It is no surprise that social media apps—Twitter and Facebook, and some new contenders like Foursquare—have helped drive the use of smartphones. But then came Apple's tablet device, the iPad, and the mobile-driven social media world looks poised to evolve yet again, perhaps even more quickly and radically.
Social media management app HootSuite—especially popular with marketers who like its ability to manage multiple accounts and services in a single interface—delivered its first iPad app in November. The app supports multiple Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare accounts with a multicolumn design that works well on the spacious iPad.
“On a tablet, you can view more social media data at once—multiple Twitter and Facebook streams tracking your brand, for example—and get a nice cross-network view of things at a glance,” said Jeff Stautz, HootSuite's director of mobile. "I'm also seeing a trend toward more immersive displays of data on tablets, social network feeds and RSS feeders that look like magazines, with photo-video browsing integrated into social feeds and high-res maps that show you updates from tweets near you. These are all things that were impossible, or just impossibly cramped, on phones.”
Stautz said HootSuite is seeing “a ton of iPad use” with its service. Users particularly like the ability not only to get more social media data but more context as well because of the larger form factor, he said.
“On a phone, the small screen means a lot of your navigation is limited to moving forward and back between screens, and once you get a few layers deep into an app you can lose your place," he said. "We tried to design our iPad app to eliminate some of these problems."
Meanwhile, a new class of apps is emerging that use the extra screen space, touch interface and inherently connected and social nature of tablet apps to build something entirely new.
The best example is Flipboard, the combination magazine and social media app that launched a new version in early December. Alongside its Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds, Flipboard integrates content from eight mainstream publishers, such as The Washington Post, and brand advertisers, including Hilton and Infiniti.
Flipboard CEO Mike McCue touted its “ability to integrate high-impact brand advertising into a platform that is, at its core, a social media experience."
Flipboard isn't alone in making social media more of a media experience. Still in private beta, TweetMag takes your Twitter followers and feeds, and automatically turns them into magazine-like experiences on the iPad (see a video review of TweetMag here). The Washington Post, meanwhile, recently launched its own iPad app, featuring so-called “live topic” pages that continually update based on social media feeds.
Indeed, the whole iPad-inspired idea of social media-app-as-magazine has inspired so much interest that one company, Taptu, has pulled the concept back onto the smartphone, creating a “Flipboard-lite”-style social media aggregator dubbed My Taptu. Alphonso Labs Pulse News Reader takes a similar approach, working on the iPhone, iPad and Android.
What goes around comes around, in social media, in mobile apps (smartphone and tablet), and in the intersection between the two.