As covered in a slew of other blog posts covering SXSW, there was one tech trend that climbed above the others this year, the geo-location meetup. Think of it as using your mobile phone location for connecting rather than just broadcasting.
There are a handful of apps that take geo-location to the next level. Instead of simply broadcasting your location like on Foursquare, these apps actually pin point your location and then let you know if there are others around you that you may be interested in connecting with. The three most popular of these services that I heard the most come up in conversation this week was Sonar, Glancee, and Highlight. Sonar analyzes your Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter connections to locate if notify you if any friends or even friends of friends are nearby. Highlig.ht lets you see when your Facebook contacts are around, and the Glancee app locates people with similar interests that are within your vicinity.
Given the nature of the SXSW conference, these apps are actually pretty helpful. The challenge for these new apps is that while there can be use and interest at the biggest tech conference; they need to stay relevant and serve a purpose throughout the rest of the year. I find that that will be a challenge.
There is a great purpose to locate friends and contacts when you’re all running around trying to figure out where the best party is at, who’s giving out free beer, and where you can find a food truck without an hour long wait. But SXSW is not reality. It’s a techy and digital marketers dream week that provides some of the best opportunities to meet with contacts you only know from your social media networks or have read about.
But will anyone, or at least a big enough number of people find use for this when they go home? My guess is no. The truth is that a relatively decent percentage of our “friends” on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare are just contacts at best. If I emailed everyone on my Facebook friend list there are quite a few who would have to look at my profile to even remember how we are “friends”. Twitter is even more obscure. When you have this many people who you are just some what familiar with tracking down your movements, security and safety issues arise (especially for women).
If you get the most die-hard of the die-hard social media people and first adopters all gathered in the same city at the same time then I think these apps have a strong future. If not, these apps will have a tough time breaking into the general public.