At times it may seem that the social media realm has been saturated with enough programs to satisfy the needs of any user; but needs quickly change to desire and convenience, and gaps open up in day-to-day experiences and so come along a new applications. Crowdbeacon, a start-up network out of New York City, seeks to provide instant and localized responses to pressings needs and questions. Whether you are looking for a good restaurant, a private contractor, or a hot yoga studio, Crowdbeacon uses community members to answer questions in real-time.
“Our goal is to help people find what they are looking for; it can be a phone number, a product, or simply information,” explained Crowdbeacon founder Robert Boyle during a telephone interview from his office in NYC. “It is hyper local, with a unique focus on information and context, more so than simply venues.”
The service focuses on the United States, with around 40% of users located in NYC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Much of the U.S. is covered with contributors, and the more people that enlist, the more answers will become available. If for some reason a question goes unanswered, the staff at Crowdbeacon will seek out an appropriate response. There are users in Toronto, Beijing, and around the world, but those numbers are at the moment fewer than those Stateside, and the Crowdbeacon team cannot ensure that all questions related to international cities will be answered.
Still, the network has had great input from the public. According to Boyle, response rates are up near 90%, with over 15,000 questions posed in the first six weeks, and an average response rate of three minutes. Users are wont to answer as much as they ask, as every contributor is given a rating, determined by how often they answer questions and how others are helped.
Boyle believes that the network occupies an important niche in the busy world of social networking and social media. “What separates us from other location-based services is that we help people find specific things,” said Boyle, who created the network with the help of Luca Columbu and the Squeaky Wheel team, a digital media agency. “The discovery of information is just as key as the delivery of information.”
Less than two months in, the network is already responding to the way in which the network is being used. “At first we built it as explicitly not being social, with no friends and followers; just focusing on questions and answers,” said Boyle. There looks to be great use, however, in including pictures and videos in posts, as well as having to option to ‘follow’ those people that are most helpful and with whom possess shared interests. The team is looking to incorporate such innovations, with the continued goal of “creating a place and medium for people to find what they need in real time.”
Currently the app is only on the iPhone, but production is underway for the Android and Blackberry. If you are hard pressed and don’t have an iPhone, you can utilize the service through the website itself until the app rolls out for other devices in the coming weeks and months. It is fully integrated with Twitter and Facebook, and owes much thanks to Foursquare, with whom Crowdbeacon has a strong working relationship.
It is as much dependent on the users as any other network, and the more people that sign up and get involved, the better the product becomes.