A group of business leaders just finished discussing the potential of bringing social virality to mobile devices, here at VentureBeat's DiscoveryBeat 2010 in San Francisco, CA.
Moderated by Charles Hudson, former VP of business development at Serious Business, the panel--Immad Akhund, co-founder of Heyzap; Kabir Kasargod, founder and business development lead of Vive Service at Qualcomm; Si Shen, co-founder and CEO of PapayaMobile; and Jason Citron, founder and CEO of Aurora Feint--had by the end of the talk concluded that no mobile network can yet claim having seen the same kind of successful virality we’ve seen so many times on Facebook and Twitter.
“No one can claim they’ve cracked viral on mobile,” said Citron.
Probably the biggest reason is the lack of a perfectly seamless experience for sharing widely something from the Web to a mobile device or from a mobile device to another. The best bet a company has is to encourage users to talk about the product or post game scores through their favorite social network and hope users take the time to search for the game or product on their mobile device.
Sensing that the panel had conceded to the fact that virality on mobile has not yet been achieved to the same extent as it has on social networks, Hudson near the end of the talk asked whether the very mobile environment, replete with rules, fences in any chances at virality.
Citron practically admitted defeat in the affirmative, joking that developers could certainly aspire for increased virality if they were free to text whomever they wanted as often as they wanted.
More seriously, Akhund suggested that one crucial difference between mobile and social is that social networks have the benefit of being able to attract people to a central location regularly. Citron immediately concurred, adding that hundreds of millions of people check their news feed on sites like Facebook every day. All any game or video might need to go viral is just a few initial shares on a network of that magnitude. On even the most popular smartphones, like the iPhone, there’s no equivalent central location--that is, except for social network apps.
Interestingly, Shen had just before offered a strategy for working around rules governing mobile devices. While developers cannot have free and unbridled access to just anyone’s phone numbers for SMS messaging, they can suggest that their current users recommend the game or product to their friends. According to Shen, PapayaMobile has seen 10 times the conversion rate using this strategy versus email or other mobile lines of communication.
Still more important, perhaps, is Akhund’s point that smartphones are still very much growing to be commonplace. Maybe once the users check social networks more from mobile devices than desktop devices, virality on-the-go will be easy to achieve.