Today, wanted to extrapolate further on an interesting conversation I had with one of my colleagues about the subject of mobile evolution. We were talking about mobile and the Instagram acquisition, trying to put some meaning behind the concept of “mobile DNA.”  Here’s my opinion: mobile DNA is is the connection between mobile data points, which companies can use to be more profitable and hedge against supplier risk. To give people some context, Zuckerberg and his CFOs did not buy Instagram the photo-sharing app for $1 billion. They bought Instagram the mobile DNA for $1 billion. Wait, what? The website clearly states that Instagram “is a fast, beautiful and fun way to share photos with friends and family. Snap a picture, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram. Share to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr too – it’s as easy as pie. It’s photo sharing, reinvented.” There’s certainly no mention of mobile or DNA. OK, ok – it’s true that Instagram is a mobile app, so that takes care of the mobile part. And a little bit more thought reveals that Instagram uses hash tags to inform location and users. And that’s the DNA part. Instagram gives Facebook a huge piece of mobile data (i.e. the who/what/when/where/why behind photo sharing) that Facebook can then monetize. And that’s the point of mobile DNA. Getting data around and about mobile was worth $1 billion for Facebook. And that’s the point of this blog post: all companies need to find a way to create their own mobile DNA that can add $1 billion to their own market capitalization.   According to comScore, smartphone penetration reached 42% by the start 2012, with smartphone acquisition outpacing feature phone acquisition as early as July 2011. January 2011 to January 2012 year-over-year growth of mobile activities was staggering – with increases of 34% for personal email, 42.9% for social networking, 38.3% for Search, 49.2% for news, 27.4% for instant messaging and 44.8% for entertainment news (to name a few).  Consumers are using their mobile devices now for everything, and growth momentum just continues to pick up steam. The key to mobile DNA is remembering that it’s not the activities themselves that are valuable. Sure it’s great to know when people are accessing a company website via mobile. But it’s way cooler to know who those people are, why they are there, what their interests are and what their purchasing influences are at that point in time. It’s this second piece that constitutes mobile DNA. And I’m guessing it’s not hard to see why such a thing would be so valuable. You have a device that’s

  • Traveling with people at all times (Morgan Stanley found that 91% of people have their phones within arms reach 24/7)
  • Used for pretty much everything (social, news, games, maps, search)
  • Throughout their entire day (see the aforementioned Morgan Stanley finding)

For those that like analogies, companies should derive mobile DNA value not from adding more and more dots on a map. It’s about connecting those dots in a meaningful way (i.e. through cross-channel, connected data). The connection of these dots can help companies’s profitability in a number of ways, from improving targeting for consumer communication to enhancing customer service capacity and product innovation. Furthermore, mobile DNA hedges against social network industry and firm-specific risk. Think about it – social networks like Twitter and Facebook aren’t valuable to companies because of their communication possibilities. They’re valuable because of the data they have on consumers and how that information can be used to better profit from consumer activity. And that’s exactly why companies don’t have any control over this data. Ultimately, every status update or share is not on a company’s home turf. It’s on foreign territory, meaning that when it comes down to it, companies are at the mercy and whims of the social networking giants (e.g. think about all those companies who were founded on Facebook apps – how do they feel about the Timeline roll out?). So there you have it – the answer to our blog post’s title. Mobile DNA is connecting the mobile data dots to become more profitable and hedge risk in the ever-changing social media landscape (don’t forget that MySpace ruled the world not too long ago and companies like Tumblr and Pinterest didn’t even exist yesterday). To start creating mobile DNA, build a mobile opt-in list, map email subscribers and social media account names to those mobile numbers and analyze the underlying data. Begin creating metrics around the interplay between those various data points using the input advantages (location, time, device, channel etc.) presented by mobile. Best of all, that data/DNA is all yours to benefit from going forward. Enjoy.

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