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How to Use Mobile Applications for Social Media Engagement

Let's face it: The world has gone mobile, and so has social media engagement. Statistics from ComScore indicate that 234 million U.S. residents now use mobile devices. Smartphone use has increased 4 percent to 110 million (more than 1 billion worldwide, believe it or not). That means 47 percent of Americans are using smartphones.

Tablet computers are also becoming more commonplace. According to Pew Research Center, as of early 2012, 58 percent of American adults have desktop computers, 61 percent have laptops, 18 percent own e-book readers, and 18 percent have tablet computers. Tablet computer ownership has increased more than 16 percent in less than two years.

The increase in mobile device use for accessing the Internet also changes the way people access websites. Check your website stats, and you'll see an uptick in visits to your site from mobile devices and mobile versions of social networks such as Facebook.

The way people communicate changes continually with the rapid rise in smartphone use and the increasing popularity of tablet computers. Communications tools are more portable than ever, and social networks are all going mobile. People now have unprecedented access to the tools and platforms to reach out to, and engage with, their audiences, customers, and prospects — which means that they can be reached anywhere and at any time.

Mobile applications

A mobile application, or app, is a compact piece of software that runs on a mobile device — a table computer, a smartphone, or even a gaming device. The app can be a mobile version of a website or another online content or be a self-contained application with content that resides entirely on a mobile device.

Mobile apps pack features and functionality into relatively small files with interfaces that fit the smaller screens of tablet computers, smartphones, and the like.

All the most popular web-based social networks have mobile versions that appear legible and clear on the smaller mobile screen. Many social networks offer their own mobile apps so that you can easily access their networks from your Android or iOS mobile device. Some web-based social networks with apps include Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

Some of these popular social networks can also be accessed from third-party mobile apps such as HootSuite that let you post to many of your networks from a single mobile device.

All these dashboard tools for managing your social media also have web-based versions, and some even have desktop versions to make access to your social networks conveniently cross-platform. Without the mobile aspect, however, they would be missing a large and growing share of users as more people turn to their mobile devices to access and communicate online.

Mobile continues to grow at an astronomical pace. According to YouTube, its traffic from mobile alone tripled in 2011. More than 3 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube from mobile devices every minute. That's powerful.

Location-based services

A subset of mobile applications are location-based services (LBSs). LBSs are social networks that are focused around places — actual physical locations — and they tap into the GPS in a smartphone or mobile device to offer features and functionality. Mobile is the operative word in LBSs — they offer ways to turn social media engagement on the web into social mobile engagement.

Though many LBSs are available, Foursquare and Instagram are the most common because they have options and features either geared toward or useful for companies and brands.

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