Tagged & The Exciting New World of Social Discovery

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My grandmother used to say "There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” Oh if my grandmother could see the world today, a world in which people globally share little more than pixelated words and ideas, rather than toffee pennies or green triangles from a dusty old Quality Street tin.

But let's not get too starry eyed over days gone by - the future is here and there's no shortage of ways to interact with other people. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn are all geared towards connecting us with our friends, family and co-workers in increasingly creative ways. So what is the next step, the evolution if you will, of social media? It's quite possible that the shift will be away from social networking and increasingly towards the exciting world of social discovery.

What is social discovery you may ask? In essence, a social discovery platform is an online space aimed at connecting people and businesses with new places, people and products that they will enjoy based on their social interactions and interests, rather than any pre-existing social connection. Social discovery is the new black - a louder, better, and altogether more exciting black.

The reason for this is quite simple, it takes into account the core emotional benefit of social, and that is "discovery" and how that makes us feel. Whether it's people discovery, food discovery, news discovery, location discovery, lifestyle discovery or just investing time in discovery - at our basest, most fundamental level we are animals born with a hardwired desire to sneak a peek inside of Pandora's Box. We need to reach out, discover, uncover - it's in our DNA. We want to explore, seek out new life, civilisations, to boldly go where blah, blah, blah...you get the picture. If that is the case, then Tagged is the biggest, brightest and newest star in cyberspace.

It's quite possible that you have yet to hear of Tagged - I'm certainly quite new to it myself. To explain, let's imagine that your "digital life" and "real life" have morphed, distorted and contorted into one very strange Tron-like, Salvador Dali/Tim Berners-Lee lovechild. If Facebook is a class reunion, then Tagged is the event that you managed to bag an invite to but don't know anyone yet. Alas the night is young, and you'll have plenty of opportunity. You just have to be willing to go up and talk to someone, to remodel your social anxieties into social discoveries.

It's quite reasonable to feel that somebody who requests your friendship on Facebook that you don't know, has overstepped his or her bounds. However, this is the central theme to Tagged. You could liken it to a virtual bar or coffee shop. Yes, you may possibly go there to meet new people or try and find a date, but you may also want to play a game, meet a friend, or just watch the world go by.

It's a place to uncover different viewpoints and experiences and let's face it, isn't that what social should be? Your Facebook "friends" represent only a very small slice of opinions, views and experiences. This is mainly because we tend to group with like-minded people in the real world...and the result is that our Facebook friends are a virtual representation of our political beliefs, prejudices and real world thinking.

Tagged, on the other hand, lets you experience a broader view of the world. If the "real" world is burdened by the social botheration of getting out and meeting new friends, social discovery is like a combination of Valium and Tums for this anxiety. It also realises that social discovery should be fun, while also understanding the science of friendships and how we relate in the real world. Instead of seeing your nephew scoring his first goal or getting the lowdown on your brother's new girlfriend, we can peep through strangers virtual living room windows, and although many may deny it, this without doubt appeals to our natural human curiosity. It's a new direction that is unfamiliar yet fundamentally exciting - and it's certainly taking off.  More than 70 million people are already using Tagged and that's a few more zero's than you probably expected.

However, social discovery has its limitations. Firstly, our friends are generally very good at recommending things specifically targeted to us. These very specific recommendations can often filter out a lot of the "noise" that's created when a constant barrage of advice floods your stream - and as a result browsing these platforms can become extremely tiresome. Secondly, although it's early days in the history of social discovery, there is still the fear that Tagged will be used as a glorified dating site rather than a white-knuckled ride to unbridled exploration.

Social discovery is an exciting start and a necessary step in the pursuit of true Internet discovery. What it most certainly is not is an endpoint. Ever advanced search and discovery algorithms are being implemented across the web, movie recommendations on Netflix, news recommendations on Zite and many other services with similar recommendation power are popping up, yet these are merely a precursor to what lies ahead.

Correctly harnessed, discovery is set to become an incredibly powerful tool. It will be your personal concierge - your expert in the world of YOU. As data scientists collect more and more information about our likes and dislikes, true discovery is certainly no pipe dream. Perhaps then, social discovery is the definitive answer. The very answer that will help us all to discover what our lives have been missing.

Paul Shepherd

I've worked in digital communications for around 15 years, and specialised in social media for the past three. Passionate about new technologies, media, and the impact it has on businesses bottom line, I try to bring that passion to every campaign for every brand we work with.