Founded in 2007 by former BBC producer Sanchita Saha, CitySocialising may not be a name that immediately rolls off your tongue when discussing social networks.
But the London-based company has carved a niche for itself in the UK for those wishing to take their online networking offline into the real world, serving as a conduit for those looking to tap into a city’s local social scene. Today, it counts 250,000 users across more than thirty British cities.
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The company has raised around £1.75m ($2.66m) to date, from PROfounders Capital, with support led by the likes of Michael Birch (Bebo) and Brent Hoberman (Lastminute.com). And today, CitySocialising is rolling out its first native mobile app for iOS (Android to follow) and is rebranding the Web and mobile service as ‘Citysocializer‘ as it prepares to go global.
How it looks
A mobile app has been a long time coming for CitySocialising, and it goes without saying that any social app worth its salt really needs to be on board with mobile.
While the sign-up process is straightforward, it’s worth noting here that to use the full service you will have to pay £3.99 ($6) a week via an in-app purchase; or a monthly, 3-monthly and 6-monthly membership via the website. That in itself may deter some, but if you’ve moved to a new city, or find yourself randomly in a new place for a short-period, a one-off payment to help kick-start a (temporary) social circle might not be too excessive.
Once in, you can tag your profile with what you like and the neighbourhoods and cities you frequent. You can also receive invites when like-minded people are getting together, or browse what are known as ‘Socials’ (basically get-togethers) that are happening around you.
You can scroll a stream of upcoming events in your city of choice, and see if there’s still room at the inn for this gathering. The app also serves up push notifications for time and venue changes, and Google Maps integration to guide users towards the venue of choice.
If there’s no room, you can continue browsing for other events that aren’t full. If you’re not immediately ready to go out and meet new folk, you can peruse user profiles and make connections with those who have similar tastes as you.
You can also create your own ‘Social’, say, if you’re looking to organize that game of poker that you can never quite find enough people to play. It’s worth noting here, that this is only available via the website at the moment, though you will be able to create directly within the mobile app shortly.
As with any social app, you’re encouraged to update your status, the idea being that any friends and connections you make can see what you’re up to and impromptu ‘Socials’ can spring up organically as a result.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you perhaps noticed that the company name is CitySocialising, but the new rebranded app is called Citysocializer. The ‘Z’ in there is indicative of the direction the company is heading, as it moves away from a UK-centric service to a global one – that is the most obvious way of growing, after all.
With the new platform, anyone from anywhere in the world can sign up and, once it hits 200 people, this will unlock the service and features for that area.
For now, if you try to search for activity in any city outside the UK, you’ll be encouraged to invite friends from that place.
For me, the main benefit of Citysocializer is in tapping into new social scenes in other cities – so if you’re new to somewhere, it may be difficult for someone to invite friends if they don’t know anyone there.
One million connections
To mark this launch, Citysocializer says it has seen one million new real-world connections since it was founded six years ago, with RSVPs to events passing 750,000. And, interestingly, the company is introducing a new white-label platform for brands to extend their reach from the Web out into the real world. From today, other companies can create their own branded events and ‘people-discovery’ networks, though further details about this will be unveiled in the coming weeks, with two big-name media brands signed-up for the launch.
“Our next phase of innovation in social and people discovery is underpinned by our experience in the space since 2007,” explains Sanchita Saha CEO and founder. “Everyone has seen how social discovery networks have scaled online, now we’ve been able to demonstrate successfully that we can scale it offline.”
There’s no shortage of online/offline-hybrid social networks, and it’s clear there’s a market for this. Badoo, for example, is also headquartered in London (see previous coverage), as is Tastebuds (previous coverage), but both of these are trying hard to shake-off their dating-centric reputations.
Citysocializer has set out its stall from the offset to be more about socializing and making friends, and this may work in its favor. However, part of me feels its attempts to go mobile and global may be a little late in the day now, given the plethora of competing platforms out there around the world.
For Citysocializer, it will be all about how it goes about gaining new members, and convincing them that it’s a service worth paying for. Word-of-mouth will play a huge part on this front.
“The one million genuine friendships and offline connections that we’ve generated through our service over the last five years have given us the insights and data around usage and behavior that have helped us to shape our model – for example making ours a paid-for service increased the level of engagement from our female members by 200%,” continues Saha. “Now with our new platform we’re ready to scale social discovery further offline through multiple channels.”
The new Citysocializer app is free to download now, letting you browse ‘socials’, people and ‘wave’ at others. To join in Socials and fully interact with the community, you’ll need to become a paying member.
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