The rise of the mobile super user – a teen version of the twitterer
Over the past few months I have become a Twitter fan. There’s something about limiting yourself to 160 characters that fundamentally changes the way you communicate. Ironically it’s not the recent use of Twitter that acted as the catalyst to this post but rather reading an exceptional white paper written by mobile guru Will Harris (Nokia UK Marketing Director – from Nov) on the rise of the mobile super user.
In Jonathan Hargreaves’ Cold Coffee, he summarizes Will’s definition of a mobile super user, these include:
Super Users are always connected, and never isolated. They are less planned, and live their lives in a more spontaneous way. They are better informed, and up to date with the world around them. Furthermore, because they are better at multi-tasking, they live very much in real-time. Finally they are less aware of distance, and are regularly in touch with more friends than most.
Super Users create Super Societies – societies awash with Super Users are less formal and more direct. They are less tolerant of hierarchies and used to unfettered, uncensored communications. They are open to new ideas and express those ideas with a new degree of intimacy.
Super Users are the most valuable consumer group – they are more extrovert, more fashionable, more chatty and far more in touch with the world around them – they are the influencers.
The point though in the white paper that really caught my eye was then Will discussed the fact that Super Users are creating Super Societies:
The limitations of 160 characters, as well as the direct and unfettered access any mobile user has to any other mobile user, means that this new type of thinking and attitude seems out from their world to the world outside. The moment you send someone a text you are engaging with them in the rules of the SMS medium, not the broader rules of society.
…Super Users are more informal (you can’t be too polite when you are dealing in 160 characters) they are more open to new ideas (because if you are sending and receiving 500 messages a month, you are “open” rather than closed), they are inherently viral which in turn means they lean towards a more horizontal society, rather than a vertical one.
What got me thinking was that the new mobile super user is more of an adolescent version of the mini-blog users – i.e. someone that uses Twitter, Pownce etc. (hell you can even update by SMS). Reading the top 3 bullets again – do you believe they are synonymous with the Twitter stars?
The rise is SMS caught the telecoms industry by surprise – what was originally envisaged as a technology to allow engineers to report back on the state of the network was taken by the user community and turned into a new form of dialogue.
Coincidentally what we have seen with Twitter is that the same ‘must let everyone know what I am doing’ mentality echoes that of the teens who can’t bear the concept of being without their phone. People are updating Twitter from planes, conferences even when they take the dog for a walk. What is going on with this medium?
At first I wasn’t sure of the ‘business benefits’ of this form of communication. However, keeping in touch with your community/circle of friends is not something to be taken lightly. Being forced to keep under 160 characters ensures that you don’t obfuscate – it is also a great way to find out whether your peers agree with your mindset – James Governor makes the point that Twitter when used well is more of a ‘hearing aid than a megaphone’.
Back to my original point – Will makes the assumption that engaging in SMS forces people to change the way they engage which in turn has created a new type of society. If SMS is changing society from the bottom up (i.e. from the youth) then Twitter is changing it from the top down. The only major difference is that the Twitter community has no patience for ‘txt’ style messaging.
I agree with Will and Jonathan – there is a new type of user. Someone who is concise (to the tune of 140ish characters), someone who tells their community regularly where they are and what they’re thinking and someone who is highly influential. The only thing that we need to understand is that these super users focus on different tools – one being SMS the other Twitter – I wonder whether they will cross over?
Marketers can not gain access to the closed user group that is someone’s SMS circle but they can potentially follow a Twitter account. The ‘2.0’ world is not just about blogging – although I often go spare listening to companies think that is all they need to do. People need to engage wherever the influencers are located and interact in the right manner – it’s not just a case of pimping your service but of engaging in conversations and bringing your opinions to the party.
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