October 4, 2013

How Yelp is using gamification right — and screwing it up, too

Nicole Lazzaro and Tony Ventrice at yesterday’s Social Media Breakfast Club (Photo by JD Lasica).

Other startups & companies can learn from its successes, missteps

Target audience: UX/user experience experts, gamification specialists, marketing professionals, startups, businesses, nonprofits.

JD LasicaYesterday we hosted our 19th Social Media Breakfast Club gathering in the SF East Bay, with Nicole Lazzaro and Tony Ventrice talking about business use of gamification.

Ventrice, a senior game designer at Badgeville, offered examples of what he considered good and bad uses of gamification by brands such as Yelp, so I thought I’d share his thoughts and offer my own take. This is not meant as a jab at Yelp, which has done brilliant work in the geolocation space. Instead, it’s offered as a bit of guidance to startups and companies trying to make smart use of gamification – a term everyone, it seems, dislikes. Continue reading

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

January 28, 2013

Are you ready for the place graph?

Jason Wilson, co-founder of Platial, in San Francisco on Thursday (iPhone photo by JD Lasica).

Platial helped pioneer place-based social networking

This is the first of a multi-part series on geolocation startups and services.

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, founders, startups, geolocation services, mobile ad networks, businesses, educators, journalists, general public.

JD LasicaFor years, entrepreneurs, tech observers and funders have known two things about the geolocation space: It holds an enormous amount of promise, and it’s taking an awfully long time to get there.

geologo-logoGeolocation startups are hot in Silicon Valley right now, from Zkatter, a San Francisco-based startup from British young gun Matt Hagger that wants you to capture and share moments in real time through mobile video, to Findery, the venture-backed San Francisco startup from Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake that wants you to leave notes, media and digital objects for others at specific locations.

What’s my connection with geoloco? For the past half year I’ve been working on a geolocation startup called Placely (register for the beta here). We’re still early in development, so I’ll talk more about our plans for Placely in a future post. But today I think it’s worth doing a quick survey of how far we’ve come (not very) and how far we still have to go as geolocation gets ready for its closeup. Continue reading

November 14, 2012

Snoox: Recommendations from friends, not strangers

New social utility lets you pull high-quality recommendations on most topics

Target audience: Start-ups, recommendation sites, travelers, diners, shoppers, Facebook users, businesses, educators, journalists, general public.

JD LasicaToday a new social recommendations engine launches and tries to answer the fascinating question: Are we ready to usher in an era when friends’ recommendations matter more than those of experts and strangers?

The answer is far from clear. But I like the concept behind Snoox quite a bit.

Earlier this month I sat down with CEO Eyal Rivlin and founder Guy Poreh (pictured below) at a cafe in San Francisco to talk about the new start-up, which has offices in Tel Aviv and New York, and the future of the social Web. Snoox aspires to be a social application that helps users to share recommendations for the things they love and to find the best of everything from the people they trust most: their friends.

It’s a promising concept, given that studies now routinely show that people trust their friends and peers more than experts and established institutions. And as much as I admire Yelp, the site has a pretty high noise level, with lots of recommendations from people with awful taste and other reviews penned by dodgy charlatans. And besides, Rivlin adds, Yelp is mostly known in New York and San Francisco and hasn’t crested yet in middle America. (Europe’s counterpart to Yelp is Qype.) Continue reading

May 26, 2011

Toyota launches a social network for drivers


Image by danielctw via Flickr

Chris AbrahamIs the car the ultimate mobile device? Toyota thinks so. With Salesforce.com, they’ve launched a social network for Toyota owners and drivers that keeps them connected to Toyota, to its dealers, and to other drivers. Time will tell if this takes hold, but you have to admit that the Internet-connected car is closer to reality than ever before, and even before we reach that state, we all have network-connected phones with is in the car. The question is, what do you do with that auto(mobile) computing power?

Vertical online communities, such as Caregiver Village, have always been with us in the form of communities of interest, communities of circumstance, communities of purpose, and communities of action. So, Ujala Sehgal of Fishbowl, N.Y., shares Toyota‘s go at it, Toyota Drivers Get Their Own Social Network.

Toyota announced that it plans to develop a private social network for its vehicle owners called Toyota Friend. The network, set to launch in 2012, will be developed with San Francisco cloud-computing company Salesforce.com, and will enable drivers to stay connected with their cars, their local dealers, and each other–using their car. “The car is the true mobile device,” Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, said recently, according to The Atlantic Wire.

Also check out Engadget’s reporting, Toyota to launch social network for people who like to befriend car dealerships.

My advice to Toyota is to hire as many passionate community managers as you can. Who love cars, yes, but more so, are passionate about catalyzing conversation, keeping the momentum after pouring in the energy to not only moderate but to be encouraging and empowering — essentially, someone who is trained in organizational development or hosting amazing dinner parties. For the first six months, it will be (or feel like) 100% Toyota staff or outsourced Toyota staffers (like the team at Abraham Harrison). The community will never be 100% self-perpetuating. The community will always need shepherds to keep the flock together. Though it will surely help, the passion of people about their Toyota will never be quite good enough, though I would recommend keeping the Tundra and Prius crowd sufficiently separated.

What do you think about the power of the private social network?

(Via Biznology with help from Seth Okin, Attorney at Law)