Business Ecosystems & The Evolution of Social Networks

We launched our social condo platform called JazLife just over a year ago and I wanted to explain what it is in some detail and discuss the broader evolution of social networks and business ecosystems within the context of JazLife.

While you’re reading this, think of your own business and how these ideas can apply to your specific company and industry.

JazLife is a multi-sided online platform targeting the multi-family, multi-unit residential market. It’s designed to break down barriers, connect people socially, promote discovery, increase accessibility, add convenience and build trust within your chosen condo/apartment building and the surrounding ecosystem.

The three key constituents of the ecosystem are:

  • the residents of the building: The nature of condominiums as secure buildings tends to create barriers between residents and all the members of the community. Paradoxically, it is socially isolating to live in a multi-family, multi-unit building. How do local businesses communicate their services to you? How do you know what great services exist in your community? How do you meet, connect with and communicate with other residents or your property management representatives? Typically, it’s via snail mail, handwritten signs taped on walls, multiple trips to the property management office to see if they are there, mass flyers in your mail box that local businesses hope are seen. It’s not a great experience. JazLife solves this problem by creating a platform for connecting, communicating and managing your condo life online easily and efficiently. No more thick document “packages” from your condominium corporation or property manager. No more trips to the property managers office — reserve guest parking/building facilities online. No more tattered posters in the lobby selling furniture.
  • the building management staff: Managing a building is fast paced and multi?faceted. Building Management are critical teams ensuring condominium communities thrive in a supported and positive environment. However, the equation is unbalanced – there are usually only a few building managers assigned to meet the needs of hundreds of residents. Building managers can’t be everywhere at once. JazLife recognizes this and has built a system that will enhance their ability to communicate and manage your building with a simple and efficient online administration tool. No more notices posted in the elevator. No more paper maintenance request forms in the lobby. No more frustrated residents who work during the day and can’t get to see you during regular business hours.
  • local businesses in the neighborhood: The local market potential is large but what are your options for communicating with the thousands of condominium residents living in their secure towers? You are a local business that doesn’t have a huge marketing budget to pay for mailing lists or bombard condominiums with flyers, competing with the national chains. JazLife is the first community based online social media system that connects your business directly with residents of condominiums in a more meaningful way, with built in performance measurement that will help you reach your market potential efficiently. No more flyers in the mail room. No more wasted time using outdated, expensive marketing techniques. JazLife is a targeted, efficient approach that will ensure you maximize your potential to reach customers in your local community.

I want to expand on some of the major megatrends that have influenced and will continue to guide our design and development of this particular social platform and other platforms in other industries:

The Evolution of Social Networks

We’ve all witnessed the explosive growth of social networking and know that Facebook has a reported 800 million users and a pre-IPO valuation of $100 Billion. Everyone is Twittering, Tumbling and Facebooking (me included) but this is not a new human endeavor … Our collective desire to connect with each other has existed since before recorded history. Social networks existed 10,000+ years ago in neolithic villages. So what’s next?

I believe we will move away from generic, mass-market social networks like Facebook and Twitter. It doesn’t make sense to have 1,500 “friends” on one network or platform like Facebook. There’s simply too much noise. Let’s get real. This does not mirror the nature of our offline social networks. In the offline world, we have multiple personas, multiple interests, multiple networks and we communicate and connect differently within each of them. We don’t have one group of friends. Who we are and how we communicate at work vs. at home vs. with close friends vs. acquaintances vs. business contacts is very different. The nature and depth of all of these relationships differ.

The same thing is going to happen online.

With JazLife, we believe that there’s value in creating a niche, private social platform that is focused specifically on one single ecosystem tied to your lifestyle — the ecosystem that surrounds where you live.

Today, living in a condo or apartment is often a lifestyle choice and residents are actively looking to enhance the experiences they have within their community on a number of different levels.

Convenience, social life, night life, local amenities and shopping all rank very highly — People want to be “close to the action”.

Traditional mass-market social platforms don’t necessarily add value to this World. It doesn’t make sense for me to notify or publicize to my 1,500 friends on Facebook that I’ve booked the party room in my building; that my refrigerator is leaking or that I’ve reserved guest parking for my sister who is visiting from out of town.

Similarly, I don’t want every business in the World trying to “friend” me or getting me to join their fan page. It’s a many-to-many relationship which is impersonal and mechanical. It’s not human.

I do want the convenient, simplicity and ease of communicating in an informal way with my neighbors, property management and local businesses using the online social networking paradigm, only this time it’s local, niched and private.

Which leads to the next three trends …

Ecosystem Marketing

JazLife provides the infrastructure for residents, building management and local businesses to discover, connect, communicate, interact, manage and optimize within the community based on social connections and opt in relationships.

We have built a hyper-local marketing platform that enables local businesses to connect to residents in condominiums using social media, detailed profiles, advertising, exclusive specials and coupons. it’s opt-in and private. It’s focused and targeted. It’s human and at the one-to-one / one-to-few / few-to-few level. It’s not a many-to-many, mass-marketing machine that is impersonal, inefficient and un-targeted. Mass marketing still has it’s place in the marketing mix – TV and mass media are not dead - but mass marketing and traditional paper-based marketing may not be the optimal option for small businesses trying to reach a niche audience in the condo buildings surrounding their stores.

Performance metrics are available to help local businesses grow their customer base and make the most of their marketing dollars.

Local business become part of an ecosystem that is installed in participating condominium buildings. They connect with residents on a human scale.

Now there’s a choice to generic flyers and newspaper advertising. it’s cheaper, faster, more convenient and more human.

Merging Conversation and Utility

JazLife goes beyond what is offered in the typical social network. We’ve gone beyond conversation to what we term “social utility“. We have built tailored and task-specific apps and tools that work in a social way. So you get the benefits of a social network and the ability to manage your condo experience online without the need to call the front desk, fill in paper forms or get those annoying flyers under your door. We believe it’s a unique value proposition in the market today.

Humanizing Business Interactions

Business is embracing social and vice versa. It has to happen in an organic, natural way that retains the humanity of the communication between residents, property management and the local businesses in your neighborhood. When it’s done with a human voice and with simplicity and convenience, we believe it builds relationships and trust and grows your business with integrity.