Are mobile apps the new social networks?

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Depends on the type of app, but apps created to engage users are without question social networks. And it makes sense for more developers to create apps that have social features, as a recent study found that social media brands are experiencing heavy engagement on smartphones.

Take for example, existing networks like Facebook and Twitter who have their own apps. Back in May, research by comScore revealed that mobile users are spending more time on Facebook’s mobile website and app than on the the desktop version. Twitter mobile users spent an average of 2 hours per month on the site compared to Twitter users who spent an average of 20.4 minutes per month on the desktop version.

This data led us to wonder how engaged fans are on different social channels of the same brand. For example, how does Adele’s app compare in number to her other social networks? How about for other verticals?

To answer these questions, we chose some of our most popular apps from different verticals and compared numbers. The results confirmed that brand-centric apps can indeed compete with traditional social networks.

Music: Adele is one of our most popular apps with over 2 million downloads since launching last fall. To put this in perspective, Adele has over 7 million followers on Twitter.

Entertainment: Gabriel Iglesias a.k.a. “Fluffy” has close to 500,000 users on his app, which is about double the number of Twitter followers he has.

Sports: We found that sports fans were very engaged with their teams through apps, sometimes more than they were on other social networks. One of our very first sports apps, the Miami Dolphins, has over 310,000 app users, which is triple the amount of Twitter followers. The LA Kings have over 50,000 app users, which is 32% of the number of Twitter followers they have.

Conferences: Conference goers are particularly friendly toward apps, given the on-the-go nature of conferences. We powered the official app for midem, an annual event held in the city of Cannes, France where “artists, technology and brands are connected by music.” To date, the midem app has over 12,000 downloads compared to the number of Twitter followers – 10,000 – and Facebook fans – 15,000 – that midem has.

Although the sample size is small, it is clear that apps that inform, engage, and offer social features can complement traditional social networks and even compete directly by attracting a relatively new market- users in the mobile space. Unlike traditional social networks, however, these apps are brand-specific social networks, bringing people of similar interests together, undisturbed by the influences of other brands.

So why then, where apps are rising in popularity & smartphones are overtaking feature phones, brands are allocating 5% of less of their marketing budget for mobile strategies? Why do fewer than 20% of brands have a “well defined mobile strategy“? What factors are holding back brands from embracing mobile strategies?

That’s for another discussion. But it’s clear – an app can be an important part of one’s marketing strategy, expanding a brand’s presence to the quickly-growing mobile space. Like the early days of (now) trailblazing social media sites, the mobile space has its fair share of early adopters and those trailing behind. But who really wants to be the last one to join the party?

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