Verizon is so EXPENSIVE I had to get a second job to pay for it!”

For all their talk of their coverage area, they do make you pay for it. Their plans for calls and data are more expensive than everyone else I looked at, and other users talk of being nickel and dimed to death on phone extras and apps.

What’s more, when I went into the Verizon store, they actually had me take a number and wait for a salesperson. Wait – I’m considering giving you my money, and you think your shit is so stink-free I’ll happily wait for you? It reflected pretty badly on them. And I had to go back three times in total for more information. Each time, even when there was no one else being helped, I had to take a number.

It was with great pleasure I decided Verizon was out of the running. Whew!

Sprint

Finally, there’s Sprint, the company I bought my first cell phone from. Sprint offers the Evo, which I’d already heard from a lot of people who had them is a dream. There are a lot of things I like about the phone, but this is about carriers, not handsets.

Sprint logo

Sprint’s big advantage over the others is that they are cheaper than AT&T and Verizon. Their coverage network for voice isn’t as good as Verizon’s or AT&T’s, though, as they roam between networks for their coverage area. This is why calls get dropped, because the phone is jumping from one carrier’s tower to another. So that’s not good. On the other hand, their data network is very strong.

Sprint also allows for free “mobile-to-mobile” calls, regardless of carrier. Wha!?! If I’m calling anyone with a cell phone it’s free minutes? When you think of how few times you call a land line, that’s a pretty good offer. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop and for someone to tell me why I got it wrong, and that it’s not entirely as good a deal as I think it is. If you know, leave me a comment.

And what about this 4G business? For starters, Sprint’s 4G is really WiMax – a way of juicing up a 3G network. [This was incorrect - WiMax is just another alternative to HSPA.] Real 4G will be available from Verizon late this year, and from AT&T next year. Still, with all that infrastructure to build out, it will be a while until it’s really in place and usable. Sprint’s own 4G isn’t available here in Phoenix, and no one seems to know when it will be. So as long as no one is really offering full 4G speed at the moment, I don’t care.

So my decision is made: I’ll be getting the HTC Evo on Sprint. My Girlfriend found a phone she wants from them as well – also an Android phone, with a ton of features just not available from Virgin Mobile.

The one drawback here – and believe me, all of these plans seem to have advantages and drawbacks compared to each other – is that the on line Sprint store doesn’t have any Evos in stock. It has been reported that Sprint has been trying to build up their stocks of Evos, and that they are having trouble getting the aforementioned 4G network up and running. It makes me wonder if their long-term future isn’t all that bright.

Of course, that’s what I said about T-Mobile last year, and I did manage to get a lot of mileage out of my G1 up until now. Given the fast pace of changes in any electronics product, we’ll all have to go through this roughly every other year, so even if I’m wrong about Sprint, it won’t be long until I have to change up again.

So I’ll just have to wait and see!

iPad Mobile Marketing – The NEXT next new thing

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A bunch of people at work have iPads this week. They are neat, and frankly I’m interested in getting one myself.

Then I read that there will soon be a Nokia Tablet, and Kindle is playing up their head start in content to compete with Apple. So we could be entering the Age of the Tablet.

But wait – aren’t we supposed to be entering the Age of the SmartPhone? Isn’t THAT supposed to be the dominant technology? What if by next year the phones are passé, and it’s these tablets that are the thing that will “change the game?”

And wasn’t SMS supposed to change the game before the smart phones came about?

I’ve been pretty vocal in the last year about saying that the mobile market just hasn’t arrived enough yet to justify large amounts of marketing money from businesses. I said this with the caveat that, someday, and likely soon, it will be important enough to require as much of a spend as one’s Internet budget. Just not yet.

Now I wonder, perhaps by 2011 the mobile market will get about as big as it can get, because tablets will come in to replace them as the “must have” for electronics consumers. Then we will forget all about this smart phone nonsense to concentrate on the real prize: Tablet users!

I wonder about this because it’s exactly what everyone did when we thought text messaging was the way of the future. SMS is still a viable marketing tactic, but it’s shrinking all the time in favor of mobile apps. It peaked. And we don’t really know if smart phones have now peaked – which is another great reason to hold off on paying for a mobile campaign!

If that’s all true, could this mean that each new successive platform can only get so high before it’s replaced?

For example, what would happen if by 2015, tablets were as widespread as smart phones are now. (Which still isn’t very much, but a lot none the less.) Then some company (oh, okay – Apple) develops a portable computing solution that you wear like glasses. This is technology that’s already being experimented with, and if they can get it so people can use these without puking, it could be huge.

