Meet “Shoelace”: Google’s New Online Social Platform for Organizing Offline Meetups
While Google+ may have met its end back in April, that hasn’t stopped the teams at Google from experimenting with new ways to connect people online. Only this time, they’re pushing for people to actually step away from their computers and phones to make and meet friends IRL.
The social network “Shoelace” (named based on the premise of Shoelace, which is “to tie people together based on their interests—like two laces on a shoe”) is a hyperlocal networking app for people looking to meet up with others who share their interests. It’s being developed by Google’s experimental unit Area 120, which was developed as a way for Google employees to “build, launch, and iterate on dozens of novel ideas that might otherwise not be explored.”
While currently limited to select residents of New York City, the initial idea appears to be similar to existing hyperlocal social networks like Nextdoor or Meetup. It allows users to plan events (e.g. a craft beer tasting at a local pub or a Saturday morning run in the park), which are known as “loops,” and promote them to people with similar interests.
From a marketing point-of-view, this could be a great way for local businesses to promote events and draw in customers. The ability to target users based on specific interests and allow them to share events across their network is particularly promising. It also gives users an added incentive to actually show up to the events that interest them: new offline connections. They don’t need to worry about going alone because the whole point is to come and make new friends.
Google’s track record with social networks has been less than stellar. (Anyone remember Orkut or Google Buzz?). In fact, Google’s latest attempt at a social networking platform was launched just months after it shut down Google+.
However, Google does have an advantage this time around. With Shoelace, Google isn’t competing in the same niche as other popular social networks. Their idea to promote offline connections separates them from the likes of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. And while this idea isn’t entirely original, it hasn’t been attempted in quite the same way by any company with as much brand recognition as Google. The standalone Facebook Local app comes close but ultimately serves more as an event directory than as a way to facilitate new friendships.
Time will tell if Shoelace ends up catching on, or even if it will survive this beta-testing phase. After all, many Area 120 projects die off before they’re ever widely released. This project, however, seems promising, and the shift in priorities toward creating offline connections could be a game-changer for social media.