MeetMe is yet another player in the crop of hyperlocal social apps vying to get you online with the promise of boatloads of interesting people you'd really get along with offline. And they're just steps away from you. No, really. They're 0.10 miles away. Our geolocation technology says so. Go say hi!
But with so many apps claiming to hold the key to meeting the most interesting people, it's getting increasingly harder for each app to distinguish itself as the cream of the social crop.
So MeetMe is testing out a new feature called Photoboard, a gimmicky attempt to spawn more face-to-face meetings between users by catering to their inner vanity. With Photoboard, which is baked into the MeetMe app for iOS and Android, you can take a photo of yourself and upload it to MeetMe, where it will automatically get tagged with your proximal location and added to the Photoboard stream, where you can check out photos uploaded by other users nearby.
Here's the gimmicky part: MeetMe will be projecting those user photos at digital screens in 500 bars across the U.S., so non-MeetMe users can also get a taste of who's using the app. MeetMe partnered with Zoom Media, which specializes in the digital screens you often see at gyms and bars. Photoboard photos will show up on the screens for 12 minutes per hour, and will display photos from users who are within a 0.25-mile radius of the given bar. By the end of this week, Photoboard will be available on Zoom Media screens at bars in 11 major cities.
The majority of MeetMe's current growth is happening outside of the U.S., so Photoboard is a way for the service to gain more domestic exposure by marketing itself at people who may not have heard of it before. That's an important goal for MeetMe, which has roughly one million U.S. users and has only been around in its current incarnation for four months, itself the product of a merger between social networks myYearbook and the Latin American Quepasa.
MeetMe COO Geoff Cook tells Fast Company the idea for Photoboard stemmed from the MeetMe team's many hours spent at a bar across the parking lot from their Pennsylvania office.
"The bar is an interesting algorithm when you think about it," he says. "It combines place with putting people in the right mood, games like pool and darts, and alcohol doesn't hurt."
Photoboard gives users another point of entry within the MeetMe app to start connecting with each other, complementing existing features such as an "Ask Me" section that lets you jump into conversations with others. (A sample question: "If you could be skinny and miserable or fat and happy, which would you be?") The physical-digital direction of Photoboard could potentially work out for MeetMe, based on its high rate of face-to-face contact: Cook says that nearly 60% of MeetMe users have met someone else on the app in real life.
[Image: Flickr user Kheel Center, Cornell University]