As Foursquare is to location, Hashable is to people
Hashable seems to me to be a sort of meta business network that leverages Twitter, LinkedIn and your address book to create a business networking service which may actually be useful. Why do I describe it as “meta”? Basically, Hashable doesn’t really stand alone. It uses your existing Twitter and other connections to make those networks more useful from a practical, business perspective. BranchOut is trying to do a similar thing on Facebook but it requires far too much effort to get to a point where the service is useful and achieving that involves a lot of Facebook spam. Hashable is different.
By way of a further introduction, take a look at this video interview with Robert Scoble in February 2011:
LinkedIn is the largest business network but the problem with LinkedIn is that most of my contacts seem to either want to accumulate more contacts (which has some value but not always) or just use LinkedIn to repost Twitter updates. Sure, LinkedIn has become an almost canonical business profile reference site but its social functionality hasn’t taken off in my circles, at least.
I am still trying to figure Hashable out and installed the mobile app on my iPhone (there is also an Android version). Hashable uses my Twitter social graph to find connections who I can invite to join my inner circle. It pulls profile information in from LinkedIn and connects to Foursquare for location context. As Robert Scoble wrote in his post on Building43:
If you enter an acquaintance’s information into the system, Hashable will reveal other people who have also posted interactions with that person. The more interactions with someone you post, the stronger your relationship with that person in the system. Over time, you can look back at your relationship graph and see the entire history of your relationship.
The basic idea, as I understand it, is that you can checkin with people when you meet them. Let’s say I meet with a client for lunch, I would use the mobile app to indicate that I am having lunch with that person using a #lunch hashtag associated with that person’s Twitter handle (if she has one) and the restaurant’s location through a Foursquare checkin. I can also send a new contact my business card which I create using my profile data and even introduce two people I am connected to.
These three activities are practical and valuable activities that make business networking a little more meaningful. Using hashtags is pretty geeky but being able to form these connections on the fly adds a degree of serendipity to business interactions. The closest thing the LinkedIn app seems to have to this sort of personal connectivity is the apps ability to pass contact details from one device to another using the “In Person” functionality.
Hashable feels lightweight, a lot more flexible and fluid and isn’t dependant on LinkedIn to make it work (you could just as easily complete your profile data yourself and not use the LinkedIn connection). What you need is your address book and Twitter to begin building your profile and, more importantly, your contact history with your contacts. At this point Hashable takes on a social CRM function (other hot services include Gist and Rapportive which integrate with your email, contacts and calendars in Gist’s case).
This social CRM space is becoming pretty busy but Hashable, with its odd name and geeky presentation, feels like it has legs. It is portable, easy to use, works on a lightweight check-in model to create a sort of business-social graph and, most importantly, is based on very real and personal interactions. I think that last bit is essential. LinkedIn encourages users to reject connection requests from people they don’t know but its too easy to allow your network to expand and the value the network presents shrink concurrently. With Hashable, you are more constrained but the connections are more meaningful.
The focal point here is more the mobile apps (although you can post updates on the site) so Hashable needs a BlackBerry app (looks like this is on the way) to bring all those business types addicted to their Crackberries into the mix.
Hashable appeals to me quite a bit. It fits my increasingly mobile lifestyle and I think it may lead to better quality business networks than other services we have available at the moment. What do you think? Do you agree?
Quote credit: The quote from Robert Scoble’s blog post and his video are licensed CC BY NC SA 3.0