Sunday, 15 June 2014

CircleMe friends and fans celebrate the new look for the “made in Milan” app

Last week I attended the launch party of the 2nd Generation of CircleMe products for web and mobile devices. CircleMe is the “made in Italy” social network that allows you to share your passions for culture and media with a network of trusted people who share your interests.

Situated alongside one of Milan’s canals, the site of the former Richard Ginori porcelain factory, which dates back to 1830, now plays host to a cluster of creative businesses, including the Italian headquarters of CircleMe. (The company also has a London branch based in Silicon Roundabout in the City). The completely redeveloped Richard Ginori complex, which covers an area of over 60,000 square metres, also houses companies such as Strenesse, Momo Design, Della Rovere, la Fornarina and MDF as well as communications agencies and photographic studios.

Il Circolino, a chic bar located in the ex-Richard Ginori centre and a favourite haunt of CircleMe staffers, provided the perfect setting for an evening of relaxed chat with CircleMe users and friends and the chance to discover the new Second Generation apps for PCs, tablets and phones.

With the mercury hitting 36C on the hottest day of the year so far, we sipped complimentary ice-cold drinks and enjoyed an excellent barbecue from Il Circolino’s budding chefs. The CircleMe team mingled with guests at the venue, which features a glass floor through which you can watch the table football matches taking place downstairs.

Making it new
CircleMe has completely updated its interface and introduced a new user-experience that builds on the app’s existing ability to curate your passions and share them with a network of people you can “trust” (CM's equivalent of friending). The app now boasts 1 million interests that you can “love” (by clicking on the famous CircleMe heart icon). Over a thousand stories and new content items are added every day from 6,500 sources and two hundred thousand interest groups.

A brand new feature of the CircleMe experience is the Calendar, which allows you to access a customised calendar featuring all the nearest events linked to your unique set of passions. There are already 55,000 events in over 4,500 locations mapped onto the CircleMe Calendar.

As Giu D’Antonio, CEO of CircleMe pointed out as he demonstrated the new app on a widescreen Mac to guests at the party, you can flick through a virtually endless feed of stories, news and updates relating to your passions – anything from your favourite bands to the latest must-see movies. A new feature is the categories menu bar than you can swipe in from the side. This allows you to refine the view to specific groups of passions based around particular media, such as Music, Books, Movies, etc

As Startupbusiness reported recently when the network’s Android app went live, CircleMe has signed an agreement with Kiver to distribute music online in mp3 format, which users can download according to their passions and their level of activity on the network. The downloads on offer include music from leading artists. (For example, glancing at the app, I see I can download free tracks from artists such as Katy Perry, Lana Del Rey, The Killers, Queen and The Rolling Stones, etc.)

Users can also benefit from a tie-up between CircleMe and, the UK-based online business card printing service, which rewards users with 50 free cards personalised with their passions.

CircleMe has been growing steadily. According to WiredItalia it is strongest in the UK, US, Italy, France and Brazil.

Niche and easy does it
While CircleMe has expanded considerably and added a wealth of new features it remains something of a niche product in the face of the “big beasts” of the social networking world: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, etc. However, as Giu pointed out, the aim of CircleMe is not for users to simply grow ever-larger networks of contacts, but rather to deepen and enrich the experience of sharing passions within a trusted circle of like-minded people.

I personally think CircleMe could do more in this area to build on the existing functionality of its apps, especially the ability to “plant” a passion by adding geo-location data and its under-utilised “To do” option. As I explored in an earlier post on this blog, I also think CircleMe members could have a more pro-active role in curating information and content, which uses a “push” model to provide an updated feed to users’ devices based on their passions. I would like to see more of a physical community developing around CircleMe – and I think one way they could achieve this is to have more live events, such as this excellent party, as well as providing opportunities for users to meet up at gigs and special screenings of films they have "loved". There are considerable opportunities for combining CircleMe’s ability to gather and share cultural passions with a more face-to-face experience, which would involve users and allow them to be more active.

A night to remember
So, overall this was a great evening and a nice chance to meet the lovely CircleMe team, who are all passionate and committed about their app. I’d like to say a special thanks to Giu, Elena and the CircleMe team – as well as the excellent Il Circolino – for their hospitality.

Looking forward to seeing you all again at the next event!


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