Mobile Social Networking

Those of you just getting to grips with online social networking take note: the trend has gone mobile. There are a plethora of new mobile social networks out there. It’s no longer good enough simply to update your status next time you get around to going on-line: you should be updating it on the go using your cell phone or similar doohicky. Or should you?

Here’s a scenario for you: you’re walking down Robson Street (Princes Street or Yonge for that matter) and your phone rings to say someone in your social network has updated their status or added a photo. Turns out a colleague you’ve been trying to meet is at a cafe round the corner passing some time. The question is do you pretend to bump into them or to you respond via your mobile network in the hope that they will respond?

BrightKite is one such social network that lets you do exactly this. It’s in beta right now but you can request an invite and if you blog about it, you are likely to get one. Add friends on the network according to where they are or make new friends according to where you are. The system also allows you to upload photos and add comments in a map view from your phone and it piggybacks on the success of Twitter, allowing you to link to the microblog (posting once to both and avoiding texter’s finger).

It’s all very cool but is it simply another distraction in an already overwhelming sea of noise. Like many of these innovations, it will depend on how you use it.

Sadly, BrightKite (the mobile version) isn’t available in Canada yet (or Scotland for that matter) but I signed up for the on-line version nevertheless in an effort to get an understanding of mobile SN. My first post lamented the lack of Canadian availability and the second post was inadvertent – I tried to get support assistance because I couldn’t include my url in my profile (invalid URL indeed!) but instead my post for support was sent out to all. The response was a warning about “crass commercialization”. Thankfully BrightKite staff quickly flagged the issue and, showing great attention to customer service, apologised for their overzealousness but to be honest I was a bit put off – and my URL question still hasn’t been resolved.

I love the BrightKite concept and I am looking forward to trying out the full blown network on my phone one day (when Canadian service materialises). I hope that by then they have worked out all their processes. In the meantime, if you are just getting used to on-line social networking don’t worry, you have some time before it hits the masses.

Are you on BrightKite or using other location-based social networks? Please let us know and share your experiences with us.

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