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Tuenti, Spain's leading social network, switches on local for a location-based future

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Madrid-based Tuenti, sometimes called the Facebook of Spain, has been around for four years now. It’s a very well funded company that, despite a huge growth in user numbers and a number of product releases, has been getting some bad press on their lack of monetization and for not having a clear direction – though if you follow the product releases and the company’s hiring habits, there is a roadmap.

However Tuenti has now launched what it deems to be their most strategic move yet – tapping into their social graph to introduce location-based features. The launch is a beta, still lacking some oomph perhaps, but it’s interesting to pick over what they’ve done. Especially as everyone is expecting Facebook to do the same at some point.

The social network’s users have always been able to share places they identify with. Currently 3 million users have shared over 3,200 places. But the social network is now introducing Tuenti Places (reads “Tuenti Sitios” in Spanish) as a global feature, where the entire user-base is able to add any local place, interact with it, share it with friends, upload images and write reviews.

Unlike Facebook pages, Tuenti Places are…well…places (bars, clubs, restaurants) and once a place is uploaded, there will be no room for duplicates. Each place will have its own unique space for user interaction. Valuable data if you get tens of thousands of users interacting with that page.

It’s a very different strategy from the likes of Gowalla or Yelp or Foursquare or Spain’s 11870 who’ve built a community on top of local. Tuenti first built a massive and incredibly segmented community and now they’re introducing local, which in itself is social by nature, but they can build in local by crowdsourcing their 8 million active users who are already sharing places. “Other local social directories can crowdsource 1% of their user-base, whereas Tuenti can count on 100% user implication” says Product Manager Rags Vadali (ex-Google).

This is, potentially, a big deal. Why?

Well, it means a whole new direction for Tuenti that seemingly glues together all the pieces. They have massive amounts of highly dissected user data whose interaction is growing exponentially along with the needed mobile apps (both iPhone and Android). Overnight Tuenti promises to get thousands of very dynamic local business pages and will shortly introduce new features such as Foursquare-like check-ins. Plenty of nice ways to leverage and monetize highly segmented local interaction.

And yesterday Tuenti made the press with an unconfirmed 9 million euro capital increase, so they look like they have the cash to see it through too.

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