UMD student launches Turf, a hyperlocal social networking app


TurfLast year, Facebook’s CFO admitted that the social media goliath was losing younger users, a trend that has widely been attributed to the site’s increasing transformation from personal tool to business apparatus. That’s a cautionary tale for any newcomer looking to enter the social space.

In that spirit, a new app called Turf is focusing heavily on ease-of-entry and community-based networking in an effort to cut through the noise and provide users with what they really want: the ability to connect with those around them in a meaningful way.

Growing up in Pine Island, MN, Colton Sinning learned the social benefit of becoming ingrained in one’s community. In a small town, everybody knows everybody else, and staying up on local news and events is simply a matter of paying attention. Sinning believed that social networks should mirror that dynamic.

TurfappSo he came up with the idea for Turf, a location-based app — currently available on iOS and soon  Android — that makes it easier than ever to interact with people in the same proximiy.

There’s no need to send friend requests or force awkward introductions with strangers; instead, users are automatically added to the network for whichever “turf” they happen to be in, gaining access to messages, pictures and events posted by other local users.

Buoyed by investments from friends and family, Sinning enlisted a developer and third-party GIS provider for areas that range from a college campus to stadiums, small towns or large cities.

“There are turfs for practically any place in the U.S. or Canada,” he says. “We’ve got almost a million locations with specific boundaries on them.”

Once you log in, you are automatically checked into a turf based on your present location. Users can read posts from other turfs but can only post in the one they are currently inhabiting.

Much like Facebook did a decade ago, Turf is seeking to gain initial traction on college campuses. Sinning says there are about 200 users at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he currently attends school, with more users spread throughout the state. His goal, he says, is to focus for now on building up usage in a few locations to show the potential of the app when a sizable community of contributors is engaged.

Colton SInning“We have a pretty good idea as far as differentiating ourselves from the traditional advertising and promoted posts,” he says, declining to delve into further specifics about monetization. “I’ll just say it’s a really good idea, and it really fits into the whole point of the app. It doesn’t just slap ads on there.”

One could venture to guess that Turf’s revenue model will take advantage of the ultra-targeted, location-based nature of the app.

But we’ll have to wait and see what they have up their sleeves. As other social ventures have learned, finding a way to implement ads without interrupting or damaging the user experience can be crucially important to long-term success.