February 26, 2013

Location-based services are coming of age (and it’s way more than Foursquare)

3 iphone-screenshots
From left, screenshots of the new app Now, EyeEm and Gogobot.

Geolocation apps start to splinter into verticals

This is the second in an ongoing series on the state of geolocation apps, sites and services. Also see:
• Part 1: Are you ready for the place graph?

Target audience: Startups, entrepreneurs, businesses with location-based components, educators, journalists, general public.

JD LasicaIn part one of this series we looked back at the early days of geolocation, with Platial kicking off the geoloco revolution in the practically prehistoric year of 2005. Since then, a number of paradigm-shifting startups have already come, gone or been sold, among them fwix, Loopt, Ditto, Blockboard, Everyblock (shut down this month) and the late lamented NextStop and Whrrl.

geologo-logoOn Sunday Josh Williams, former founder-CEO of Gowalla and now a product manager at Facebook, penned a great writeup on the early years of the Foursquare-Gowalla death match, spanning 2009-2010, before Foursquare emerged as the King of Check-In Mountain.

Now that the table has been set, what’s next for geolocation? Is it all about Foursquare, Yelp, yawn and go home?

I don’t think so. Instead, we’re seeing geolocation begin to splinter into niches and verticals. And, within a couple of years, geolocation capabilities will simply be baked into our everyday on-the-go lives.

From Silicon Valley and elsewhere, startups have emerged with powerful, useful geolocation capabilities central to their business model. As someone who’s as much an entrepreneur as a social strategist, I’m about to cast off into these choppy waters myself with a startup called Placely. (Come add your email addy to be notified when we’re ready to roll!)

Flavors of location: Travel, recommendations, geo-social & more

We’re still in the expansion, experimentation and buyout phase — before the inevitable contraction, consolidation and hand-wringing phase sets in

In surveying the competitive landscape, I’ve been struck by how diverse the geo landscape has become. We’re still in the expansion, experimentation and buyout phase — before the inevitable contraction, consolidation and hand-wringing phase sets in. Every week, it seems, I hear about a new startup doing something interesting with geolocation. (I still wish Gowalla had pivoted instead of selling to Facebook.)

Navigation apps like Waze and mapping sites (Google, Apple, Mapquest, Bing Maps) are all about location, but they’re too obvious to include here.

So what are the new breed of startups using location information in interesting new ways? Continue reading

February 2, 2011

Social businesses: Glimmers of a macro trend


Social Business Design (CC image by Dachis Group)

Annual look at the best strategies, tactics, case studies & insights in the enterprise space

Christopher RollysonCompared to 2009 and 2008, the past year was a relatively calm one because the amplitude of market gyrations clearly diminished and businesses began to find a new floor on which to build stakeholder expectations. Although I watched with high interest the unfolding financial drama in Europe, I didn’t have the time to conduct the research necessary to do a rigorous interpretation, although I published a brief reflection last week. The big story of the past year was this: 2010 marked a turning point in the adoption of social technologies and in the recognition that analysis and strategy are necessary to achieve consistent results with social initiatives.

Macro trends: Moving from broadcast to relationship building

Until recently, being on Facebook was an end in itself, agencies produced vapid content and little interaction occurred because people rarely interact when brands are talking at them instead of listening

Social has been in adolescence until recently — “being on Facebook” was an end in itself, agencies produced vapid content and little interaction happened because people rarely interact when brands are talking at them instead of listening. People feel it when a brand is interested in using social tools to promote itself. They also feel it when a brand is interested in building relationship, which is marked by active listening and responding, along with a relative absence of self-promotion. Brands that build relationship learn that they don’t have to try so hard to promote themselves: when they are truly interested in people, people will promote them. However, this approach remains a future state for most companies. Relationships take serious work — thus, a need for a strategy.

The growing use of strategy is also a harbinger for what I call “social business” (a step beyond social media), in which leaders use social technologies to transform their businesses by collaborating openly with various outside and inside stakeholders to innovate constantly. Early movers will begin emerging this year: Only a few gutsy players will aggressively adopt social business practices in 2011. I believe they can change markets.

Continue reading

September 13, 2010

CMO guide to Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt & Brightkite

Gowalla
A Gowalla heat map of Austin, Texas, by Bramus on Flickr

Evaluating the business potential of location-based social applications—is the tail wagging the dog?

Christopher RollysonIf you read any mainstream media or social media sites, you might have started to get the impression that a Foursquare, Gowalla or Loopt application is your only hope to make this quarter’s numbers because check-ins are on everyone’s lips, er, fingertips these days. However, for chief marketing officers of large brands, what’s the real business potential of these apps in 2010? What can they do for your business, and what and where are their limitations?

Below I’ll share some due diligence I’ve conducted for one of my clients and give you some general guidance for using these apps this year. I’ve also included links to the best information sources. First, let’s start with an introduction of geosocial and how it fits into the ecosystem you already know.

A brief introduction to geosocial applications

FoursquareGeosocial — or geolocation or location-based services or applications — represents an emerging space within the Web 2.0 ecosystem, so I’ll spend a minute here positioning them because their development is moving at warp speed. Geo refers to exchanging information related to your current temporal and physical location via a mobile device. Social applies the now-established bundle of practices called “social networking” to your physical location — interacting with friends or friends of friends.

You might think of geosocial as “situational social networking based on where you are” (and what you’re doing). Many geosocial applications use GPS technology to automatically report the physical locations of their users, subject to their privacy settings. For some quick visuals, see Geosocial Applications and the Enterprise (PDF).

Small niches of people have been active in geosocial, using text messaging, for many years. Progenitor Dodgeball was founded in 2000 and enabled users to SMS each other to report their location, notify them about other people nearby to enable “meeting in real life.” Geosocial applications try to increase opportunities for socializing with existing friends or people users don’t know but have certain things in common, based on each user’s privacy and sharing preferences.

It’s worth noting that geosocial is related to but distinct from geotargeting, which usually denotes serving precise marketing messages to people based on their locations. Citysearch has been doing this since Web 1.0, and current players like Yelp and Facebook are converging into the geosocial space. Google tried to morph its Dodgeball acquisition into Google Latitude, but it hasn’t really worked, and I’ll speculate that they are channeling much of their geosocial energy into Google Buzz.

Some key players

Key players in the space include the following:

  • Loopt launched in 2006 and claims 3 million users.
  • Brightkite launched in 2007 and claims 2 million users.
  • Gowalla was born in 2007 and claims 150,000 users.
  • Foursquare launched in 2009 and claims close to 1 million users (with this growth, is it any wonder it receives the lion’s share of the buzz?)
  • Continue reading