Grasping the mobile Internet

While businesses are embracing social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter as a means to engage with customers, the mobile internet is largely being ignored, according to a recent report published by digital marketing agency cScape and market intelligence firm Econsultancy.

Some 44% of business now have a presence on social networks, compared with 23% one year ago, and use of microblogging sites has increased to 35% from 7%. However, only 11% of companies are planning a "significant investment" in the mobile channel, despite an increased penetration of smartphones and the growing use of mobile internet services. A large proportion of businesses (41%) are not planning any mobile investment during 2010, while the biggest group (49%) are planning only a limited spend.

While the idea of targeting mobile subscribers is all well and good, there are significant challenges in targeting this group; indeed, it is probably wrong to see mobile internet users as a single subset in the first place, due to the growing diversity among this audience. Several years ago it may have been possible to define the bulk of mobile internet users (male, over eighteen but under 40, early technology adopters), but with the increased availability of smartphones and mass-market devices with full web capabilities, and technology advancements such as mobile broadband and improved screens making mobile browsing a more appealing proposition, this has broadened-out massively to offer a similar diversity to the "fixed" internet user base.

This means that there is no single tool which can be used to appeal to mobile users, in the same way that no single approach works with all internet users. With corporate budgets still tight, many execs are understandably unsure of allocating budgets to chase a group which is only defined by its connectivity method, especially when there is no tried-and-tested method(s) that delivers results.

Interestingly, the report did miss out on one significant factor which needs to be considered: that increasingly social networking and microblogging sites are driving mobile internet use in the first place, and are therefore the best tools to engage with this peripatetic audience. This means that corporates with a presence in the social networking space are already well positioned to benefit from mobile internet growth, even without this having been a direct priority. This method of addressing mobile users will certainly be most appealing to those with constrained budgets, against the alternative of spending big on unproven channels to customers.
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