How ‘passive’ networks will make use hyper-active citizens

The explosion of sharing networks and apps are being primed for the mobile experience, anticipating a time when many of us will slip in and out of our roles as employees, Friends (yes, upper-case kind!) and corporate citizens.

These ‘social mapping’ services may seem more like games in their early iterations, rewarding users for certain tasks. But just as how Twitter looked like a status update service in its early days, these mobile-based services will soon let us do more than vainly record our location.

GoWalla, a location mapping app for the Android, iPhone and Blackberry, lets us check-in’ to locations, as does FourSquare., awarding badges and mayor-ships etc.

A term I have come across in some of these networks is that they “are only acting as a passive conduit for online distribution and publication” of user content. In other words, the intent of the application is to tether people and content.

We may be transitioning to that time soon. But we are still toggling between active, in-your-face social networks such as Facebook, and the passive ones. Someday these could be rich social spaces, albeit passive and invisible. Also reward-based.

Like to see where all this is going? Check out these four services:


What if Starbucks ‘saw’ my review in real time?

I’m sitting here at Starbucks with a bunch of uber talented technology folk, discussing mobile apps and what it would take for a mobile device to play a  seamless–frictionless — part of role in ia community.

We experiment with the usual suspects (Facebook, FourSquare, Twitter, Flickr) the ships and shoes and sealing wax of community building, but it strikes me that sometimes the simple things might still work, and be a win-win for the marketer and the customer.

For example: I snap this picture with my phone, email it to my Flickr account and ta-da, it appears in my album. I’ve been doing this for years. If you look on the bottom right of this blog (at least this week) it shows up here too.

But what if the act of tagging the photo and uploading it triggers something that tells Starbucks marketing that there is a potential review going out from this zip code, and this mobile device. What if, by triangulating a Quick Response code on the cup of iced tea, my FourSquare signature, and my phone, they could send me a digital coupon?

A new lens. Marketers are often flying blind. Yes they fall back on market research, but they seldom engage in real-time marketing intelligence gathering. Tracking and sensing how people are using a mobile device to navigate through and interact with their service providers would be a boon to not just coffee shops. Book stores, movie studios (think ‘citizen critics’ using a cell phone to review a movie before the closing credits!), theme parks, airlines etc could look at the mobile device as solution to an opportunity they never even thought of. If only they can find ‘sensors’ that tell them who’s talking them up -or down.

And why do these opportunities rarely show up? Because they tend to be seen through the lens called ‘marketing.’ It’s time to switch the focus.

Screw on the lens marked ‘conversations.’