In 2012 the world total of smartphones exceeded one billion for the first time, and levels of social media usage continued to rise even higher. With these figure in mind, it seems inevitable that in the next few years every facet of our lives will be integrated with social media. After all, we already ‘check-in’ to places we visit and ‘like’ our favourite restaurants and bars. However, despite the huge proliferation of smartphones, there’s still a fundamental gap between our social media lives and our real, physical social lives.

Near Field Communication, (or NFC, as it’s known to its friends) is an emerging technology and a new way of bridging this gap between the physical and the digital. Through the use of NFC-enabled smartphones and NFC Tags, smartphone users can interact with their physical environment to update their digital world. Simply by swiping an NFC-enabled phone over an NFC tag, smartphone users can do anything - from viewing multimedia content, to making small payments, to liking a Facebook page.

NFC is making its first major breakthrough into the social media world with the HTC First, a smartphone which uses Facebook’s new ‘Home’ interface. Home is a heavily-integrated piece of software which straddles the gap between operating system and app, creating a mobile experience that is centred entirely on the social network. It replaces the usual Android lock and home screens with streams of photos and status updates from Facebook friends, and works in tandem with other social apps like Instagram and YouTube, seamlessly bringing pictures and videos into the social media fold. Yet it’s the HTC First’s NFC compatibility that promises to be its truly defining feature, offering a new way to connect digital social networks with physical locations.

An NFC phone with deep Facebook integration like the HTC First has the potential to revolutionise the smartphone and social media industries - as well as being a major marketing boost for more traditional businesses - by truly changing the way smartphone users interact with their environment. For example, an advertisement for a bar would bring up pictures, video and directions on a potential customer’s phone, giving a crucial edge over the static ads of competitors. An NFC tag at the door of the bar would update a Facebook location, and an NFC-enabled poster for an upcoming event could be swiped, giving the customer an invitation to the Facebook event. And if the customer is happy with the service, they could leave a tip with an NFC micro-transaction, or ‘like’ the place by scanning a tag on the way out. 

Social media and NFC integration like this has advantages for everyone. It allows friends to keep in touch with each other better than ever before, whilst providing a superior way for a traditional business to connect to the digital world. Its integration with software like Facebook Home also means more status, location and ‘like’ updates; which also means more page views and more ad views, helping solve the social media monetisation problem.