The number of active social media users in the world has reached 3.49 billion, and an average time spent on social media is 142 minutes. To say that social media is here to stay is an understatement; and while the multiple benefits of social media have been well-accepted across the world, there is also an increasing concern on its addictive nature and other harmful effects.
Indeed, since the onset of social media, the main goal has been to keep users active on the platforms as much as possible; however, only recently has this been reported as a real social issue. Harvard University recently released a study indicating that when people talk about themselves, their brains’ pleasure centers are stimulated as much as what it is with sex and food – which is very similar to what happens on social media .
A renowned author and business columnist, Ben Angel, says: “It has to do with the basics of psychology and a term called ‘operant conditioning’. The concept is fairly simple: Your actions are influenced by the reward you received from similar, past actions. For example, checking your news feed is rewarding. You connect with friends and people you admire, learn about the news, and more.”
A Renewed Way to Think about your Calendar
Abe Shafi, CEO of IRL calendar app,IRL A is one of those few tech entrepreneurs who see how technology can help us to get the best of these activities performed in the real world. IRL – which has recently attracted an $8 million Series A funding round by Goodwater Capital as well as Founders Fund and Kleiner Perkins – wants to transform the calendar and make it more fun and social giving the tool to better coordinate with friends, family, and coworkers. The calendar app has a built-in “events chat” that allows users to discuss all the events happening around them with their friends, which is now directly integrated into the chat. At the same time, the app allows users to follow friends, favourite sports’ teams, musicians, and more. IRL has built the most powerful social tool among those who are focussed on getting users to spend more time offline doing “the things they love with the people they love.”
Unlike traditional social media apps, this app uses tech to improve the quality of the offline world and connects users only to a known inner circle of friends, rather than opening up one’s profile to everyone on the web.
Just a year ago, Apple declared war to curb smartphone addiction by stopping companies from collecting user data and sending ads repetitively whenever users go online. Similarly, Abe Shafi has declared war on social media addiction, showing how social media can be leveraged to improve our social lives in the real world.
There’s no doubt that mobile apps have changed the ways in which we interact with our calendars, making them sharable, smarter, more interactive, and even social. The IRL application – launched just a few weeks ago for iOS devices – is more than a calendar; it is as a place to make plans with your friends while discovering nearby events. As reported on the IRL website, this helps you “follow your friends, favourite sports teams, musicians, comedians, local venues, and more. Do more of what you love with the people you love.” It is an all-in-one place to get the best out of your event participation.
Niche Positioning: Identify Unmet Customer Needs
To summarise what IRL does briefly, we can say that this app is a minimalist calendar, seamlessly integrating with Google calendar where you can create events and invite your friends chatting – for the first time on a calendar app – about the calendar events. It is strongly focused on geo-localisation, and the app itself was launched state by state to maximise density so that each user would have more friends to engage through the app.
IRL just announced that it is available globally. Till last year, they operated in 14 states, with 1.3 million monthly active users and about 3 million potential users on the waitlist.
“50 per cent of all teens in Texas have downloaded IRL. I wanted to focus on the central states, not Silicon Valley,” Shafi explains. The high interested generated about the app has to be found in an uncovered need in the current market: “There’s Twitter for ‘follow my updates,’ there’s SoundCloud for ‘follow my music,’ but there’s no ‘follow my events’,” Shafi added.
This positioning of the app into the market has generated significant interest from investors and CEOs. Besides the $8 million Series A funding round, entertainment and event CEOs are also listed as investors, including Greg Silverman (president of Warner Bros), as well as Joe Drake (president of Lionsgate Films) and ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman, to help it hire calendar influencers.