Imagine: Instead of a screen it fires the image directly onto your retina; It is fully voice activated; And you can make phone calls on it, take pictures, make change for the bus, bring us peace with honor in Vietnam…

Something like that would have a slow start, eventually kill the tablet market, and would itself be topped by some OTHER technology by 2020. (If we’re following the cycle.)

If we can count on that kind of timeline – unveiling, adoption, replacement – then we know how soon we need to get advertising on some new piece of technology, and how long we have to play it before we need to start realocating ad dollars to the next big thing.

So maybe apps for phones right now is worth spending on, because it isn’t likely to get any better?

The Geeks have Taken Over the Asylum

I feel a lot of the time I need to defend my opinions because I can be so contrary. I work in new media, and then I’m fast to bust on it.

Understand this about new media, if you understand nothing else: There are the geeks who adore new media and not coincidentally work inside of it, and there are normal people who could care less.

When you read a blog like this, it is almost always written by someone on the inside of the industry – either as a marketer, a manufacturer, a publisher, or some other “er” I can’t think of that makes money from technology. We tend to have very insulated opinions, and sometimes they bear little resemblance to the “outside” world.

So when I post an opinion that’s contrary to dogma, it isn’t because I’m trying to pull a Glenn Beck and piss people off for it’s own sake. I’m just more interested in what I can prove than what I can feel.

For example, this week, I got a post published on Agencyside.net about how mobile marketing isn’t necessarily worth worrying about. Why would I say something like that? Because, as I’ve said since before this blog started, we still aren’t there yet with mobile. Phone apps haven’t proved they make boatloads of money for the companies that sponsor them. My argument – just for right now – remains the same:

  • The number of people with a phone is expected to increase dramatically, but hasn’t yet.
  • People still complete more purchases on their home computer. A lot more.
  • With several phone operating systems to create apps for, it becomes prohibitively expensive to target them all.
  • If you only target the iPhone, you’re still only potentially reaching some 0.5% of the consumer market.

And on and on. Phones definitely have potential to be as important as everyone says they already are, but they aren’t yet. The people who say they are that important already have an iPhone themselves, and are exposed to all sorts of new information about what is on the horizon for mobile.

The average user, however, has a flip phone that barely does SMS messages. They’ve heard phones can go online, and while that sounds neat, it also doesn’t sound necessary. They text their friends often enough, but hate SMS ads. They might respond to a giveaway that requires them to send a text, though.

These are the kinds of things you need to look into before you get serious about mobile, or e-mail, or radio, or any marketing tactic. Coming at the problem emotionally, because you love your own phone so EVERYONE must love phones, isn’t rational. Your own company or clients don’t need to be steered around by your own phone fetish. If you’re in love with mobile technology, great – but do some research on your market and how they use them before you start investing in a campaign.

Yet another reaction to the iPad

Steve Jobs unveiling the iTouch Macro

It is not technically possible for you to have gotten to this post without having heard from someone that Apple released it’s entry into the tablet market yesterday, the iPad. It’s impossible because news of it is everywhere, and I just don’t have that kind of reach to have gotten to you first. So I won’t bother recapping.

I will say the negative reaction has been weirdly huge. Everything from jokes about the name, (the hashtag “#itampon” was huge on Twitter yesterday,) to complaints about what the thing doesn’t have, (camera, Flash support, the ability to make phone calls,) are making even the most hardcore Apple fanboys cry.

I’m not an Apple guy – I don’t have a problem with their stuff, but I don’t own a Macbook or an iPhone or an iTouch. I’ve had the same iPod for three years now, with no need or hope of replacing it. That having been said, I recognize that Apple is brilliant at defining new markets, and frankly the iPad will do just that.

Everyone has been, for some reason, running to Kindles in the last few years. I don’t get it, because I like reading books on paper myself. But a burgeoning market has opened up, and Apple is now stepping into it. This is just like what they did when they debuted the iPod: MP3 players were everywhere, then Apple came in and redefined the standard. It’s also what they did for smart phones, which were very rare before they came out with the iPhone. They aren’t trying to give you a newer version of something you already have, which frankly really would annoy me. Instead, they’re trying to improve upon what you already have.

The iPad is getting slammed, I think, because most of the people slamming it have no use for what it does. Fine. But that doesn’t mean it sucks, it just means it isn’t meant for you. Not everything is, you crybaby. Given what people say they want to use this for, I think most of them were hoping for a completely touch screen laptop.

The one complaint I do understand is that it will finally cripple AT&T’s data network. AT&T was the single worst possible service provider Apple could have ever tied themselves to. They’d already started asking iPhone users to take it easy with their use of the data service they were actually paying for. Think of that – people were paying for AT&T data service, and AT&T was asking them to not use so much of the data service that their customers were giving them money to use… the bald-faced chutzpah of that always screws me up.

