Twitter is joining hands with a Singapore-based company U2opia to reach users in emerging markets who don't have smartphones with mobile Internet access, reports The Times of India. This will be introduced by the first quarter of 2014, and will be similar to a service offered by Facebook.
Making use of existing first generation mobile phone technology Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), users will simply dial a simple code to get a feed of popular trending topics on Twitter. It should be noted that USSD is strictly textual, that is, users won't be able to view pictures, videos, or any other graphics.
Already, more than 11 million people are using U2opia Mobile's service, which allows users to access both Facebook and even Google Hangout on mobile devices without a data connection. Furthermore, the USSD solution is also available on smart phones that do have a data connection, in case users would rather want to use the USSD solution instead. U2opia Mobile is present in 30 countries and 7 different languages, and will localize the Twitter feeds according to the location of the user. Currently, their biggest markets are Africa and South America.
Personally I think increased usage of USSD for features such as Facebook and Twitter will encourage users to ultimately upgrade to smartphones in the long term. The reason for this is because with today's existing technology, users will be missing out on the entire experience without pictures, videos, and graphics. At the same token, as word spreads about USSD features, those who currently aren't using social media will be inclined to do, or basically jump on the bandwagon so to speak.
From another perspective, it's interesting to see how quickly social media and other websites have made their way into pop culture. For example, a lot of televisions shows and movies are showing character making use of social media, or least it's referenced within context. Just another medium to reach out to the masses if you ask me.