What is this "geo social networking" anyway?
In many online communities, it is as important to know where someone is as it is to know what their background or interests are. For example, a network of business partners based in California might be interested in meeting one another face-to-face, or perhaps one of your customers in Chicago might like to find a local developer who can meet with them in their offices.
You have the ability to integrate geographic information into your community so that your members may search, browse, and connect with one another based on their location as well as their expertise.
Advanced Map Search Functionality
The map’s search functionality supports both profile and interest-based searches.
For example, one may simply enter the word “Artist” to search for all artists in a
particular location. However, to find an individual who is interested in finding
an artist, one may now simply enter the phrase “Interests: Artist” and the system
will search for individuals who have expressed interest in finding an individual
with that role.
Dynamic Profile Attribute Search Dialog
In order to assist community members with determining what they can search upon, a dynamic “advanced search helper” is available which automatically will allow members to perform a search with one click.
How does it work?
As a community administrator, you can specify a set of places which are important to your community. For example, if you are launching a community for your employees, you can specify places like "Chicago Branch Office, 100 West Division Street, Chicago, IL" or "Design Office, Washington, DC." The system will then automatically "geo-code" those locations by automatically assigning them a latitude and longitude. Your community members may then associate themselves with those places (or you may assign them to those locations.)
Then what happens?
To a community member, the key value is that they can immediately browse around a map, run searches, and find people based upon their needs. For example, if one member is based in the San Francisco area, they could run a search for "Information Architect" and their search results would be plotted on a map.
Upon finding an individual of interest, community members may always quickly reach out to that individual, schedule a meeting, or save them off for future review.
Is it easy to set up?
Yes, we think so. There are a set of tools we've created so that you can, for example, quickly import all of the offices in your organization into the system and the system will automatically generate coordinates for them in one pass. Alternatively, you can download one of our sample "Places" files with US or Country locations that can be uploaded.
Once you are ready, you can add the Search By Geography link to your community navigation menu as well as enable the My Location link to allow members to set their own location. Additionally you can add a step to the initial sign up process for members who are new to the community. For more information, please refer to the Sign Up Items for setting up your community. You can also pass the location as part of our Single Sign On API by including the field: <ls_place_name>.
How does this differ from a mashup?
Many people do think of this as a "mashup." However, we think it's worth noting that this system is a fairly "deep" integration, in that there is a set of integrated tools to make it as easy as possible for our customers to create, build, and launch a location-based community. For example, for those communities which integrate with another system (using single sign-on), there are some technical "hooks" which allow your members to be automatically associated with a certain office, place, or location automatically.
How do I get started?
If you'd like to learn more, just give us a shout and we'd be happy to discuss the details and talk about how these set of features might be able to help assist you in more effectively connecting your community.
And if you're interested in other integrated visual social network mapping capabilities of the community platform, be sure to check out the People Map. If you'd like to learn a bit more about geosocial networking in general, check out the wikipedia article on the subject.