The web started out organised around information. Search, particularly Google, thrived from making sense of this information, helping people find it. Then, the social web emerged. People, comment and opinion got appended to information. And right now, the web is being rebuilt about people, who are becoming the defining organising principle of the web. Information is now appended to people, not the other way around.
But another disruption is coming, this time triggered by social combined with hardware; the mobile, and how it allows a powerful combination of social and location based filtering of information and experiences.
In a SXSW talk, the founder of Foursquare, Dennis Crowley, described how the platform is evolving from being a social, location based game to "finding the best stuff close to you." They now have over 3 billion, real-time, socially referenced, location based data points, created by 30m people, within their platform. The community is growing by 1.5 m people a year.
Foursquare is suddenly a highly localised, socialised search engine; a highly potent utility. You are able to use it to identify where you friends are, or have been, and quite possibly, whether they've liked or recommended these localities.
Clearly, this is significant opportunity for businesses and brands to effectively, precisely target. For some businesses, big upside up for grabs. However, for other businesses this utility may prove highly disruptive.
As use of this locationXsocial search based utilities becomes wide spread (which it will, whether it be Foursquare or another platform) it allows consumers, in times and places when they've historically relied on known, trusted brands to make safe choices, to step beyond and start exploring with confidence. The previously unknown becomes known, and one of the core strengths – convenience and trust, i.e. relevance – of big chain brands gets undermined. Big retail and food chains brands particularly should be paying attention.
No longer do I need Subway to find a decent sandwich in a new suburb.
No longer do I have to look for a Westfield to find good shopping.
This seriously ups-the-ante for these big chain brands.
How are they going to use location based social search to their advantage before it yanks the rug?
Will convenience and trust be reinvented?
Will the long tail of retail and food re-emerge?
What other categories will this disrupt and how?
Will local again trump global?
Answers to these huge questions will have to wait, but what is for certain is it those brands that get on the front foot and embrace location based social search that have the best chance of winning the battle for relevance.
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