And now Apple has a new wireless device that’s going to need to use the same network. Hey – maybe AT&T are the ones getting everyone to bitch about how the iPad is crap! Because if it does succeed, they may have to finally throw in the towel and admit they don’t know what they’re doing.

10 Things you’ll be sick to death of by the end of 2010

Everyone writes the introspective, year-in-review blog post around this time of year. As I am someone, that means I have to as well.

But I can’t easily write a, “Top 10 Things about 2009,” because for the most part, 2009 was rotten. Recession, the mortgage crisis, that Twilight sequel… This very blog was born out of my own layoff, since I no longer had my old company’s blogs to spout off on.

So instead, here is my warning of things you will have had just about enough of by the end of 2010.

(By the way, I specifically did not mention Microsoft here, because we’ve all been sick of them since 1998 or so. So if you want to add Windows 7 or Bing, just know that I am with you. I am with you.)

1) Augmented Reality – This is already a buzz word that’s making the rounds, with marketing managers scrambling to find out what it’s all about and iPhone app developers making “squwee!” noises loudly over this new use of GPS tracking and camera.

It’s a nice idea: Mash up your location with various social networking tools, so you can, say, see where geographically all of your Twitter friends are, or view a street with the names of all the shops listed on it. It is pretty neat stuff – but the deluge of articles and videos and seminars teaching you how to “harness this powerful new tool!” is going to hurt after a while. My suggestion: Just make sure your store is listed on Google Maps and all the other social tools you’ve heard about, and leave it alone.

2) Facebook – I’m going out on a limb with this one, but I really think people are going to start to sag with Facebook. It’s great for people to get in touch with people they haven’t seen in a while, but haven’t you noticed that a lot of your long lost friends have been lost for a reason? You don’t have any need to talk to them. Everyone else is a short found friend you talk to every day. That’s what phones and coffee shops are for. After that there are some games, but really, no new or useful information is shared on Facebook.

They’re at a tipping point – a bad one, where people could start falling off at any moment. Add to that their ever-increasing need to monetize their user base, and they’re sure to mess it all up for themselves. As soon as someone introduces the, “next big thing,” Facebook will join MySpace out on the curb.

3) AT&T – Let me say, again, that while I don’t own an iPhone, I do think it’s a pretty rad little device. I have a G1, which I’m sad to say always makes me think of Ziggy from the show “Quantum Leap”: An amazing piece of hardware, but one that gives me so many problems I feel like I constantly need to hit it in order for it to work.

While it is a great phone, stories of AT&T’s idiocy abound. From denying Google Voice’s app to asking users to not use so much data, they’re begging people to switch carriers as soon as the AT&T/Apple contract expires. As much trouble as my G1 gives me, I’m thankful T-Mobile doesn’t give me as many headaches.

4) Information Overload – We’re in this now, but someone’s GOT to make this an issue in 2010. Between my Facebook Wall, Google Reader, Twitter, the blogs I read, the blogs I should read, SlideShare, YouTube… there’s just way too much stuff to stay on top of. I still seem to hear about the latest thing from actually talking to people who are in the know.

It’s actually what keeps me hopeful that FriendFeed will remain afloat for some time, as it’s the best aggregate of everything that still exists.

5) Social Celebrities – I will not name names, but there are far too many people famous in this enormous little circle to take seriously anymore. Some of them have great things to say, most of them are just brilliant at doing their own PR. The result is the interesting people are hard to find because they can’t be heard above the noise. The plus-side of this is it will be good for the publishing industry – because it seems if you really do know what you’re talking about, a publisher will be willing to commit your wisdom to paper.

In short, you aren’t an expert at anything unless you can prove you’ve done something more than get a lot of views on your YouTube channel.

6) Cable Television – Speaking of risky predictions, here’s a great one. Why the hell would cable television be at risk this year? Because the way we get content has changed so dramatically, we aren’t going to be willing to wait for our shows or movies to appear at their scheduled times. Netflix and RedBox are killing Blockbuster with this, as they’ve already killed Hollywood Video. Add to that Apple’s forthcoming subscription service, and you can see that consumers will soon be getting what they want when they want it.

Cable companies themselves see this writing on the wall, and are – smartly – making a good deal of their content available through their on-demand services. I have a feeling the flood of options coming our way will eventually make all cable television on-demand.

7) Web Cams – I know this is just me, but with handheld video cameras now so cheap, and each with a USB slot, there’s no longer any excuse to shoot your 12seconds posts or Vlogs with a web cam. No one hears what you’re saying, because they’re asleep from the visual of another nerd sitting in front of their computer. Unless you have an Internet strip show, you can take it outside.

