Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider
If you were going to create a new application or tool to take
advantage of the current trends in social media, what elements would you
include? Add your thoughts in the comments, but I'll share my wish list.
First, there should be some mobile component, or it should be
entirely mobile. Much of the social media innovation currently is on the mobile
front, and it dovetails with consumer media usage patterns.
Next, it should be tied to consumers' locations. GPS is one of
those so-called killer apps for mobile devices, and it's almost a waste of the
mobile device not to incorporate location in some way.
It should probably look like an application, rather than a mobile
You'll probably want to include check-ins as some component of it,
but maybe not have that as the entire purpose. We still don't know how far the
check-in craze will go or if it will scale.
You'd want to incorporate the camera. After talking and texting,
photography is generally the next most popular mobile activity across age
If you're really smart, you'll incorporate the one thing social
media users can't shut up about: Justin Bieber. Or food. And in aggregate, food
is probably slightly more popular than Bieber and has a little more staying
power. So yes, the safe bet's on food.
There should be points, providing a layer of social currency.
Finally, you'll create a lexicon around what you're doing.
Facebook owns the word "fan," Twitter owns "follow," and
Foursquare may well own "check in," and definitely owns
"mayor." Creating or defining a language around the experience can
further enmesh consumers' consciousness.
If you throw all of these together, you wind up with Foodspotting, which I effectively just
deconstructed ("Top Chef" fans will appreciate the gastronomic
reference). Unlike some of the location-based check-in applications like
Foursquare and Gowalla that are really only valuable for users who participate,
Foodspotting caters to both content producers and more passive consumers, which
instantly expands its potential reach.
Obsessive foodies are the primary target. They can upload photos
of what they eat, enter the item name and where it was photographed, and then
optionally add commentary before uploading it. They earn points when posting
photos, and also when others say they want to "nom" dishes pictured.
There's also a much broader audience of anyone who wants to find a
good place to eat — the same people who would check Citysearch, Yelp, or
Menupages. Instead of looking up starred reviews, they can flip through photos
of food near them. It can help consumers decide where to eat, or even what to
eat when they're there. Last week, I was dining at Urban Farmer, a steakhouse in
Portland, Ore., with two others, and loaded up the Foodspotting iPhone app,
which immediately displayed a photo of a butterscotch sundae from that
restaurant. I checked with the waitress to see if the dessert was any good, and
she loved it. Not only did we each order one, but one of my compatriots changed
his dining plans to save room (this may shock you, but I had no such
Appealing to these two audience will make the difference between a
lot of these emerging sites, apps, and platforms. If they're just focused on
the content creators, that's great — there are enough of them that they can
sustain a profitable business. Forrester's technographics
tool shows 24% of U.S. Internet users are "creators," and the
number's been growing. But there's a broader audience that needs to be served.
Even content creators are usually behaving like Forrester's
"spectators"; I spend far more time reading blogs than blogging, and
I read at least a hundred Menupages reviews for every one that I write.
Foodspotting provides value for those engaging in search and discovery rather
than constant content creation. That's true for Twitter and Facebook too, in a
way that's not as true for Foursquare, Gowalla, Plancast, and other services
that are attracting a lot of buzz right now. Most of us are spectators, we're
often influenced by content creators, and we want to reap the value from that
If we can't, we'll just have to find the next bandwagon to hop on,
which undoubtedly will be Bieberspotting.