For a form of media that didn’t really exist even five years ago, the world of social networks has gotten crowded very quickly. From Facebook to Twitter, Foursquare to Flickr, the major social media apps are already well ensconced, making the challenge of breaking into the field that much more daunting.
Enter Roamz, a location-based application created in Australia that (according to the app description) curates social content to show you what is going on at places around you that would interest you.
Content is pulled into Roamz in real-time from Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, and the “developing” Roamz community. Using the appropriate keywords, hashtags, etc., Roamz pulls photos, comments, tips, and events not only from the people you follow, but also from others in the area. The more you use Roamz, the smarter the technology becomes as it continues to personalize content for you.
Jonathan Barouch, the CEO and founder of Roamz, says it looks “to filter out the noise and find the interesting content at places nearby in real-time so that you get to hear what locals are talking about and don't miss out on local experiences.”
Why did Roamz take on the challenge of establishing itself in the world of virtual tourism? “People have mobile devices strapped to their hips day and night,” Barouch said. “They are using technology to become digitally aware of their surroundings, regardless of whether they are in the next neighborhood or across the globe.”
Barouch used a trip to Disneyland several months back as an example. Using Roamz, he saw what people were talking about at places all over the park in real-time, ahead of his actual trip.
“I got a sense of the size of the queues, the best places to eat, and also the special Christmas attractions. When I actually went to the park a few days later, I used Roamz to see what other people were discovering in real-time and saw photos of where Mickey was appearing in the park, so that I could race there with my three-year-old,” he said. “Tools like Roamz are a really nice way to get a sense of what a place is like before you even go there as well as giving you a tool to discover things once you arrive.”
Roamz competitors include apps that act as online gathering points for Facebook and Twitter data. The list of direct rivals could include heavy hitters like Tweetdeck and MyPad, as well as smaller apps like Involver or Seesmic. The difference, according to Barouch, is that Roamz is aimed mainly at creating local communities.
Its usefulness for would-be consumers is all well and good. But what does Barouch see as the Roamz model for generating revenue?
Ultimately, if we continue to grow our community to a reasonable size, we will have a really interesting platform for brands to start local conversations with people with specific attributes in a specific area.
Take the example of a new band playing a gig at a local bar. Perhaps they want to build awareness of their performance in 20- to 30-year-old males who are interested in nightlife and music who happen to be within 500 meters of that particular bar. There are not many platforms that allow that band to reach out and engage with the right people at the right time.
Roamz will allow them to start a conversation, which might ultimately end in a transaction. There are a number of ways in the cycle from discovery to transaction in which Roamz could create value and derive revenue.
Barouch acknowledges the challenge of launching a program into the US market from Australia. However, he reports that the American market has responded well so far. “About half of the 50,000-plus downloads have come from the US, with the remainder spread across Australia, Asia, and Europe.”
Barouch hopes the Roamz user community will reach 1 million by the end of 2012.
— John Scott Lewinski is a journalist and author based in Los Angeles.