Last week Twitter made a smallish acquisition, buying a company called Summify. What Summify did was allow people to more easily read and digest information stored in links in their Twitter feeds. As anyone on Twitter knows by now, the social messaging application is incredibly noisy and very fast moving for anyone who follows more than a few hundred people. There is also the problem of signal-to-noise ratio – people tweeting about their breakfast cereal or their mood versus people sharing links, videos, and other more detailed, less temporal content. For precisely this ratio problem, many people I know now use Twitter almost like an IRC channel to communicate publicly with a few friends but largely ignoring the rest of the information in their stream. That’s too bad because information in the stream, even from outlying or tertiary contributors, can be valuable.
Why do I believe this? I have many friends on Facebook that were once friends or acquaintances. I have not seen them in decades. Yet we have brief conversations on Facebook and I often receive relevant information. For example, someone I went to summer camp with happens to be a physician. I have not seen him in literally 25 years. But on Facebook, because sharing information is so simple and helping people so easy, he has provided highly useful guidance on critical healthcare issues. By extension, I have shared many links that he has said he found very insightful.
And how does this relate to hyperlocal? Lots has been made of social and local and search, and potential happy confluences of this trio. To date, however, email remains as viable a social tool as anything else when it comes to hyperlocal topics. Yes, Facebook is useful. But its usefulness relates closely to the density of friends you have on Facebook in your local area – a highly variable situation. And Facebook does not make it easy for you to tap into the degrees of separation for local recommendations a la LinkedIn. Equally difficult has been the hyperlocal media movement, which has done a fine job at broadcast (in some places) but has largely failed to add viable social curation tools to the mix.
Enter Twitter and Summify. We’ve already seen on Street Fight how Flipboard can be turned into a hyperlocal news feed. And that’s exactly where I see possibilities or Twitter in Summify. Flipboard is an amazing presentation layer but following raw Twitter streams via lists and then dumping them into Flipboard does not surmount the signal-to-noise problem. Drop Summify into the mix and things get more interesting.
Further, add the ability to more easily build lists based on geolocation of the tweets and you might actually have a very interesting hyperlocal content stream with huge implications for local businesses. Because tweeting deals via Twitter is free but hard to propagate. If there are better venues for people to search for those deals, then those commercial tweets become far more valuable – and possibly a real revenue stream for Twitter. For people craving local content, layering together these multiple functionalities could create a hyperlocal overlayer that is more relevant, more readable, and less noisy. Then add in social reputation tools such as Klout and imagine how powerful this hyperlocal sharing and commenting stack could be. A deal at a restaurant retweeted by someone with a high Klout ranking for, say, food, could be elevated in the stream. Conversely, that same tweet fired off by someone of a lesser reputation who was less active could land lower in the stream. Likewise, a user could easily set preferences so information from friends whom you directly followed carried more weight than information from strangers you didn’t follow but had high Klout rankings.
At any rate, the point is this. Twitter is moving aggressively towards next-generation curation. They are following other entities like Flipboard in a direction that the general user base seems to like. Curation combined with sharing that wraps in various reputation, location, and relationship measures could finally crack the social-local-mobile code that has long eluded us.