Friends in Mobile Places: Facebook Joins GSM Association

The social networking giant joined an association for mobile operators this week, indicating the company’s growing focus—and a definite step away from the traditional member base for the association.

The social networking giant joined an association for mobile operators this week, indicating the company’s growing focus. For the association, Facebook represents a new kind of member.

The world’s biggest social network is mobilizing its wireless interests.

Facebook has joined the GSM Association (GSMA) as an associate member—becoming the first social network among the international trade group’s nearly 800 mobile operators.

The membership—which could be boosted to full status should Facebook attain wireless spectrum or a cell tower—will allow the company to learn more about and voice concerns regarding mobile standards and policy issues, according to FierceWireless‘ Phil Goldstein. The move will likely also increase Facebook’s involvement in the GSMA’s annual Mobile World Congress, he adds.

“Joining the GSMA reflects our focus on mobile and our continued desire to work closely and collaboratively with partners in the industry, and we look forward to playing an active role as an associate member,” said Facebook’s vice president of partnerships, Dan Rose, in a statement to the publication.

Other details on the move:

Where the future lies: Facebook’s growing wireless focus is evident from its involvement in, the global partnership it cofounded that’s working to expand net access to the two-thirds of the world not yet connected, a company press release says [PDF]. The effort, which also includes Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung among others, comes in addition to Facebook’s current work to expand social media reach—by, for example, creating a reduced-data version of its mobile app that relies on Java. “While we don’t comment on future plans, I can say that with our goal is to work with existing players in the mobile space to help bring the next five billion people online,” Facebook spokesman Derick Mains told FierceWireless.

It’s important now, too: Mobile has become a significant part of Facebook’s business model. Sales from its mobile promotions account for up to 49 percent of its ad revenue, Goldstein reports, and the company had 874 million monthly active mobile users in September, a 45 percent increase year-over-year. On average, 507 million mobile users logged into Facebook daily that month.

Facebook and the GSMA might seem an odd pair, but joining the group certainly gives the social network a broader base to collaborate with on common interests. And there’s something to be said for an association thinking outside its traditional base for potential members.

What relationships have you fostered from unlikely partnerships—and what surprising benefits have come from them? Tell us in the comments.

(photo by takeshi/Flickr)

Emma Beck

By Emma Beck

Emma Beck is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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