I have account with most social media sites that you have probably heard of, and a few that you probably haven't. It's not from being super socially connected, but rather from my desire to experiment and try new tools to see what value they might offer for me and for the businesses I work with. Over the last year, though, I have uncovered one important thing that most social media sites do tremendously badly and that I hope someone will fix.
As much as I enjoy my virtual friendships, there is still a huge value for me in connecting in person with people to meet face to face. Despite how easily social media and social networks help us to connect with people we know or might know online, the most popular sites (Facebook and Twitter, in particular) fall short when it comes to helping people meet up in real life. Here are a few of the challenges;
- Very difficult to search and filter your networks by location, and then to send them a message.
- Lack of data on where people actually are, versus what network they usually belong to or where they live.
- No integration between networks on multiple sites to allow me to see all my connections in a particular location.
To date, there are three models I have seen from sites who are trying to solve one small part of this challenge:
- Meetup/Evite/Twtvite - organize an event, invite people directly and hope they show up (and that you have their emails).
- Foursquare/Gowalla - broadcast where you are RIGHT NOW and hope that others in your network are there too.
- Plancast/Dopplr - broadcast where you WILL BE in the future and hope that others in your network will be there too.
Each tackles the problem slightly differently, but none has a complete solution that really works. The one site that is an exception to this happens to be LinkedIn. What that site knows is that not only do I want to be connected with people, but I might find great value in being able to send a message to all my friends in Boston (for example) letting them know I will be in town and that I would love to connect.
Why is this simple task so hard and who else will step up to solve it? That is one of the central questions that more and more people will be asking ... mainly because meeting face to face still matters, and I believe it always will.