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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Building a First Life with PlanetTagger
By Susan Smith
According to Jim Banister, CEO of SpectrumDNA, “We’re trying to help people in communities in their first life as opposed to trying to get them to build a second life.” Realizing that people are already doing adventure travel, snowboarding, rock climbing. dog ownership and other pursuits, Banister said every affinity group has a naturally occurring location based behavior. On that premise SpectrumDNA built PlanetTagger to partner with communities who are already spending the time, money and effort to engage that affinity group but do it through a mobile and location based utility method.
"While the contexts of Facebook, Flickr and Twitter are 'social networking', 'photo-sharing' and 'micro-blogging,' those are simply 'actions' without the context of community,” said Banister in a recent press release. “The context of PlanetTagger is provided by the hobby, pastime or industry it partners with. For any affinity group, PlanetTagger offers a platform that allows users to engage and interact with each other in a deeply contextual fashion -- bringing together all of the utility of traditional social media while offering significantly less 'noise' and unwanted clutter for the user-community."
“Our focus in not around primary research around GIS – our focus is more about the technique of engaging of engaging users around geospatial utilities as opposed to coming up with technologies,” explained Banister. “R&D and technologies think just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. The focus is more about what do dog owners really use and what do they really want to do associated with location based behavior? We’re built as an ‘agile adaptive shop,’ meaning that we quickly as possible engage a particular user group and then watch what they actually do as opposed to continuing to do research based on what we think they want to do. So anything we do in primary research or licensing technology from third parties to integrate into this engine of engagement depends entirely on how the community behaves and how their behavior evolves.”
PlanetTagger’s first partnerships may appear diametrically opposed to one another, from an outside perspective, according to Banister. UCLA's Anderson School of Business Entertainment and Media Marketing Institute (EMMI) will use PlanetTagger as a next-generation "knowledge exchange" for stakeholders in the media and entertainment industries. The EMMI community, yet to be named, will be structured around people, places, events and media (including text, photos, graphics, videos, etc.). The community will also offer integrated third-party feeds like Twitter and Facebook. The engine is “basically mapping the world of entertainment media knowledge.” At the other end of the spectrum is a street soccer community, aimed primarily at an audience of 14- 34 year olds who are playing pick up soccer games like street basketball. “They seem entirely different, but the truth is the underpinnings of the PlanetTagger engine are equally applicable to both of those communities because we’ve distilled this application down to the most archetypal behavior amongst human beings, about how they behave with each other around location and people,” Banister said. “There are idiosyncrasies to both of those, and that’s we evolved the engine. Then we’ll watch what each of them do and distill out of those two communities.” There are other communities coming online as well. “We’ve evolve the engine and add more features and change features based on what people are actually doing as opposed to what we think they’re going to do.”
While utilizing the “build it and they will come” approach, PlanetTagger still begs the question, How do you appeal to this or any niche group? You can build an application for any affinity group but then how do you market, distribute, target and gauge that market to get an audience for it?
“Our answer is, instead of spending the money and time to go buy media and spend a huge marketing budget to try and go find and aggregate that community, there are already entities out there who don’t have the expertise in building applications like we build who are spending the money, time and effort in another medium often or doing it in some way online and they already have formed a relationship, they have built in marketing, they have a email list of the million users, they have an alumni group who are installed in the media and entertainment business or where ever it might be,” said Banister. “So we partner with them and they bring the marketing and the relationship and the credibility with the user group, we bring the technology, the application, the understanding of how to program to human beings as opposed to devices. Between that partnership and us watching what they do and listening to that audience, we evolve the engine based on that.”
By starting out with credibility in that community immediately, those previous steps are eliminated. In the case of street soccer, the partner for the street soccer community is a gear company called Calle Republic, which relies on youth to supply ideas for their product line and the website. The PlanetTagger engine has something for Calle called Calle Underground, which is a service that allows people to sign up and find out about games going on in their area, and to network with other like-minded individuals.
Each of the partners know their demographics or cybergraphics, and know their affinities. Banister said there are infinite numbers of these social niche groups.
“There are 75 million dog owners in North America alone, right? But it’s a niche, in this case, a mega niche, for example, the demographics for dog owners goes across the demographics of the U.S.,” Banister pointed out. “It’s such a wide swath: they’re old, young, high income, low income, male, female. With street soccer it’s much more specific –younger, highly male. Our partners generally have a really good handle, like subject matter experts, they really know their market and their demographic or affinity group so we rely on them. They rely on us to know how mobile behavior and online behavior around location based services is evolving and how to react to the market as quickly as possible.”
Banister said PlanetTagger is in a really good position right now because most companies have cut back on their internal development, technology and programming staff. They can’t afford to build the applications that SpectrumDNA are building. “We feel strongly this is the right way to approach the web 3.0 market,” he said.
Last year SpectrumDNA ran a series of tests with their 1.0 platform with ski resorts, we the local Park City dog community and the street soccer group. “Based on what we learned and what new technologies were emerging, we spent a good six months re engineering the platform,” said Banister. As a result, two communities of PlanetTagger will launch this summer: street soccer and EMMI community with UCLA.
Banister noted that a big challenge is getting the 40-50 year old audience to believe PlanetTagger is worthwhile. So many people in that age range want to do rather than talk about their interests, but hopefully PlanetTagger will appeal to the mobility of that audience. An audience must feel the need to download something to their iPhone in the area of location based information and social niche works. With PlanetTagger, “If you’re focused on a particular affinity group you can probably service them better than a general social networking engine like Facebook can,” said Banister. “We really think that’s a trend in the mobile and web space.”