Hyperlocal social networks seem to be popping up all over the place, perhaps to spite the early doom and gloom around their lackluster success thus far. In fact, just last week we wrote about one of the newest hyperlocal networks Qork, which aims to make it easier for people to connect with their local community.
While Facebook and Twitter are awakening to the importance of hyperlocal, with Facebook launching hyperlocal ads and Twitter’s ‘Near You’ feature, these new additions don’t go far enough. That’s something Shout, which becomes publicly available today, aims to change.
Shout is a hyperlocal social network that encourages location-specific social sharing. This means users can pick any spot in the world to share content, known as ‘Shouts,’ with. This could include pictures, questions or other content. There is also the option to chat with users nearby and ‘like’ other Shouts.
The interesting thing about sharing content on Shout is that you get to decide on the radius or reach of the Shout. You could, for example, limit a Shout to one mile of a specific location, ensuring that only users within a mile of that content will be able to view it.
Creating location-specific communities
This could have significant implications for hyperlocal social networks, and could change the way we experience our neighborhood. After all, what this radius-limiting feature does is enable us to create location-specific communities. Imagine walking past a dog park in your area and seeing a Shout about a daily meetup for dogs or seeing a review of the restaurant you’re standing outside, unsure whether or not to try.
Charlie Mullan, Shout founder and CEO, told Geektime that, “Despite being connected to almost anywhere on the planet via social networks, Internet, and all sorts of other incredible new technologies, people still largely feel disconnected from their immediate surroundings, from the things that mean the most to us on a daily basis. As a company we understand this problem and believe that it is not a function of lack of the existence of good content but rather a larger problem people do not share this content and even when they do share it, it often does not reach the appropriate audience.”
A space to share a new type of content
The app makes it easier to not only share but find content relevant to wherever you may be. Unlike Qork, Shout doesn’t have an explore feature. This means that while you can post a Shout to any location in the world, you can only view Shouts within a certain radius of your local area: local Shouts.
Mullan explained that limiting Shouts to your nearby surroundings is an integral part of the app because it encourages users to generate location specific content. They believe this is crucial because if the Shouts could be viewed anywhere, users may be less likely to participate. “It is our plan to expand upon this to give people the power to explore via shouting as opposed to explore via peeking … maybe I have a question for people in Rome … in Italy … it’s not explore in the traditional sense, but it is still explore-like,” Mullan added.
The Shout team also believes that in limiting content creation to specific locations, people will be more likely to share the kind of content they wouldn’t ordinarily. “Our belief is that just like anonymity [with Yik Yak] and ephemerality [with SnapChat] and character limits [with Twitter] forced users to create and share new content, using location as a primary constraint will allow people to create and share all kinds of location-specific content that they would not usually share,” said Mullan. While a fascinating idea, it will be interesting to see how users respond to the app, and whether it does allow for the sharing of a new type of content.
What about the competition?
Shout was developed by Spangle Inc., a startup founded in 2013. The startup’s first app aimed to help people find local events in real time but failed to gain traction. However Shout is a product of a feature, called Shout, that the team implemented in their first app. This let people communicate with the rest of the community.
The success of the Shout feature helped the team identify people’s need to connect with their local surroundings. Solving this problem is at the heart of Shout. But it’s also something many other hyperlocal social networks, including newbie Qork and over $100 million-backed startup Nextdoor, aim to solve.
When asked about the steep competition the app faces from hyperlocal networks like Qork, Mullan said that there’s definitely room for more than one hyperlocal social network. While true, user growth will inevitably be key to Shout’s traction against various competitors.
Founding team and funding
In addition to Mullan, the app was founded by Supriyo Roy and Gabriel Gajecki. The startup raised $2 million in seed funding in April 2014 from a group of 13 angel investors including Robert Wolf (CEO of 32 Advisors and advisor to President Obama) and Shane McMahon (Chairman of YOU on Demand, son of WWE’s Vince McMahon). Shout is available for free download for iOS from the App Store.