Friday, April 15

Anonymous Social Collaboration and the Disposable Network

Recently I posted my fave SXSW start-ups. These included Color -- which had barely started up at all before raising $41M in VC funding -- and instant messaging mobile apps such as GroupMe and Beluga.

Color has continued a slow road to hype. Beluga sits patiently waiting for its new owner Facebook to make the next move. GroupMe hit the PR circuit to convince advertisers to sign on.

These companies have more in common than just being group collaboration mobile apps. All have a finite dimension to their social communication. Your Color experience is defined by your location (up to 100 yards around you), while GroupMe/Beluga limit the number of people participating in group pods. This provides an automatic filter to the social experience, preventing the amount of content / communication from getting out of control. It is a nice dose of order to the usually chaotic never-ending social sprawl.

Color's localized photosharing premise is useful within personal social environments: backyard barbeques with friends, in the office with coworkers. Not so sure about using it for bachelor parties. I also see an opportunity for larger public gatherings, such as sporting or music events. These provide context from a location standpoint (everyone physically around you) and a moment-in-time standpoint (everyone at the same event as you).

One drawback is that it's all (literally) crowdsourced content. Sure it might be interesting to see everyone's photos from the south stage at Lollapalooza, at least the first 50 of them. But what if you throw in some backstage photos from the bands? Then you have content with high social currency, plus a nice call-to-action for concert goers to download the app. Don't forget, Twitter seemed to have little redeeming social media value until the famous people started using it.

GroupMe is already taking this approach:
The company created a product called Featured Groups, which works a bit like Twitter's promoted trends in that it suggests topics around which groups can form -- such as Coachella or Bon Jovi -- and appears under a "featured" tab in the GroupMe app. If users form a group around those brands, they can opt in to get special offers, enter contests, sneak previews and event reminders. Since GroupMe's group limit is 25 members, group size stays manageable and based on a user's real-life friends, an important distinction from Facebook pages and Twitter follows, which can grow into the millions depending on the brand's popularity. 
GroupMe/Beluga's main issue is that you are constrained to communicating with people you already know. Your established social networks (Fbook friends, iPhone contacts) are the starting point for creating these small groups. Which works out great if your Lollapalooza friends are all off watching different bands. Not-so-great if you they are standing right next to you the entire time at a baseball game.

These apps have one other thing in common: they are disposable experiences. Color's photosharing stops after the last Lollapolooza encore. GroupMe/Beluga chat pods deteriorate once the group doesn't need to communicate as frequently. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The interactive space set a premise long ago that content should be immortal, even in social media. Every Facebook photo, witty tweet, building check-in, and restaurant review is archived indefinitely. Sure you could delete them anytime, but there seems to be inherent social pressure to keep them. It will be refreshing to leave your social media activities behind with your ticket stubs and used beer cups, guilt-free.


jreidko said...

It's interesting to me how seldom i've clicked the "older posts" button at the bottom of my Facebook page. In a way FB is kinda like an odd sort of diary but i certainly don't use it that way. The more friends i collect the more disposable the whole thing get's.

vivek seth said...

Smart. Where do find the time to write all this up. This is nothing more than common sense. And that's not a criticism. There's a woeful lack of it at all levels in this space. So that makes this good and readable.