When it comes to sharing photos of specific events such as major sporting events or music festivals, hashtags and Facebook still fall short.
At least that’s according to Jonathan Burdon, founder of SocialCoaster Inc., a social networking startup in Nashville.
By using SocialCoaster, people can add photos of their own experiences at an event while also helping add to a deeper collection of photos from other users to create a veritable photo album in real time. Each event has its own feed of posts that allows people to see photos taken by several contributors or check out other events that their own friends have attended.
“What we’ve learned over the last few years is photos are what users are really interested in,” Burdon said, referencing the popularity of photo-sharing site Instagram. “We want to give people an instant snapshot of what’s happening around them.”
Burdon uses the example of a wedding, explaining that guests can “check in” to the event when they arrive and the photos they take can be immediately uploaded onto the wedding’s SocialCoaster profile. The bride and groom can look at photos and related messages after the event without having to visit each guest’s Facebook or Instagram feed. Depending on preferences, users also can choose to simultaneously upload the same photos to Facebook and other sites.
SocialCoaster also provides marketing opportunities for businesses or organizations that throw events or the restaurants or venues hosting them, letting the users do the promotion for them as they post photos. Additionally, businesses can use the app for competitions that boost marketing, such as photo contests, Burdon said.
While hashtags can serve to aggregate posts or photos tied to the same event or contest, Burdon said hashtags fail to give a complete picture and require people to search through multiple sites and guess different hashtags to find all related photos.
“There was really no collaboration of it all,” he said. “This kind of puts it all in one place.”
SocialCoaster’s iPhone launch is scheduled for Monday, strategically timed just ahead of New Year’s Eve to take advantage of the year’s busiest event night, and Burdon says an Andriod release will come in a few months.
Burdon, from Owensboro, Ky., developed the idea while living in downtown Nashville, contemplating what to do and wanting to be able to see a glimpse of what was going on around him. The idea eventually evolved into being event-centric after he and friends determined there was a void in that social media niche.
He envisions the app being used at sporting events, with coordinators selecting photos from the game’s SocialCoaster feed and featuring them during halftimes. Or, it could contribute to coverage of major new events with people posting photos, as they do through Twitter hashtags, Burdon said.
SocialCoaster is not Burdon’s first company. While in college at Murray State University, he created a review service for Web hosting sites, AlreadyHosting.com, which he ran until a year ago. He is using about $50,000 raised from selling ownership stakes in the company as seed money for SocialCoaster.
SocialCoaster includes Burdon and three software developers, and the team also worked with Metova, a mobile app development company in Franklin, to build the product. The company’s board of directors includes James Grierson, business development vice president for Bluehost, a Web hosting service.
Social networking sites have long been affiliated with Silicon Valley, but Burdon said he plans on seeing the company through in Nashville.
“They have done a really good job of building a culture of startups here,” he said.
“A lot of the startups here have been revolving around health care, which makes sense considering we have so many great hospitals in Nashville. I kind of wanted to show that Nashville can cover it all.”