Proximity in social networks: Find, don’t explore.

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Few months ago, Natasha Lomas  @riptar wrote on TechCrunch: “Proximity social networking has often been a tough sell to consumers”. Apart from proximity services related to dating I totally agree with that. In my opinion there are actually two success factors for proximity in social networks.

First, its style and UI have to fit to its purpose. For example, the “hot or not” design of Tinder obviously is a perfect fit for the dating area. It’s easy to make ten decisions within five seconds, and even if one of them was “wrong” - no problem, it’s just for fun. In a business context, it is risky to dismiss someone just because of a quick glimpse when they are nearby. That is probably the main reason why the traditional business card is still doing a good job. It is extremely helpful to be able to quickly exchange cards at the first meeting, but still having the chance to decide if the contact might be valuable or not - maybe even with the help of additional tools such as LinkedIn. In any case, there will be no problem to get in touch with these contacts in the future. Even if you had first decided to ignore someone, you can still contact them, for instance if your professional environment has changed.

The second success factor is that users really have to benefit from their proximity to other users. Recalling the dating example, it totally makes sense to recommend persons nearby, rather than from the other end of the country. People would not be interested in these guys anyway. 
From the business perspective, proximity between social network users is nice to have, but it isn’t essential. It might be a little factor, but to be honest, experience, introductions, and past success count way more when people decide whom to get in touch with. If you are looking for an expert in any field, why should you limit yourself to people nearby? 

In my opinion, proximity or location services should be used the other way around. It’s not about finding people online to get in touch with them later. The key to professional networking is being able to find and connect to people you’ve already met in your real life.

Our app is pretty good at that, but we now came to the conclusion that decisions about the relevance of a contact do not have to be mutual. Therefore, in our next major update, you will be able to simply follow or favorite people you’ve met, so that you can easily find them on the major social networks later on. No mutual contact exchange and no social network friend request are needed anymore, but you will still be able to keep track of important people from your real life.