New social networking site BarCardz.com takes on MySpace and Facebook by leveraging live events
Young people will tell you—MySpace and Facebook would be way cooler if it weren’t for spam unsolicited invites and pervs.
But those downsides haven’t stymied the sites’ popularity—Facebook’s more than 24 million active members can’t get enough of the stuff—but for entrepreneur Alexander Lubyansky the drawbacks presented an opportunity. “I looked at the words ‘social network’ and realized that wasn’t really what it was ” says Lubyansky of MySpace and Facebook’s totally online-only presence. BarCardz.com his web site which beta launched in May is entirely populated by relationships that start (crazy we know) in the real world.
Like MySpace and Facebook at barcardz.com consumers fill out a short profile and upload photos to create their own online “space.” Unique to BarCardz though is a bar code—a series of letters and numbers—users create to identify themselves. This unique code is what keeps the online network anonymous to the outside world while allowing in-network people and businesses access to each other. The site generates business cards from the profile information that consumers can purchase online or download and print for free.
When cardholders are out and about if they meet someone they like they can present their BarCard. Interested recipients go to barcardz.com and send a friend request by plugging in their barcode. It’s like a personal invitation to get an online invitation to become friends in the BarCardz social network. If they say yes you’re in. (EM staffer Jessica Heasley’s bar code is ILVCATS. She handed out 164 cards but so far her mom is the only one in her network. Weird.)
Because online friendships have to be initiated by a face-to-face meeting then by a second invitation unwanted spam and cyber predators can’t get in. Plus it’s a nice cure for beer goggles. In the light of day if he looks more like Rosemary Clooney than George Clooney just politely ignore the friend request.
Venues bars and brands can post upcoming tours shows and promotions on the BarCardz.com calendar for free.
Consumers search the barcardz.com event calendar by city to find events in their area. The more cardholders present their cards at events the more BarCardz points they earn and the more gifts freebies and incentives they are eligible for. Companies can get in on the action by offering products for giveaway that tie into live initiatives. BarCardz captures demographic data from cardholders’ bar codes at events and gives businesses the opportunity to send friend requests to members. If they accept the company can send unlimited messages to members for free.
The space on the back of the printed BarCardz is also up for grabs. A sponsor who pays for placement will offset the cost of cards for consumers and will get logos and special offers in the hands of cardholders.
“It’s not just an image that shows up on a TV screen ” says Lubyansky of what he hopes will be a powerful BarCardz viral effect. “It’s in a consumer’s hand every night. And every night they’re going to give these cards to people that say ‘Miller Lite ’ [for example] on the back.”
BarCardz.com now has 70 U.S. and Canadian cities in its event calendar and planned to add more locations and new features (like the ability to send gifts to new friends through the web site) before the full version of the site launched in June.