Banjo’s Sweet Tweaks Keep Your Social World (Literally) At Arm’s Length

The “elastic” social networking app now boasts 600,000 users and more easily lets you see who nearby is posting to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, checking in on Foursquare, and more.


Banjo launched in late June with a simple mission: to end social media fragmentation. Rather than pull up dozens of apps–Facebook, Twitter, and so forth–to see what your friends are up to, Banjo streamlines your social networks into one slick experience.

In just a few short months, the app has rocketed to some 600,000 users, and today, Banjo introduces its next iteration that features an overhauled UI, an improved social algorithm, integration with iOS 5’s notification center, and the ability to have users sign in with Instagram, Foursquare, and Gmail.

“We’ve added now a tremendous amount of networks to map your social graph,” says founder and CEO Damien Patton. “When your friend shares a photo on Instagram, for example, you’re getting a notification that he or she is nearby. You probably wouldn’t have seen it before–now you’re not going to miss that opportunity.”

The idea of Banjo has always been about social discovery–helping to make online social sharing potentially turn into offline interaction. By creating a location-based social network–or an “elastic network” as it’s been called–Banjo bubbles up only social media from nearby locations. If you’re in Times Square, for instance, what tweets or Facebook status updates or Foursquare check-ins are happening in that vicinity? Banjo enables users to find out in one convenient place.

With the app’s upgrade, Banjo also aims to only surface “interesting” social updates. Its team of engineers, which includes at least one PhD behind Netflix’s powerful recommendation engine, has been working to make the shared content much richer. “People wanted the content filtered–there was lot of irrelevant content showing up in Banjo,” Patton says. “If someone checks in to a coffee shop on Foursquare, and if they’re not someone you know or are interested in meeting, then who cares? If a check-in doesn’t have a tip or a comment or a photo, and just says, ‘I’m here at Starbucks,’ is that interesting to you as a user?”


Though we’ve already seen some “elastic networks” fail due to a lack of interesting location-based content (Color, anyone?), it appears that Patton’s strategy for Banjo is paying off. The network is now growing by more than 100,000 users per month.

The latest version of Banjo is available for iOS today, and is coming soon for Android.

[Image: Flickr user yooperann]

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.