The team at It’s Open shared details of a new social networking service called Planely on their blog yesterday (and yes, that is me staring out of the video clip preview on the right, yikes!). Planely is a new service that aims to help people flying by air to network with their fellow passengers before, during and after their flights. It’s an inspired idea; any regular flyer knows how tedious a long flight can be and how much more pleasurable it could be if only they realised that the person sitting two rows away shared common interests and experiences. The beauty of this service is that the users are self-selecting; if you’re the shy, retiring type you won’t sign up, but if you’re interesting in meeting new people and extending your network wherever possible you’ll embrace this new service with both arms. The benefits are plentiful, from being able to share a taxi fare to or from the airport to having someone to chat to while waiting for your flight. Or simply meeting up with an old friend who just happens to be on the same flight as you.
As always, Metcalfe’s Law will define how successful this new networking service will be. If lots of people sign up, it might work. If they don’t, it may fade away to reappear one day embedded within one of the larger network hubs like Facebook or TripAdvisor.
Either way, this sort of niche networking facilitation looks set to become increasingly commonplace. The approach could be easily extended to hotel chains, gyms, restaurants, car enthusiasts, tour holidays, and so on. Wherever a sufficiently large number of people with a common interest exists there’ll be opportunities for the social web to bring these people closer. The challenge for marketers is to sniff out these opportunities and be among the first to bring new communities together or to embed their brand messages wherever these groups exist.