Let me also say I’m so thankful to my girlfriend for getting me one of these for my birthday, so I can finally openly chastise other people over this. ;)

8 ) Social Media Marketing – I’m already seeing this now, in fact: Agencies abandoning social media as a marketing tool, and going back to traditional venues that have proven their worth before, like SEO and media purchases. This is because social media is supposed to be the voice of the user. You can teach a company how to use the tools, but you can’t out and do it for them quite as easily.

SMM itself isn’t going anywhere, but the idea of hiring someone to do it for you will slowly die. In it’s place, consultants will sell their services training businesses to do it for themselves, and specialty shops will make a fortune building phone apps, games, and anything else that seems like a good idea.

9) Digg – I don’t think I need to do too much of a tap dance on Digg‘s head here. While there is still a huge amount of traffic going to this site, it’s usefulness as a “social” news site is over. Let’s see if they improve after Google buys them up. It’s over, hammer.

10) Paying for Wifi – If you have a hotel or coffee shop that has Wifi, for the love of God, give it to your customers for free. This is something so widely used it can’t be used as a profit center anymore. The occasional hip businessman with a laptop has been replaced by everyone. And everyone now has a smart phone and a netbook. If you just give this away, you’re enticing more people to come to you. You’ll get your money back, I promise.

If McDonald’s says it works, you know there has to be something to it. They’re 70 years old, make $3.9 billion a year, and they suck – so they know the tricks to keeping customers happy.

6 Mobile Marketing Trends to Watch For

1) Smart phones stop getting so much press – Everyone’s talking about how neat smart phones are, how cool all the stuff on the new iPhone is… But if mobile phones had really arrived, no one would be talking about how cool they are. You don’t hear people talking about how neat web pages are, right? When’s the last time you heard someone gush that they just got a real, live e-mail address? When something has arrived, it isn’t news. When people stop talking about “apps,” you’ll know you’d better have one up and running.

2) Standardized mobile analytics – As with web marketing, a few companies will emerge with performance analytics for mobile marketing campaigns. Right now several companies offer something, but no one is really sure yet what they should be monitoring for. SMS codes? Application downloads? Brand mentions on geo-social networks?

When the majority of the population have smart phones, they will decide how they want to use them. When THAT happens, there will be enough sample data to determine what is really important. That certainly hasn’t happened yet. I don’t care how much press FourSquare gets, a minority of people use it.

3) Businesses using apps they didn’t write – Right now everyone thinks the best way to get on board with mobile marketing is to create an iPhone app. But did Dell and Zappos and Ashton Kutcher invent their own micro blogging service in order to promote themselves? No. They used the one that was already built. Mobile phones will also host apps that are useful to businesses, which they will then use in their own promotional strategy.

On my G1 right now, I have a program that scans grocery store membership cards, (those things that hang on your keychain,) and stores them for you. This means instead of having to haul around all those cards, I simply have the register scan my phone’s screen. It would be far easier for grocery stores to steer their patrons towards this application then it is for them to write one that does the same thing.

4) VoiP replacing cell carrier plans - There’s been a lot in the trades about Google Voice and Skype applications, and how cell phone manufacturers won’t allow some of them on their products. This is because carriers know their days are numbered. Today’s phones can transmit data just as easily as voice services, and apparently much cheaper. Why would anyone pay for a voice plan when their handset can perform the same function as data?

5) The Mobile Technology Bubble – Since everyone has been able to see the rise and rise of mobile phones for years now, many are jockeying for investment opportunities in the emerging companies. So far it’s all been Apple, Google, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile. But as new VoiP networks emerge, people are going to want to get in on the ground floor with these new companies. After all, 12 years ago, nobody knew what T-Mobile was. The investors who had the foresight to get in early now have enough money to buy the Moon and gift wrap it.

6) Cheaper Phones – This is just a fact of manufacturing consumer goods. The more you make of them, the more innovations you come up with to make them less expensive. When that happens – probably in about four years – then everyone will have them, and all of these promises of smart phones will really come true. Think about the first commercial cell phones: They were bulky and wildly expensive. Ten years later everyone could have one, so it became much less of a status symbol and much more of a necessity.

Whatever happened to SEO?

I used to write a lot more about search marketing on this blog and my former employer’s blog. But it hasn’t been a long time since social media became what everyone was talking about, reading about , and proselytizing about. People built entire careers out of their ability to become superstars of this new medium.

Now mobile marketing is starting to realize it’s place, as smart phones slowly take over the cell phone market.

