A group of boys looking at their phones

Google is appealing to local markets by creating apps that suit its users’ needs . Source: Shutterstock

Google is going hyperlocal to amass social media users

GOOGLE is taking on other social media platforms with Neighbourly in India, its own hyperlocal social network that connects users with people around them, without compromising on privacy.

This is part of Google’s Next Billion Users programme, and an effort to bring more Indians online for the first time.

In a country where Facebook and WhatsApp are more prevalent, Neighbourly helps Google get a foot in the door in the social media space.

The app acts as a Q&A forum, allowing people within the vicinity to pose questions and answer based on a user’s location.

What makes it an attractive platform compared to Facebook, is privacy. Google incorporated user feedbacks on privacy issues after trialing the beta version.

On Neighbourly, users don’t share any detailed personal information – the app only displays users’ first names.

Users didn’t want strangers to store their photos, or have to deal with intrusive interactions.

In response, Neighbourly has no direct messaging feature, and users cannot enlarge or save photos. Location info is limited to only the name of the neighborhood.

India has nearly half a billion users using smartphones. According to smartphone market shares numbers, demand still lies within budget and mid-range smartphones.

The fact that Neighbourly takes up less than 7 MB, makes it easier to use on older or cheaper phones.

For context, WhatsApp and Facebook take up 65.7 MB and 168 MB respectively, not including cache and data storage.

Facebook has a lite version that takes up 5.2 MB, that runs on 2G networks as well. There is no WhatsApp lite.

Where Google succeeded in India, is making a product that caters to the specific market. The app relies on social networking techniques that are already familiar to the users.

Users can upvote an answer, and answers from users with a high credibility score will appear up top.

Q&As can be bookmarked for later, and users can follow a question without following a person. Users can also swipe left or right based on topics that interest the users.

There is no one size fit all product, and for Google, it makes sense to create an app that targets a specific audience.

Already it has started to offer free WiFi, as well as roll-out a payment service specific to India called Google Tez.

By incorporating features that appeal to local users, it is able to secure a spot in providing services that people would find useful.

Maybe, Google could realize its dream of being the go-to platform in India for search, social networking, and payments.