Social networking is still in its infancy. It’s this intangible, moldable, constantly changing thing and once you think you’ve managed to wrap your head around it all, it morphs into something different entirely. The myriad of overlapping interests make social networking simultaneously rich and convoluted: Photo-sharing, microblogging, shopping and e-commerce, and the increasingly popular location to name a few of the bigger ones.
Location, naturally, lends itself to the digital social arena—it’s like making the Internet-based life you’ve curated into a reality. And this genre is no exception to the evolution of social media.
Originally, sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Urbanspoon first became “socially aware” by taking their user review-based sites, then implementing and integrating social applications into them. On their own, however, the sense of community was never as tight as it is on more natively social sites – which were introduced with the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla.
Foursquare and Gowalla were perfectly poised to capitalize on emerging geo-social trends, like mobile commerce and the check-in scheme. But there are a few new location apps that are thinking outside the box, deviating from what’s beginning to look like a fairly formulaic setup. Here are a few emerging options that are doing location differently.
Nextdoor is hyperlocal at its best. It’s a private social network for your neighborhood and your neighborhood only. There’s nothing showy about this site, and it dials back a great deal of the narcisstic tendencies that come easily with social networks. But what it lacks in flash it makes up for in utility. Given how connected we are digitally, Nextdoor wants to force some of that into the tangible world by introducing you to your real neighbors. It generally seems like a good home for trusted reviews on local vendors and neighborly event planning. The security and anti-anonymity affiliated with the site make it a better option for sharing this type of information.
Like Nextdoor, Spot has an exclusivity vibe about it—but not of the homegrown variety. Spot’s elite standing comes from its $5 monthly price tag and the slew of local deals users gain access to. Instead of aggregating deals with the likes of Groupon and LivingSocial, Spot offers include things like reservations at restaurants with months-long waiting lists, VIP tickets to popular events, and invites to hush-hush openings. Taking things up a notch is the fact that not everyone gets into Spot: Memberships are limited to the first 10,000 takers in any city.
While maybe of geo-social’s biggest stars revolve around the concept of user-produced content, Loku is partially taking a different route. The social app pulls content from the Internet (largely from local news and travel sites) to create an eye-pleasing, digital map of what’s going on in your city. Other sections like eat and drink, the soon-coming events, hangouts, and guides sections rely on user and local experts’ input. Toggles within the categories help you narrow down what you’re looking for by mood. You can also rate and describe your visits, but in a more simplistic and catchphrase-oriented way than some of the verbose reviews found on the likes of Yelp. It makes using and contributing to the social-local movement more like a game than a chore. The check-in-rewards procedure made popular by Gowalla and Foursquare was another way to gamify location, but Loku is a more visual way of infusing a little fun into geo-social.
What’s maybe most intriguing about Roamz is that it could help cut down on the overlap of location-based information across your many social outlets. Unlike many competitors, it pulls information like check-ins and geo-tags from Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, and Instagram and turns this into its own geo-social networks. The setup is more like Twitter than anything else, with a scrolling feed of nearby and popular happenings in your area.