Hyperconnected hangover: How are SoLoMo apps doing in a post-SXSW world?

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Prior to SXSW, the hype over the dreadfully named SoLoMo apps reached an almost ridiculous high. These location-based social networks were simultaneously sounding our inner privacy alarms while overwhelming us with their intriguing possibilities. As the show neared, the competition grew fierce and names like Highlight, Glancee, and Banjo were cropping up in tech news constantly. 

During the show’s Interactive Week, they were as popular as you would imagine. Of course, the criticism was unavoidable, and you’d hear nearly as many people arguing they were overrated as those who loved them — but either way, they were being used. 

The concern on the tip of all our tongues was “what happens after?” 

At first glance, not much. The SoLoMo madness has considerably died down. So was it all a passing SXSW fad or are they quietly building steam to take our social world by storm?

I’ll be the first to admit that during the show, these apps were fun, interesting, and even useful. They weren’t perfect — immediately upon trying them out, a person can see that while they are impressive (to varying degrees) it’s their potential that’s really incredible. I’m probably considered a SoLoMo optimist compared to other users I’ve talked to. Sure, I’m wary of their security implications (or rather, users ability to take the necessary precautions), but when I see this technology, I see so many ways to use it — it’s exciting. 

Unfortunately, all the SXSW buzz may have come too early. Since the show, these apps have been quiet to incredibly quiet for me. Sure, Portland, Oregon isn’t New York — but it isn’t the midwest either. Yet the last time I got a notification from any of these apps was weeks ago. 

When I spoke with Highlight creator Paul Davison at SXSW, he conceded that while he was happy with all the enthusiasm for his app, he was also worried the setting was going to create a false sense of ubiquity — and that when we all went back home and weren’t able to browse our neighbors and wonder at all the things we had in common (and come on, Interactive week is full of us nerds) it would be disappointing. 

And it kind of has been. And the next big update for any of these apps is still on the horizon. So it’s easy to get a little… uneasy about their future. 

But there are subtle things happening that signal the wheels are still turning — just sort of quietly. For starters, Banjo recently announced it has hit 1 million users. The app integrates Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Foursquare for its location alerts, giving it a wide pool as well as some growing social networks to pull from. Banjo may have pulled away from the pack, but its increasing popularity is good news for its competitors as well. 

More tellingly, outliers are taking cues and creating SoLoMo applications for their specific needs. Intro is a location-based career networking tool, which integrates with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. It helps you find the business connections you need without being pushy. And Salesforce is part of an upcoming product called Serendipity. The app will use Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and LinkedIn to create “random” business encounters. “The company’s hope is that only one person realizes the interaction is planned,” says VentureBeat. “while the other person feels like they just had a chance encounter.” Serendipity would use Salesforce’s Opportunities feature which shows deals your company has in the works. Combine these two, and you have a chance-business-meeting machine in the making. Macy’s is also talking about creating its own brand-specific SoLoMo app for marketing purposes. 

So things are happening, and this market won’t be wiped away into oblivion. That said, the originators need to impress us yet again. They had the fortune to get there first, but now the larger tech community is catching on, and apps like Highlight and Glancee need to pull us all back in, get people to download and use the app, and add new features to firm up their platforms and solidify their user base. SoLoMo isn’t over, it’s just starting, and dominating it is surprisingly still up for grabs. 

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