But what ever happened to people’s interest in search marketing? It seems as marketers’ attention shifted to these sexier subjects, the tried-and-true search market has been ignored. I’m basing this both on the reading material I find, and the analytics for my own blog: There is more hard information out there on social media than there is on improved findings and tactics for search marketing.

This wasn’t the case three or four years ago. Back then there were plenty of mainstream articles on the value of a good Google position. Today everything feels like it has stagnated. “Google’s still number 1, Yahoo is gone, Microsoft is still not Google. Film at 11.”

I think this is because the work of natural search is complex, where social media can be about as simply put as, “making friends.” Also, social media lets people blast messages at others, where search marketing is more passive.

I’m really not sure why this shift in attention, but search marketing still offers a far greater opportunity for traffic, leads and sales than social media does. If you are retooling your time and energy into social media at the expense of your SEO campaigns, you are leaving money on the table. Search is a known commodity. It does take more work to gain a superior Google ranking than it does to get 1000 Twitter friends, but anything that is difficult to achieve is usually worth it.

Mobile marketing may well become the king of Interactive sales in the next few years. But when it does, people will still need a way to find things. iPhone and Android may then find themselves the new top search engines. Who knows? But however you slice it, SEO is still incredibly important to your marketing goals, and shouldn’t be ignored because the “latest things” in marketing get so much more ink.

Using Social Networks’ Mobile Apps instead of building your own

In the past I’ve been pretty harsh on the concept of building iPhone apps to promote businesses. If you can make one inexpensively, then sure, go for it. But given the number of  iPhones in service worldwide, it isn’t likely you’re going to see a huge return in traffic and sales if you invest heavily in one.

That having been said, iPhones – as well as G1s, Blackberrys and Treos – are changing the landscape, as they give more people more places to jump on line from. Large social networks are developing their own applications for these. So instead of developing your own applications for mobile devices, it makes more sense to look at the social networks that take better advantage of mobile devices themselves. If you can get a strong foothold on these, you can “be there” for the mobile phone community, without having to invest as heavily in development.

Look at this comparison of traffic between Brightkite.com, Utterli.com and 12seconds.tv:

I picked these these three sites because they are specifically Geosocial Networks. (Well, 12seconds.tv doesn’t emphasize the Geosocial aspect as much as they could.) Geosocial networking sites like these rely on a user’s ability to access them anywhere, anytime. Doing the same analysis on giants like Twitter, YouTube and Linkedin wouldn’t show smartphone’s utility as easily. (And three let you post from your phone, but they’re enormous for other reasons.)

As of September 2008, of these three only Brightkite had an iPhone app available.

Brightkite and Utterli both allowed users to post with a more commonly used cell phone with camara. (They still do, actually.)

Since most non-smart phones don’t offer video, 12seconds only allowed posting from their site or through an e-mail posting system. The average phone user could not take part.

When 12seconds debuted their iPhone application, their traffic started to increase. Conversely, Utterli, which started out better, dropped as more people started using apps instead of traditional cell phones for posting. On Utterli you can access the site from any phone, smart or not. They built their technology and audience around cheap, average phones. As more advanced phones came into use, their service looked more and more antiquated. Actual audio posts on the site are actually fewer and fewer, with most users leaving text posts. Since there are already enough Twitter clones, they’ve sagged considerably in traffic.

Brightkite has been steadily increasing in traffic with their iPhone and Android applications. These make it easier to post photos, text, and even use the phone’s GPS to post the user’s location.

The point of all this is that networks that use mobile media are smart places to gain a foothold for you and your brand, especially if what you sell is something people “on the go” would want. It’s about understanding how your customers access information. You wouldn’t be posting from your phone necessarily, but if you know the people you want to reach are on the go, this is where you would make your appeal to them.

For example, SkyMall reaches a large number of people on Twitter, but they could reach a more targeted collection of travelers on Brightkite, and the reach of that campaign would only increase over time as more people started using that site’s iPhone application.

Of course, SkyMall also has their own iPhone app. This means they need to generate their own traffic for people to use it, rather than piggyback another network’s application and message to its users. I have to wonder how much business SkyMall gets from their application. The purpose of these programs is to allow users easy and frequent access to their site.

Ebay or Yahoo! Shopping certainly have this kind of user base. SkyMall appeals to the impulse buyer. In order to make their app profitable, they need to develop their own traffic for the app, then make sure the application itself converts users repeatedly. With the phone market further splintering, that campaign will eventually need to create similar applications for all the phones coming out.

In the end, this turns into a lot of money spent just to be able to say you have an iPhone app – when it could be spent focusing on areas where you can get more customers.