Facebook iPhone app users: the numbers keep dropping!

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Facebook announced there were 102 million users accessing the site through the iphone app, along with 57 m on BlackBerry and nearly 12 m on Android. The social networking site has now changed it’s mind, and said that the figure is closer to 44 million. Or 66 million depending on what you read! The 44 m was quoted by FB to Engadget, and the 66 m is quoted on Facebook’s own page. Confused? It looks like everyone is.

A company engineer recently blogged that there were 150 million people accessing the site through their mobile phones, but it looks like that figure will also have to be revised down. Which ever way you look at it, it is fair to say that FB has many mobile users, but the exact figure is now a very cloudy one. It highlights one of the many problems with mobile marketing – getting acurate data is difficult, or near impossible.

Mobile operator revenues decline. And data use surges

The recent Ofcom report into UK mobile usage and operators has been widely reported online. There are a few interesting headline figures that come out of it. One of the most significant for me are the data and revenue figures. Firstly, operator revenues declined by 3.5% over the last year. Blame it on the recession? Perhaps. But I have said for a while that revenue-wise the operators are stuck in a rutt. We all have the mobile plans that we want and generally don’t want to pay any more. At the same time, additional revenue generators such as voice, SMS and now data roaming fees have been restricted through EU legislation. So, in a saturated UK market, where can mobile operators gain additional revenue? Content? Well not really because that has now been sown up by the likes of Apple and itunes. Mobile marketing and advertising? Again, unlikely with iAD and Google’s Admob getting in on the act. So from the UK perspective there is little opportunity for mobile operators to increase their revenues.

On the flip side, data has increased massively. In short, everyone is busily updating their Facebook pages from their mobile phones. According to the Ofcom report though, revenues have far from kept pace. Take a look at their chart below:

It is important to take these kinds of stats with a pinch of salt. They make it clear that it does not include data revenues already bundled into tariffs: that’s iphone and Blackberry users in particular. However, the bundling aspect is significant. The fact that it cannot be separated means that the data revenue options are limited for the operators. In short, users of smartphones expect their data as part of their subscription.

I have said a few times before, it is all very well talking apps and HTML5, but the big issue that will have to be addressed is data. There is little incentive for operators to invest in better data networks if there is no chance of increasing revenues. I suspect that in the short term, at least, the solution will be to limit data use. That’s something that some operators have already implemented.

Facebook Places launches in the US (and privacy concerns ensue)

Facebook is launching their new location service, Facebook Places today amid the inevitable privacy concerns. Places works in a similar way to Foursquare and Gowalla, with users checking-in to locations which are then shared with their friends. At this stage it’s not clear whether when Check-In offers will be available for discounts and free stuff from brands. A Facebook spokesperson claimed that they were not infringing privacy and said: “We equate it with this existing mechanism where your friends can tag in photos – the control is that you are always notified and can remove those tags at any time”. Fine, except that users have been continually confused and frustrated by their privacy settings. I have previously argued that social media sites have a greater responsibility to make their users aware of the potential privacy issues. It is something Foursquare seems to be taking in hand and perhaps showing a few lessons to the bigger boys of social media?

Guardian Media report here

Foursquare tackles privacy issues

I‘ve blogged a lot about privacy and social media. Certainly when it comes to marketing through mobile social media, then what others know about you is a major issue. You only have to look at the furore over Openbook and pleaserobme.com to see what a sensitive subject it is. In a recent DMA newsletter I wrote a piece on how surprised I was that I could see the email addresses and phone numbers of ‘friends’ who I didn’t know (not to mention their houses conveniently shown on the map). It seems that Foursquare is beginning to address the issue. In a recent blog, Foursquare announced that they are changing the settings to make users more aware of what they are sharing with the rest of the world. The neat part is a privacy grid which shows exactly what you are sharing (or not).

I think this kind of clarity is key to the success of location-based social media. With rumours that Facebook are due to launch their location service very soon, it makes sense for Foursquare to get ahead on the privacy stakes. FB seems to take an approach of changing privacy settings and waiting until users complain before changing them again! Eric Schmidt of Google was quoted in The Wall Street Journal, as saying that people should change their names when they reach adulthood to avoid youthful indiscretions sitting on social media sites. That’s one solution I suppose, but I have argued that social media sites have a duty to act responsibly and warn users about what they are getting in to in terms of the information that they share. It looks like Foursquare have taken the initiative on this.

Mobile Web: The customers are there, but where are the retailers?

A new survey by AIME and the IAB shows that 4.2 million people in the UK visit retail sites every month from their mobile phone. The figure is surprisingly high when you consider that Marks and Spencer are the only high street retailer to have a complete mobile site with transactions. We already know that Amazon do well from their mobile site and app (they do $1 billion annually through mobile), and similarly Ocado’s iphone app generates 5% of their online income. However, it looks like some retailers are beginning to catch on. The study found that over 41% of retailers intend to offer a fully transactional mobile site this year.

As I often say to brands, ‘don’t wait for your customers to get on to mobile, because they are already there’.