Simple Model Helps Location-Based Friend Finder To Add 3-4,000 New Members Daily
The idea that it’s not necessary to know someone’s exact location for mobile social networking to work successfully might seem a little bizarre.
Yet Mobiluck’s Patrick Lord believes just that. The marketing director for the Paris-based start-up insists a GPS-enabled smartphone isn’t needed for location-based networking to succeed.
Based on Mobiluck’s growth rates he might have a point.
Since being launched in September 2007, it has been adding users at an impressive rate: just two months ago it was gaining 2,000 new members a day and that has now climbed to between 3-4,000 daily.
This led to membership soaring past the 500,000 mark earlier this month, with users drawn from around the world.
So what’s the appeal?
Olivier Chouraki, founder and CEO of Mobiluck, told smartphone.biz-news that they were offering a simple to use, location-based mobile social networking service – and one that doesn’t require software downloads.
Users simply need a mobile phone with a browser through which they can manually enter their location.
While GPS isn’t necessary to use the Friend Finder service, GPS-enabled handsets can be used to provide location details.
The service than gives the real-time location of friends, business contacts and fellow users.
Members can communicate using IM or voice, identify their location, tag, share and rate their favorite locations, as well as search for nearby people and places.
Lord said part of its success was that Mobiluck works on any mobile phone, in any country and on any network.
What’s more, knowing someone’s precise location isn’t a requirement.
"It is sufficient just to know you are in the same city or just a few kilometres away," he said.
"It’s a fallacy that you need GPS to make location-based networking work.
"I do not believe that’s true. You don’t need that level of accuracy – to say 20 metres."
GPS in the Future
While Mobiluck has kept its offering simple to date, Lord said they had developed a GPS-based iPhone app and that was an aspect of the service they would push in the future.
"Every phone will eventually have that capabilty. It’s then a question of how we use that to provide value-added services," he said.
"From a wider perspective, location will add another layer of context to the services that can be provided."
Not that there seems to be any great need for it just yet.
"If we look at our competitors offering LBS, we do not see them having nearly as many members as we do for our services," said Lord.
"That’s because Mobiluck works on any phone and doesn’t require a download to use it."
What is required though, according to Lord, is a mixture of platforms – from GPS through to manual location entry – whatever was appropriate.
Local businesses and brands are also on Mobiluck’s radar.
Lord said the service would enable communities of local users to develop.
So, for example, a place saved as a favorite by one member can be shared with friends who may also add it to their favorites.
"Then places like restaurants or cinemas can send out an SMS giving special offers, upcoming events or other activities," said Lord.
Mobiluck’s financial projections have them on course to break even in the first half of 2009, when membership is expected to have risen to 1 million users.
Lord said revenue is already being generated from mobile advertising and that is to be joined shortly by income from premium services – such as B2B services offered to local businesses.
"Our growth strategy is targeting those countries where we generate lots of users and where we can monetize them," he said.
"The prime reason why there are lots of users in Asia, the US and France is because we have got monetization arrangements to build our user base there."
Mobiluck is also attracting a lot of interest in countries such as India, South Africa and Kenya, where many people’s first experience of the internet is through the mobile phone.
Mobiluck’s users range from the minimum age of 14 up to members in their 50s. Lord said the average age varied by country but fell within the 23-27 age group.
He said the service’s privacy features were rigorous and users can choose if they want to share their location at all, just with friends or be visible to all.
Surprisingly, users appear as interested in meeting new people as they do about keeping in hooking up with with friends.
"The prime interest is to meet new people rather than keep in touch with friends – at least in terms of the volume of messages sent out and usage of services," said Lord.
The service’s global appeal is also reflected in the language options available.
While English is the main language, a range of others can be selected, including Russian, Arabic Spanish, French and Chinese.
Although Mobiluck has yet to build up membership in China, Lord said it is seen as a major market.
The company is currently talking with contacts in China to get a feel for the market and mobile culture.
"We think we will find plenty of people interested in our service in China," he said.
If he’s right, Mobiluck’s growth curve is certain to keep rising sharply.
We’d be interested in hearing your views on mobile social networking and its potential applications.