People of Pakistan, for last few years at least, have started expressing their thoughts and opinions – through Facebook, Twitter, blogging, text messages, rallies, elections and so on.
One will agree that a common Pakistani is more aware of surroundings than he was ever before. Not only this, he can sense the upcoming threats, he want to comment over on-going situations, local, national and international, political, sports and so on.
Electronic media has immensely educated the common Pakistani; rest has been done by the internet, majorly the blogging, Facebook and other similar platforms.
Now let’s get back to our main focus, why a mobile social network can be more feasible communication channel for a market like Pakistan?
If we talk about numbers, answer can be as simple as: Due to a fact that Pakistan has 59 percent mobile phone users, compared to 0.3 percent broadband subscribers, a mobile social network is surly a good idea for the region.
Hamari Awaz, Pringit and Chopaal are working examples. Interestingly all these services use SMS as channel for broadcast and not the GPRS.
Meaning that if built properly, via SMS, communication with a community is not going to be expensive. Look at cellular tariffs, particularly the SMS rates. Unlike many other countries, receiving SMS is free in Pakistan; while sending an SMS is almost free (I am terming 1 paisa per SMS, as almost free item).
If we talk particularly about Humari Awaz, there is no doubt that it can be of great value for a common person. Though, it could perform even better if it was little different in architecture. For instance, in current model users can make groups, which other mobile users join/subscribe to get updates.
This model could be somewhat better than what it is now, may be by giving each mobile phone subscriber a unique identity (or call it a user name, just like facebook profile), and then if he was allowed to add his/her friends or vice versa, it could be an entirely different product with much more demand and popularity.
Having said that, by definition, Humari Awaz is ‘Mobile Group Broadcast’, and is not a ‘Mobile Social Network’
Due to its group broadcast nature, some minds bear doubts that this platform was meant to be used for mass-communication by those group owners with huge subscribers. Particularly, the project was backed by US Government, people avoided using it.
Moreover, Humari Awaz is not a free service anymore, in fact you are charged for even receiving SMS – making it less popular with-in days.
A complain of many users, Humari Awaz is running without any support number, let alone the website. We don’t know who these guys are, where they came from or what are they planning for future.
Pringit is another emerging Social Mobile Network, which can keep you posted about your friends’ twitter and Facebook updates.
Owners of Pringit may differ in opinion, but its blended nature with Facebook and Twitter has over crowded Pringit experience.For instance, a Pringit user gets updates from all of his Faecbook friends and from twitter timeline. I have seen people complaining about the mass-sms bombarding from pringit, resultantly they terminated their accounts or switched off SMS updates.
Pringit could have been a great place, if it had focused entirely on its own network, without integrating Facebook and Twitter, by allowing users to send/receive updates via SMS from and with-in Pringit community.
No doubt integration with Facebook and Twitter has brought them user base, additional functionality of getting Facebook/Twitter Updates on cell phone is blessing for many users, but where is Pringit’s brand name in the whole process?
If I was to use Pringit for receiving Facebook updates only, then why would I add additional layer of Pringit in it? Given that, I can receive Facebook messages directly on my Mobile through Facebook itself.
Pioneers of Mobile Social Networking, Chopaal is heavily criticized due for its poor quality of service and delayed messages.
Not only their SMS delivery, but their website down time is another threat for their business.
Moreover, look at their tag line: ‘Free Group SMS’, in my opinion, Chopaal should think otherwise and let the people think beyond sending an SMS to a group.
Message delivery time is the most crucial factor for Mobile Social Networking (via SMS). For the purpose, cellular companies will have to come forward and provide dedicated services to these social mobile networks, ensuring quality at feasible price.
Even cellular companies can start their mobile social network at their own. But they will have to take it as a community building project, instead of money grabbing activity. Naturally, money gonna come by itself – with time.
Getting out of Twitter and Facebook is necessary, if we will have them included in our Mobile Social Networks, we are never going to attain the glory. We have mig33 as an example.
If mobile social network is coupled with web presence, just like twitter (in western countries), Pringit has done it too – that’s a perfect synergy for the success story of a Mobile Social Network.
Having said this, Mobile Social networks can either charge end users for message delivery (like Humari Awaz is doing), or otherwise they can earn through blended adds in SMS messages – or either ways as per subscribers’ consent.
You guys may differ with me, shoot your opinion and further ideas and thoughts in comments!!!