Planely at Social Media World Forum Europe 2011

Nick Martin is the CEO and founder of Planely, a Danish startup with an exciting new service that’s hoping to launch ‘the social flying revolution’, allowing users to make connections with fellow travellers, meet for a pre-flight coffee and even share a taxi to the airport.

Nick will be joining the startup panel at Social Media World Forum Europe 2011, in London on March 29-30. The Social Media Series Blog caught up with him to find out what exactly Planely is all about, and where he hopes to take it.

SMSB: What was the inspiration for Planely? Was there a light bulb moment?

NM: I do a lot of travelling as I suspect a lot of your participants do and it can obviously be a very lonely and boring life. That seems ridiculous given there are so many people around. Airports and planes are incredibly busy places.

That law of averages says that some of them must be interesting. You just need an easy and reliable way to get an intro. Planely is that intro mechanism and our mission is to turn flying into a social experience for those that want to give it a go.

SMSB: What has the initial take-up told you about the demand for this service?

NM: The take-up has been great. We’ve had constant high-profile coverage throughout the 3 months we’ve been live without trying and the feedback has, on the whole, been amazing.

Sure there are doubters and nay-sayers but when you’ve got an industry that has operated in the same way with regards ‘social’ since inception (over 60 years now) then obviously people have got used to how the experience is.

We’re dealing with a change of culture here which is why we’re dubbing it a ‘flying revolution’. It’s a grass-roots initiated movement to help change the air travel industry into one that’s exciting to be a part of. Everyone wins when we get there. Social is always a more fun place to be!

SMSB: How do you plan to grow your user base?

NM: To begin with we’re concentrating on providing our service to events/conferences/festivals etc. Anything that has a large number of people flying into and out of the same airport at the same time. Not only does this increase the chances of Matches happening but the customer base for each event all have something in common with each other. What better conversation starter than that.

SMSB: Can you give us a hint on any new features in the pipeline?

NM: Everything we’re doing in the next few months is focused on, firstly, tempting more people to give us a try and, secondly, when they do that they’re tempted again to reach out and make contact with those that happen to be travelling with them.

We’re almost ready to release to the wider community our integration with Tripit.com. What this will mean is that it will become incredibly simple to get your flights into Planely. Once you’ve connected Planely with Tripit all you’ll need to do is email your flight confirmation emails to their [email protected] email address. We’ll then pull those down into our system and email you when you have a New Match. ‘Connect and forget’ we’re calling it.

Another feature in design right now is around ‘colouring in’ your Planely profile so people get a better sense of who you are when they see you in their Matches page. It’s nothing subversive, completely opt-in and something we hope will be a lot of fun as well.

SMSB: What type of people are currently using it? Any surprises here?

NM: There are huge surprises. Absolutely everyone is the answer. Our predominant demographic groups are those that you would expect like young, frequent flying professionals and the traveller set.

But we also have lots of the leisure travellers who are looking to get inside information from locals about their destination, we have Mums travelling alone with children who would like to meet other mums with children of similar ages (childcare in the skies perhaps) and we have plenty of examples of people using it to sit next to someone who only wants peace and quiet like them. Being ‘social’ is all relative to your needs and wants at that point in time after all.

SMSB: Any interesting anecdotal feedback from users?

NM: The big thing we heard very early on as that the last thing people want is yet another social network to have to go to. We can understand that! That’s why we’re working hard on making it something you don’t need to come to but that, once setup, just operates on your behalf under the surface.

SMSB: Why would marketers be interested in the development of the Planely community?

NM: Because we are a view into the future. We provide insights and insights are extremely valuable as long as they aren’t abused. We are very community-focused and will do everything in our power to protect the goodwill we have with our users.

We’re also not interested in flipping it and making a quick buck. We want to create something fantastic that people, when thinking about how air travel has really changed for the better in the last few years, can trace it back to when Planely released that little site with a big idea into the world. That would be cool!

SMSB: Why are you looking forward to Social Media World Forum Europe 2011?

NM: Because it will give me a great chance to get some incredibly valuable feedback from the social media glitterati, of course! It looks like an incredible line-up and I can’t wait for my slot on Day 2 in the Social Media Hub. It should be a lot of fun!

Nick will be taking part in the Social Media Startups panel, located in the free-to-attend Social Media Hub area of Social Media World Forum Europe. See the full agenda here.

Once you’ve signed up for the show, visit Planely to log in and see who you might be able to connect with on the journey over. You never know, it might be the start of something beautiful.