1. Gowalla (location based social networking)
Gowalla is the third player in the location based social networking space behind Foursquare and Facebook Places but as such has great opportunities to innovate in the space. Location based social networking has been on the incline in the US in recent months but that trend has yet to penetrate into the UK. I think the reason for that is that there aren’t huge drivers for users to engage in location based networking, save from big metropolises like London.
Gowalla is more commercially focused and are spending money and time engaging with brands to find out how location based networking and community engagement can help them in marketing and customer engagement.
Gowalla has the opportunity to work with these brands and create high quality content, location dependant, driving up their traffic whilst driving up penetration in the UK.
2. RenRen (Chinese Facebook)
OK, so China has the most people in the world, the quickest growing economy and almost double the number of people on the internet of the US. RenRen are one of a number of social networks in China including Qzone and PengYou but the reason to keep your eyes on RenRen (Facebook of the East) is because they are growing and they have the business acumen to globalise their social network. RenRen intends to IPO soon which will generate an influx of money to make a big push into foreign markets, forging a path that Facebook have blazed before them – getting the users on the social network to do the translating for them.
RenRen also stands to benefit from advices in Google’s voice translation services because when voice translations can happen in realtime they can also be transcript and the social networking communications circle can be closed.
3. Google +1 (not again)
Google are making another foray into the world of social networking with their +1 widget. The +1 widget means search rankings will include recommendations from your social graph. By connected Google to your other social services you can connect your friendship circle to Google and offer them recommendations through the +1 voting widget. As a search engineer I have a lot of research for everything that Google as a business have managed to accomplish in the field of search and tech advancement but they have yet to get a foothold into the world of social networking. Previous attempts like Wave and Buzz have either died or whimpered into abstraction.
Can +1 be Google’s champion social networking imitative? 2011 will tell but I am left with a thought – if I have to visit a website to know whether it is worth +1ing why would I go back to the search engine to bother doing it?