Bringing together the real social network through music

by CXOtoday Staff    Aug 27, 2010

AhmedKamalOnMobileWith over 49 million Indian users on social networking sites the need to connect has never been more apparent. While consumers connect and share information and their lives through social networking sites, there’s a much closer network that we are in touch with — the people we engage with and speak to on a day-to-day basis, through our phones. In fact, even before we speak, we have a subtle influence on them through our ringback tones (RBT). This community has been growing in leaps and bounds — over 250 million songs were downloaded on the RBT platform in 2009, which is a 55 per cent increase from the previous year.

There is a tremendous opportunity to bring the community even closer through this medium, allowing users to not only share songs and musical preferences, but also update our closest circle — the one on which we have the maximum influence — on our status, moods and thoughts. Furthermore, by integrating our call network with our social network, we can share more easily, more regularly and not be hampered by availability of an Internet connection.

While social networking is growing, it has until now been restricted to users who have access to computers/smartphones and regular Internet connectivity. The majority of the Indian population now has an opportunity to share updates with a much closer circle of friends and associates through RBT.

Furthermore, 81 per cent of RBT users are below the age of 40 with 32 per cent in the 20-25 age group. Operators who integrate their RBT offering with social networking will therefore be offering value additions to their largest customer base — youth who are already the strongest drivers of social networking.

For telecom operators who are faced with continual drop in ARPU, value-added services are a tremendous opportunity to increase revenues, and RBT with a rich set of features plays a huge role in driving these revenues. Music and entertainment; search and discovery, and social networking are the three biggest themes of the VAS space that are showing significant growth potential. The ‘killer’ applications of the next generation will fall in the intersection between these spaces. RBT that brings together music and social networking, or ’social RBT’, will take the success of RBT in India to the next level.

Social RBT will enable users to update their friends and associates as and when they change their ringback tones, through SMS updates or directly on the social networking site of their choice. For operators, this will spur an increase in RBT adoption by motivating users to change their own RBT when they see their friends changing theirs.

Furthermore, RBT will become more personal by allowing users to set not just popular songs as their ring back tone but also record their own. From out-of-office messages to singing along to their favorite music, this is an opportunity for every Indian to be heard. Aspiring musicians, for instance, can showcase their music and talent on a viral platform, while every single one of us can speak out on issues, personal thoughts and day-to-day incidents to our real network.

When the social networking revolution was introduced the ability to share our lives with friends and associates of our choice spurred its massive adoption. Bringing it to the mobile phone — which is the only device that accompanies us everywhere, all of the time — will fulfill this need to express ourselves on a much deeper and more personal level. Much like social networking the limits of services like social RBT will be defined only by the imagination of the users.

- Ahmed Kamal is Vice President, Network Product Unit at OnMobile