The Way We Work
October 26, 2011 by Julia Camenisch

It’s the 3rd quarter and the game is tight. Your team is barely hanging on. Wondering what others in the crowd are thinking, you pull out your smartphone, open up Yobongo, and begin chatting about the quarterback’s performance with those around you. Midway through the chat, a nearby restaurant chimes in to let everyone know about the happy hour specials available afterwards.

Location-based social media. Foursquare and Gowalla were just the beginning of a new onslaught of apps, all geared towards allowing people in a certain geographic location to interact. Most of these apps are still in their infancy, but they’re worth considering for their marketing potential. I mean, what better time to reach out to a customer then when they’re just down the street from you? Here’s a rundown of some of the available apps and ideas on how you can put them to use:

  1. Yobongo (Available for iPhone and iPad):
    • In Brief: You’re never alone ... at least not if other Yobongo users are nearby. This app shows you other users who are in your general geographic area and allows you to chat with them. If people are using it, you know they're interested in making connections. A great way for the social butterfly to network.
    • Business Angle: If your business is at a physical location, then have a staff member monitor the Yobongo chatter in your area and occasionally chime in to share specials and offer useful input. If you’re a freelancer, mention your work during chats. You  never know when the chat includes someone who has a job requiring your expertise.
  2. Localmind (Available for iPhone and Android):
    • In Brief: Got a question about a location or an event and want to ask someone that’s actually there? Localmind purports to get your question answered by its users or your friends on Gowalla, Facebook Places or FourSquare, as long as they’re at or near the spot.
    • Business Angle: In a recent FastCompany interview, Localmind’s founder pushed his app as an awesome tool for businesses. He extolled its virtues, saying, “We can connect business owners with customers who are clearly interested in the business .. .[they’ll] be able to offer temporal deals, location-based promotions, and in-store real-time offers.” For freelancers, Localmind could also provide a networking tool, allowing you to present yourself as a local expert and gain some new contacts. Think of it as Quora on the hyperlocal level.
  3. LoKast (Available for iPhone and Android):
    • In Brief: Similar to Yobongo, LoKast encourages RT chats and content sharing based upon proximity. Web links, songs, videos and photos -- all are part of the “local casting” that LoKast seeks to enable. This app is also a good way to share content between Androids and iPhones.
    • Business Angle:  One of the chief benefits of LoKast over its rivals (at least as I see it) is the ability for stores, restaurants, events, etc., to create their own digital LoKast space for customers and attendees to interact on. This allows the business to freely share relevant specials and answer customers’ questions, thereby increasing sales and making connections with patrons. If you’re a business that uses LoKast, you’ve got to advertise it and encourage customers to download the free app. Otherwise your digital space will stay empty. For a freelancer, LoKast could be an easy way to share your demo reel or portfolio when talking with others at an event.
  4. Sonar (Available for iPhone):
    • In Brief: Culling through your FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn data, Sonar shows you who’s nearby that you know as well as those who are friends of your friends. It then allows you to message or send a tweet in their direction.
    • Business Angle: Sonar allows you to connect with your professional online network with face to face meetings. It also alerts you (based on mutual friends) to others who might be worth meeting. If you attend industry events, Sonar could be the opening needed to make real life connections.
  5. Trazzler (Available for iPhone and online):
    • In Brief:  With a tight economy, there’s quite a few families who would rather vacation close to home and save a few dollars. Enter Trazzler. The company is working to be a recommendation engine for locals with some Groupon-style deals thrown in.
    • Business Angle:  Promote your location on Trazzler! Whether you work with a local visitors' bureau or an event venue, make sure your place is featured on the site. Check out the info about writing for their site to make sure you’ve got their style down.

Locally-based social media apps are quite the rage for venture capitalists these days. The space is definitely getting crowded and it's hard to know who will end up on top. Have you used any of the above mentioned apps? Are there others you prefer that I didn’t mention? And is it time for small businesses to take them seriously or should they wait until there’s a clear leader in the market? Share your answers and any other thoughts on the subject in the comments section.


Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to oDesk a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.

  • http://stikinotes.tumblr.com Adam Winterflood

    My fear with the likes of Yobongo is what has happened with twitter - it has become a spammers haven. Imagine if spammers can see exactly where you are and then send you info on their 'Get Rich Quick' scheme. You would become inundated with this and quit the service fast. There needs to be a tighter control over who can see your updates.

    • Julia

      You've definitely got a point there, Adam. I watched an interview with Yobongo's founder, and he partially addressed this concern. If you complain about a user, Yobongo will review them and can shut them out. Because mobile phones have unique identifiers, the spammer would have to get another phone in order to return to the service. Not a permanent roadblock, to be sure, but will at least slow them down.

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