There are two emerging social media platforms that I’m on-board with: Foursquare and Instagram. At a quick glance they act differently: the first involves ‘checking-in’ or tagging your presence at various physical locations, and the other involves photo sharing. But they do have a lot in common – features and philosophical underpinnings which make up the vanguard of mobile driven social media. Here are a few commonalities:
Both Foursquare and Instagram are the children of smartphone proliferation (and now tablets); most of these devices have always-on inbuilt GPS, and are capable of hosting downloadable apps that iteratively improve over time.
The fact that our phone is the one thing that goes almost everywhere we do makes it easy to participate – during our waking hours we are only a few hand movements away from being able to capture an image or tag our location, allowing spontaneous creation and sharing when the moment (literally) takes us.
No Web Required
It is not necessary to interact with Foursquare and Instagram, and most other applications, via the web. Foursquare does have a sophisticated web platform, but most users of the service won’t have ever seen it. Instagram has no web interface, save to alter your account details.
As these applications become more popular, most of the geo-locational groundwork has been done. It’s becoming a rare incidence that a public or organisational location hasn’t been established already, making it easier for those who follow.
Select Tribes/ Followers
Sharing and filtering takes place on multiple levels. Your inner circle – the people you follow or friend get the full amount of information you want to make available to them. In the case of Foursquare only ‘friends’ can see your last location. In Instagram, only people you allow to follow you are able to see your images.
Community Voting & Surfacing
On Foursquare, tips are associated with each physical location and are voted up by the number of people have ‘done’ the tip. In Instagram pictures are ‘liked’ – the most popular of which are featured on a communal wall.
Foursquare allows tips to be posted against public or organisational locations; users and superusers are able to alter the classifications against these locations, as well as adjust their map coordinates. Instagram allows its users to apply various filters and frames to their images.
Social Media Syndication
Both Foursquare and Instagram enable information – a new image, a check-in, a tip, or an event such as a gaining or losing a mayoralship, or gaining a badge – to be automatically or manually shared across other social media platforms such as Twitter, Flickr, Tumbler, Posterous and Facebook.
I’ve Beaten You
In Foursquare there are a number of competitive elements: mayoralships, badges, and a points leaderboard. In Instagram, the competition is based around the cleverness or quirkiness of the images themselves.
As interesting as this latest social media wave is, a more exciting development is what can be potentially done with the growing mountain of individually generated data which is forming around each physical locality.
Every public and organisational location across the globe will eventually be classified and tagged with precise geo-coordinates. Application Programming Interfaces (API) will facilitate the formation of multiple user-generated data layers around each locational point: who has been there and when, images, videos, audio clips, tips, reviews, Wikipedia entries, and Tweets. Further institutional data layers will further enrich these data pools.