Researchers: Mobile social networking a nascent market

Few people are using mobile social networks, which means that companies see potential for growth. Not surprisingly, leaders are MySpace and Facebook.

Helio's Buddy Beacon was hyped, but it's the social networking mainstays that are actually getting used by mobile customers. Flytip.com

New research from the mobile-focused statistics firm M:Metrics has focused on exactly how many mobile-phone customers are using their handsets to access social networks and blogs, and the results aren't particularly surprising: not a whole lot of people are.

In the month of June, a total of only 12.3 million mobile consumers in the United States and Western Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom) accessed a social-networking site or blog on their phones at least once. In the U.K., this came out to a total of only 2.5 percent of mobile users; 2.8 percent in Italy; 2.3 percent in Spain; 1.9 percent in Germany; and only 1.5 percent in France.

Interestingly enough, the highest percentage (3.5 percent) was in the U.S., which is typically thought to lag behind European and Asian countries in mobile-media consumption.

Mobile social networking is something that you hear a lot about, and not just because Facebook has just launched an iPhone-optimized site. As the M:Metrics results show, Web and mobile-media companies can see plenty of potential for growth simply because there isn't a whole lot of social networking going on in the mobile space yet.

Sometimes, the potential for growth has led companies to attempt to develop strictly mobile social-networking features--often carrier-specific, such as those of Helio's GPS-based "Buddy Beacon" service. But not surprisingly, it's the mobile-optimized versions of existing popular social-networking sites that have proven to be the early leaders.

In the U.S. and U.K., MySpace.com's mobile site is the most popular (despite only being available on several carriers) with 3.7 million users in the U.S. and 440,000 in the U.K.; Facebook comes in second place with 2 million users in the U.S. and 307,000 in the U.K.

Third place in the U.S. was YouTube, with 901,000 mobile users; third place in the U.K. was Bebo, with 288,000. (Recently, another firm's statistics showed that Bebo may be passing longtime leader MySpace in the U.K. when it comes to unique visitors.)

In the four other European countries, MSN Live Spaces was the most popular mobile social network. Also of note is the fact that in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the 13-to-17 age demographic was the one doing the most mobile social networking; in the U.S. and U.K., it was the slightly older 18-to-24 demographic.

 

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