Mobile Commerce Daily is now Retail Dive: Mobile Commerce! Click here to learn more!

Mobile and social media set to change business

Digital and social media marketing, the advent of cloud computing and the explosion of mobile technology have all had a profound effect on the way marketers and consumers do business.

It is a given that change is required for organizations to stay competitive and grow their business. But the question is, what kind of change and how do you manage this process?

To address some of these questions, we recently hosted a discussion event with companies from a variety of verticals to learn how these emerging channels have affected their business.

Two of the most predominant themes to come out of the conversation were the rise of location-based services (LBS) and the ongoing confusion over how best to measure social media engagement and quantify any ROI from the channel.

This got me thinking about these issues, in particular, and how they will continue to affect the business world as we all grow more comfortable with their applications.

Reality check with LBS
As has been frequently attested to here in other columns, mobile has exploded for both business and personal use.

Nielsen is reporting that there will be 80 million new smartphone users in 2011, in addition to the existing 60 million consumers who currently own such devices.

Companies are reaching out to consumers via the mobile medium and doing so at a rate faster than those allowed by more traditional methods of business-to-consumer connection such as direct mail campaigns and print advertorials.

The rise of LBS is clearly the next wave in mobile adoption. However, it is not just enough to target consumers on their devices.

Marketers also need to think about ways to track how customers are engaging with their brand on their devices and use this information to inform their marketing strategies.

The ability for companies to track when consumers check-in using LBS will have huge ramifications for the industry. This feature enables organizations to collect data including what time of day consumers are most frequently populating the location or how frequent they visit the site.

Check-ins also allow for companies to engage with consumers and offer incentives to keep them coming back.

Facebook’s recent partnership with leading retailers offering discounts to consumers who check in at the store via the social network is proof of LBS’ growing importance across a variety of industries.

By now, many companies understand the value of social media and realize they must have a presence in these channels.

The confusion arises when it comes to quantifying how to monitor social media and use the channel to understand what’s going in the consumer’s mind.

Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and others allow for a steady stream of involvement in the conversation. But gaining revenue from these channels can be more challenging.

Change is on the horizon, however.

Atwitter with possibilities
Facebook has been in the monetization game for a bit, with gaming applications such as Farmville and Mafia Wars requiring subscribers to pay real dollar amounts to buy more virtual goods or to get to the next level.

Twitter recently launched a sponsored Tweet service enabling users to pay for certain hashtags and have them highlighted above others using the hashtag organically.

At the end of the day, marketers should focus on developing a social media strategy that correlates to the Web browsing metrics, mobile device preferences and spending habits of target audiences from whom they are interested in growing revenues.

In addition, by aligning different age groups among the different geographies that they are present in, marketers can localize their efforts to break down social media spend versus ROI to continually understand its effectiveness between both mature and emerging market segments as these markets evolve and align marketing spend accordingly.

Mobile and social media are sure to remain hot topics in the foreseeable future as companies continue to grapple with the questions outlined above.

One thing is clear: these trends are affecting the way we do business now and are sure to have an even more powerful presence in the future.

Rajesh Makhija is New York-based head of the enterprise market unit at MphasiS, an IT services provider for communications, media, healthcare, retail, transportation and manufacturing. Reach him at [email protected].