Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hotel guest-only social networking app launched in NYC

NEW YORK - Wyndham's first, Euro-style Tryp hotel in the USA wants to make sure you feel connected - whether to other guests in your group, helpful hotel staffers or other guests you've never met.
So in a move that may be repeated by more hotels in coming months, Tryp has become the first hotel in the U.S. to launch a new, temporary social media networking service called "LobbyFriend."
LobbyFriend - an app designed specifically for registered hotel guests - creates a network that you can tap into on your smartphone. You can also see it in action on prominently displayed, lobby TV screens.
I stumbled upon it when I checked into the now six-week-old Tryp hotel last month.
As soon as I walked into the eclectic hotel lobby, my eyes were drawn to the can't-miss collection of TV screens installed about six feet high on poles. (I'll add more pics shortly.)
Some of the screens play live TV news, but two of them show content that looked vaguely familiar in a Facebook-sort of way. They contained the Tryp logo and a logo for "LobbyFriend," with the headline, "Join the conversation."
Naturally, I was intrigued.
Front desk clerk explains LobbyFriend
When I checked into the hotel at the front desk pod a few feet away from the screens, the clerk told me about LobbyFriend and how it works.
She handed me a card with a password to activate membership, if I wanted. (You first need to download the app from iTunes.)
The app has many uses, she told me. For instance, if I was exploring the city and couldn't find a specific shoe store I was looking for, I could post a message and one of the hotel staffers would reply with an answer.
I took both steps, and eventually saw my name appear on the social networking screens.
Privacy concerns? Not much
It doesn't seem - to me, anyway - to pose privacy problems because guests who aren't into it for whatever reason don't have to join.
If you do use it, however, you should know that your name (but no other identifying information) will pop up on the lobby screens.
The down side of trying it two weeks ago - when the both hotel and app were very new - was that most of the "LobbyFriend" users on the system were employees, which restricted potential networking opportunities.
But there was a bigger obstacle to spending time with it: My schedule.
Old-fashioned networking still works
Between my hectic schedule of meetings outside the hotel and the writing and interviews I needed to do while inside the hotel, I never had the time to get chummy with LobbyFriend or other guests via the app.
All was not lost in the networking department, however. I wound up meeting - without the aid of technology - an Internet venture capitalist from Tokyo as we worked on our laptops at lobby's wooden, power-plug-equipped communal table.
I found LobbyFriend intriguing enough, however, to track down more information. I'll tell you what I learned in a post tomorrow and why I think we'll be hearing more about it.
LobbyFriend's website, by the way, says its No. 1 mission is "to socialize hotels."
Readers: Would you welcome the chance to network with hotel employees and hotel guests?

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