Social location-based app Banjo has reached one million users in just nine months, the company announced today, hitting that milestone faster than Facebook, Pinterest and a number of other popular social networks (though not getting there quite as fast as the just-acquired Instagram). What’s behind Banjo’s success? The Redwood City-based company thinks it’s all down to a willingness to listen to users, and iterate rapidly based on feedback they’re receiving.
Case in point: The recent addition of Instagram integration, which allows Banjo users to view, favorite and comment on Instagram photos organized by location, was added because users were asking for it, and the company made sure to add Android Instagram support to its own client for Google’s mobile devices only hours after the photo sharing app debuted on that platform.
In an interview with Banjo’s Director of Engagement Jennifer Peck, she stressed that the company’s rapid release timeline and willingness to listen to and deploy changes based on feedback are a big part of what set the app apart from other location-based social networking offerings.
“We kind of have a thing in the Banjo office: We’re all wrong and the user will tell us when we’re right,” she said. “So many times, apps go out or products go out that you think ‘oh this is what the user want,’ and oftentimes you have to change things they want. We’re really excited that we’ve been able to give the users what they want so quickly.” She points out that Banjo has already had a steady stream of updates for its mobile applications, and that these almost always include feature additions and tweaks in addition to bug fixes.
Peck also noted that while Banjo tends to get lumped in with ambient social discovery apps like Highlight, it’s really not being used in the same way. One key use case Banjo is seeing that wouldn’t be possible with Highlight or other location-based networking apps, for instance, is its tendency to be used either by news organizations (CNN has referenced it twice on-air as a tool for remote, crowd-based reporting) or simply by individuals looking to get a sense of the situation on the ground in a faraway destination. Peck shared a recent example: Banjo staffers turned to the app first after the recent 7.4 magnitude earthquake in Mexico, after finding other news sources lacking in relevant information or media. Since Banjo users can check out social feeds from locations without actually being there, they could see what those on the ground were reporting as it happened.
In terms of revenue, Peck said the company is still working on its API, which could be one option, but otherwise the startup is still focused first and foremost on growing its user community. “When you build you something that’s a really great product with a lot of users, the money always comes,” Peck said.
Banjo’s progress is an indicator that users are coming around to location-based social networking that goes beyond the check-in. The company’s long-term revenue plans may still be murky, but if it can turn its impressive growth into explosive adoption, that may not be much of an issue in terms of attracting funding and future partners.