Business conferences and festivals can be a great way to meet and connect with people who have similar interests — as well as potential business partners. But many people have encountered the difficulty of actually finding the right connections amidst a sea of people.
A new cadre of location apps aimed at this problem took center stage last week at the South by Southwest Interactive festival, targeting both business and personal use cases, and I took a look at a couple of the more interesting ones.
Uberlife is an interesting solution for users trying to find people nearby that share their interests. Accessible online as well as through smartphone apps, the service is a location-based social networking tool that encourages likeminded individuals to engage in real world meet-ups. To sign up for Uberlife, users connect via their Facebook or Twitter account, and are then able to create local “hangouts” that are broadcast to their network as well as to the entire Uberlife community. Users can filter hangouts by adding their interests to their profile, enabling them to be notified when a hangout matching those interests is occurring within their proximity. Once a hangout is created, users can then add comments and photos to it as well as view others that are attending.
Uberlife founder and CEO Sanchita Saha explained to Street Fight recently that the company ultimately hopes to gain “transactional revenue share from local venues (bars, restaurants, cafes, etc.) offering group deals to users who are intending on hanging out together somewhere in the area.”
Continuing the Connection Offline
Although Uberlife is new to location-based social networking, apps such as Ban.jo have been playing at it bit longer. While Uberlife functions as its own social network, Ban.jo looks to serve as the host of connecting existing social networks. Ban.jo collects geo-data from all the social networks the user or their friends are connected to (like Foursquare and Facebook) and displays it on a proximal map. The app recognizes that one user might not be linked in to every social network, and therefore might miss check-ins or updates that their friends provide. But with Ban.jo, users don’t have to worry about missing their friends’ whereabouts, and can use their location to facilitate real world connections and meet-ups. Banjo, however, limits these connections to existing friends, and so it doesn’t really operate as a social discovery tool.
It’s Also About Business
Another player in this space is Unsocial, which is a location-based mobile networking tool that lets you connect with other business professionals near you — people that you don’t know, but should know. It’s primarily targeted at the business conference circuit.
Think about all those hours you spend in a hotel lobby or lounge, maybe in an airport, or a club, or at a conference. You look around see many professionals you could potentially hook up with, but the problem is that you don’t know any of them. Most people at conferences spend countless hours working the room, only to eventually discover a small minority of people who are interesting connections. Unsocial streamlines that process, pulling data from LinkedIn, Facebook and Foursquare to makes recommendations about who you should corner during the cocktail reception.
So, where is all of this leading? Location-based social discovery is still an emerging space, but as a guy who spends most of my time on the road at conferences, services like Uberlife and UnSocial could potentially be invaluable in helping to filter out the noise and connect with the right people. I think that we’ll see more of these types of services emerge and fail this year, but the LBS function of finding nearby real-life connections that I can actually do business or build a long-term relationship with is here to stay.
Asif R. Khan is a veteran tech start-up, business development and marketing entrepreneur currently serving the community as founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (The LBMA). Weekly podcaster at This Week In Location Based Marketing every Monday. Can be found at @AsifRKhan @TheLBMA on Twitter.