Which Social Media Juggernaut is Winning the Mobile Battle?

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The mobile landscape has a tendency to be all at once treacherous, thrilling, terrifying, exciting, rewarding and most of all in constant flux. Much the same way businesses have been trying to wrap their minds around social media for the past decade or so, social media companies are now trying to do the same with mobile, and while some of the are flourishing, others are struggling to keep up. As the future of social sites now hinges squarely on their success in mobile, it is certainly worth it to take a look at what’s going on in mobile for some of our favorite social powerhouses.

Facebook:

Facebook’s push towards mobile web began all the way back in 2006, with major mobile web and web app development projects. The company’s creed in terms of mobile from the very beginning was “write once, run everywhere”. This allowed them to build their apps with flexible code that would function across all devices. While that sounds great on paper, and worked well enough for a while, as mobile technology evolved, Facebook’s app performance became less and less satisfying. Pages loaded slowly, content started to feel clunky, and overall performance simply wasn’t living up to the high expectations that more educated mobile users had. The only solution was to start fresh, as Facebook lead programmer Jonathon Dann wrote in his blog.

The “ground-up” rebuild that Dann talks about involved taking the iOS app completely native. While that strategy flies in the face of everything Facebook has been saying for the past few years, it has actually turned out to be a really beneficial upgrade. The app now works smoother, runs faster, performs more efficiently, and allows for a number of actions and conveniences that were not possible with the Facebook mobile web app.

In terms of its mobile business, Facebook’s very public downturn has certainly had an affect on its mobile revenue. The company has made no bones about the fact that it struggles to monetize mobile, however it seems the tides may be slowly turning as reports suggest Facebook’s mobile ads actually outperform its desktop ads and studies suggest potential for massive growth in the medium over the next two years.

Twitter:

While Facebook has experienced just about nothing but turbulence in mobile, Twitter seems to just keep on rolling with the punches and has outperformed Facebook in mobile at just about every turn. Part of this success comes from the fact that Twitter is a much more mobile-friendly initiative with its condensed content and streamlined design. The other major factor in Twitter’s mobile success is its adoption of sponsored stories rather than leaning on mobile ads that tend to annoy users and generally don’t result in a large ROI.

The capitalization of mobile advertisements, combined with a sophisticated understanding of mobile web UI and a dedication to building specifically for it, has given Twitter plenty to be optimistic about for its mobile future.

LinkedIn:

LinkedIn may never be the sexiest of the social media top dogs, but it does tend to be the most consistently successful, and mobile is no exception. By simply addressing the issue of efficient and effective user experience, LinkedIn has been able to drastically improve its mobile presence over the past year. The company redesigned its iPad and iOS apps earlier this year, opting to focus heavily on mobile web versus native technology, and has just recently added a host of new features to its mobile web experience such as company pages, new languages, and more convenient functionalities.

Call it the tortoise and the hare, call it the quiet guy getting the girl, whatever you call it, LinkedIn’s business model of slow and steady combined with focus on only the essentials has helped it become a virtually competition-free success story, and we’ll be surprised if it does not continue with mobile.

YouTube:

Mobile video has already made a massive mark in the business world, and the folks at YouTube have been right in the heart of that mix. Part of YouTube’s mobile success has come from the fact that the YouTube app has always come standard in the iOS platform. Every new iPhone user has the YouTube app and almost exclusively uses it as the video outlet of choice. That is all about to change as the new iOS6 will do away with the pre-installed YouTube app, in an attempt to cut its ties with Google products. It will be interesting to see how this decision affects YouTube’s mobile presence as while there are over a million Android device activations daily, the iOS market is still a huge percentage of the smartphone market.

YouTube has also made major strides in the mobile ad space as it has recently introduced a feature allowing users to choose whether or not to view ads. While these ads tend to perform better, advertisers will be hesitant to buy in. YouTube believes the ads could quickly become the norm in the mobile space.

Of course other social networks are also making major pushes in mobile. Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it, mobile is the top priority on the To-Do list. The gauntlet has been laid, time will tell which networks emerge unscathed.

Alex Kutsishin
This monthly "Social Media and Mobile" column is contributed by Alex Kutsishin. Alex is the president and co-founder of FiddleFly, Inc. He is an entrepreneur with a background in creative marketing and web design. When Alex is not helping the world go mobile with FiddleFly, he spends his time traveling the country speaking about social media, marketing, and the future of the web. +Alex Kutsishin
Alex Kutsishin

@AlexKutsishin

Pot Stirrer at FiddleFly Inc. Now tweeting from @fiddlefly. To contact me directly, email alexk@fiddlefly.com or call 410-309-7429.
Hey folks, from here on I'll be tweeting directly from @FiddleFly so make sure to follow and feel free to get in touch! - 2 years ago
Alex Kutsishin
Bucharest

Comments

  1. says

    Just a quick update, YouTube has just announced the launch of its new iPhone app. This app will be developed by YouTube instead of Apple and will look to operate much smoother and more efficiently than the previous models.

    • says

       Google+ does have a very nice interface on mobile in fact. The issue we have with Google+ is that only 1/4 of its registered users are actually active users. That still gives them almost 100 million users, but much the way Facebook does search as an afterthought, most users use Google+ as sort of an afterthought to Google’s many other really excellent services.

      Certainly fair to mention G+ alongside the other major heavy hitters we talked about in the article, we just wanted to put more focus on the sites that are seeing the higher rate of engagement. Thanks!

  2. Jonasc says

    I too was very surprised at the absence of Google+ as, its mobile application is the sole reason that I use G+.  Leaps and bounds above the other sites, G+ gives you the images and videos of Facebook, in a single user friendly stream like Twitter, not to mention the use of hashtags; its the best of both.  I really liked your analyzations of the other social networks out there.  Heck, without mobile, we may have many fewer networks, as the ability to update whatever, whenever is possibly the largest driving force for social media.

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