ZoomAtlas Social Network For Boomers With $10K Geo-Based Reunion Contest

With Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn now the dominant players in the social media space and Foursquare, and Gowalla in the location-based arena - each garnering a user-base larger than many countries - is there room for another to focus on just one segment of the population? Mark Sherman and ZoomAtlas, with the majority of users over 50 years old seem to think so.

Boomers, the progeny born post-World War II are still the largest demographic to travel through the population funnel. As such, they diverted a lot of attention from their parents' and children's generational groups. Consistently questioning the world -  from war protests, to the sexual revolution, mind-altering drugs and anti-establishment leanings, their activities are still analyzed to this day, even as their life paths transition into retirement.

Even with Facebook fast approaching 500 million users, lots of companies continue to build new social networks these days. Google's Buzz added Facebook- and Twitter-like capabilities to Gmail, Cisco is releasing social networking software called "Quad" that is designed for internal use by businesses, and now HP says IT pros need their own social network.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office last week awarded a patent to Amazon for a "social networking system" that would seem to accomplish the exact same tasks already performed by the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Friendster.

Amazon is a consumer-oriented company but has also built services geared toward professional users, particularly in the cloud computing realm. But it's not clear yet whether this patent is the first step toward Amazon building a Facebook-like service of its own in the future.

On May 31, ZoomAtlas (just launched in November, 2009) scaled to 50,000 users. It's described as a geo-social networking site that combines the best of social networking with advanced mapping technology to reconnect users with friends and family by posting notes at important places in one's past or present.

What came as a pleasant surprise to the founder Mark Sherman was the 70 percent of his registered users coming in at 47 years or older and the "year" most referenced in the their notes being "1968."

“We recognized early on that users from the baby boomer generation were the early adopters of ZoomAtlas,” said Sherman. “As a result, we shifted 95 percent of our marketing budget to target users over the age of 47, and they have responded. Boomers are not only reconnecting with friends and family from their past on ZoomAtlas,  they are also documenting in posted notes the special times and moments from their past for generations to come.”

To capitalize on this demographic niche and the 'nostalgia' interest factor, Sherman told me this week that ZA will be launching a "Reunion Contest" in the next 90 days. Focused on individuals interested in organizing a reunion that is associated with families, high schools, college, neighborhood, workplace and summer camps, the contest will run for approximately 3 months.

While the rules are still being formalized, the general guidelines to enter the contest will be based on locating a place on the ZoomAtlas Map that creates the initial entry point for reunion at that location (i.e. neighborhood, town, school, college, workplace, etc.) That location then becomes the reunion group name and sets the stage for the competition to begin for that group.

ZoomAtlas US MapZoomAtlas US Map

All groups will be vying for a $10,000 grand prize and a video presentation keepsake produced professionally by ZoomAtlas that will be featured on its Web site and ZA's Facebook page.

Reunion groups will earn points for group members who perform various tasks, including (but not limited to):
  • Posting notes and creating LifePaths* on ZoomAtlas
  • Sharing notes and LifePaths* on Facebook
  • The number of states the reunion page has as current locations for group members in LifePaths*
  • For editing the map around the entry location (school campus, neighborhood, summer camp location etc.)

*'life paths' are a timeline created by users of all the places they’ve frequented during their lives, such as a school, neighborhood hang-out, playground, etc.

The group that achieves the highest score will win the $10K. (Note: More details are forthcoming, so register at the site to keep abreast of updates).

In asking Sherman, how ZoomAtlas will distinguish itself, not only from the established social networks but also from the location-based social networks that are growing exponentially, he feels that his network's edge of focusing on the "past" is what's going to attract the 1 million users he hopes will register by year end.

"All the existing networks zero in on current friends, while ZoomAtlas is focused on the past, and is the best service for locating old friends based on shared locations like childhood homes, schools, parks, neighborhoods, houses of worship, summer camp, bars, workplaces, and hangouts," says Sherman. And in regards to ZA's advanced mapping capabilities, "the fact that we offer amazing zoom capability, every location no matter how small, can be drawn, written about, and become a location for reconnecting with an old friend."

To that end, one of Sherman's longer-reaching goals, is "to become the world's most-detailed wiki map - mapping every square inch of the the world."  And since all ZA's data is obtained from public domain sources, users are free to edit the data "without restrictions and without any dependency on Google or Microsoft."

Sounds like ZoomAtlas has zoomed in on the right demographic - and the $10K prize is a great incentive for Boomers to reunite with folks they have lost track of, over the years. Peace and love, brother!