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Foursquare’s new Swarm app went live in app stores today, which is meaningful because it is the latest social networking app to embrace the theory of “context for content” we talk to brands so much about. Swarm includes many of the features and benefits of Foursquare (checking into venues, finding your friends nearby, mayorships), but attempts to resolve the necessity of “checking in” by always automatically sharing your general location data. This constant location sharing aims to make social networking by location effortless and create even more serendipitous experiences for users.

foursquare swarm

Per Techcrunch, “The underlying mechanics of Swarm are what’s really interesting here — and more importantly what it says about the next generation of apps you’ll be using on your smartphone. There’s a fundamental shift in the way that we use apps underway, and the symptoms are all over the map… we’re entering the age of apps as service layers. These are apps you have on your phone but only open when you know they explicitly have something to say to you. They aren’t for ‘idle browsing’, they’re purpose built and informed by contextual signals like hardware sensors, location, history of use and predictive computation. These ‘invisible apps’ are less about the way they look or how many features they cram in and more about maximizing their usefulness to you without monopolizing your attention.”

Previously released omniscient location apps (e.g., Highlight, Loopt, Yobongo, Latitude) were precursors to today’s launch of Swarm but never took off for a few important reasons Foursquare already has handled, including awareness, reach, lack of engaged community and ability to scale. Or perhaps they were merely ahead of their time when it comes to weighing the privacy implications of always-on location with the benefits of serendipitous content and networking. Those are important considerations, after all.

From a brand perspective, Swarm pulls location data from the Foursquare API, so marketers should continue to manage our location information, tips and customer data through the Foursquare dashboards. For now.Later this summer look for more updates on Swarm and Foursquare that will affect and create new opportunities for brands to engage with users through this new class of apps.

Until then, download Swarm here and see what you think.


My new post on Social Studies today…5 New Social Media Things I’m Excited About

1. Foursquare
It’s like Twitter, except not only do you care where your friends are AT THIS VERY MINUTE, you all earn points for going to those places. I signed up for Foursquare long ago, but just like Twitter, it takes a good base of friends actively using it be fun. Local businesses would be smart to set up Foursquare nights/tours for their early adopter patrons. Are you the mayor of anything yet?

2. Google Voice
I finally got my beta invitation and locked in my Google Voice number with a personalized XXX-XXX-GREG, which I’m very excited about. You can set it up to forward all calls to cell, home and work phones or filter some folks to one or the other. Online voicemail with transcripts is fun, and I was able to install an app on my smart phone to make calls without using minutes and send SMS without using my plan’s allotted texts. The set up was very intuitive, and I’m excited about the future of this technology and integration with the Google cloud suite.

3. Stuff in 3D
I’ve seen some microsites and business cards utilize Web cam to 3D technology, but last week I discovered Best Buy (client) using the advancement in human brainpower to put graphics on their ads that turn into 3D images when placed before your Web cam. The technology is here, and it’s time to experiment. Can you imagine a tiny Trent Reznor playing a 3D show on your laptop?

4. TweetYourSenator
President O’s PAC is still spending all of those tiny donations leftover from the election, and this time he’s made it simple to “Tweet Your Senator” about healthcare reform. As if our elected representatives’ aides didn’t already have their hands full sending form reply letters and deleting voicemails from constituents, now they have incoming tweets to ignore. But wait! There are a surprisingly large number of congressional members on Twitter, and I’m excited to see ways to harness the burgeoning interest in tweeting.

5. Twibbon
If you were an avid Twitter user in the summer of 2008, you’ll remember Ze Frank’s Color Wars, where users chose a team, tweaked their avatar to show their team spirit and participated in challenges just like summer camp. I was on the red team and remember agonizing over my avatar in Windows Paint trying to get it just right. These days people pimp their avatars for more genuine reasons (green avatars for Iran, Stellan, etc.). And thanks to Twibbon, it’s easier than ever to tweak your avatar with a cause or image overlay. Don’t see a cause that resonates with you? Make your own. Very cool.

–Greg Swan

Please leave comments over at Social Studies.