Mobile Social: Practice What You Preach

Today I listened while David O’Neill from Viafo talked to a group of us about social sharing in mobile apps. He made some great points, and I will be able to apply at least one of his ideas immediately. But the session wasn’t completely one-sided, I think David also has some homework to do.

I was at the second of two conferences for me this week: MoSo (the Mobile Social conference). While I’m attending sessions I try to concentrate on the speaker, listen and truly understand their points. Today’s speaker, David, made excellent points about how sharing should be done from within mobile apps:

  • allow users to share to as many services as you can support
  • however, only let them share to the services for which this content makes sense
  • allow them to personalize the message
  • share compelling content, not just “hey I clicked share from this app!”
  • you should know what content your users are sharing (analytics)
  • build sharing in from the start, not as an afterthought

These are all great points, and he drove the message home with a good anecdote on an app that Honda had made for one of their vehicles. David also said that users want to share, and if you aren’t allowing them to share from within the app, you’re missing out on the cheapest and best marketing available today.

As David was talking, I was wondering of Viafo practiced what they preached. Did they have an engaging mobile presence? Were they allowing me to share their content with other developers that I know?

I searched and found the twitter account @viafo which looked pretty official. Except the last tweet from this account was May 30, 2012 (44 days previous!):

I also checked out the company web site, and there was no way for me to share the page instantly. How strange.

So there I was, listening to David tell us that we needed to let our users share content or nobody was going to find our apps. I waited patiently, and then at the end of his talk I asked about Viafo’s mobile strategy – why was their Twitter account so out of use?

“Oh. Well, that twitter account isn’t really used,” he explained.

“Why? It looks like your company account to me,” I retorted.

“Well I guess so, but we just use it for testing,” was his answer.

Really? That’s it? Well dear Viafo, you are missing the boat. You need to start practicing what you preach. Don’t forget that mobile developers are people, too – we like to share things with our friends as much as anyone, but it just so happens that some of us share geeky things. Developer type things. Things like “hey, I found this great service for building social sharing into mobile apps!”

Except I can’t. I can’t share this with my developer friends because your twitter presence is “just for testing”, your Facebook page hasn’t been updated in just as long, and your web site is anything but sexy. Even the developer documentation is out of date and unpolished.
This is not at all a criticism of Viafo’s technology – it DOES look very cool and useful. I know that David is telling the truth that supporting a matrix of social sites across a few different mobile development platforms is painful because I’m already feeling that pain. If Viafo has the answer to that then I do believe that they’re positioned to expand and profit greatly in the marketplace.

But in order to do that, they’re going to have to start practicing what they preach.

If you want to listen to David talk about the problem and their solution, please see this interview on Mobile Industry Review.