MingleNow to make top users VIPs in real life

MingleNow is a place-centered social networking site that will offer real world incentives for online activity. Incubated by advertising company BlueLithium, MingleNow will launch a limited beta early next week and open to the public at the end of this month. I’ve been waiting for this to come to fruition for some time and I’ll be interested to see if it’s well received. If the real world events and incentives end up being something people are interested in participating in, then this could do well. I imagine that if top MySpace users, for example, told the world where they’d be on a Saturday night, a fair number of people would likely go there too.

Unlike other social networks that are focused on people, MingleNow will be based primarily on locations like bars and other venues. Nearly 900,000 physical locations will have dedicated MingleNow pages at launch and users will be encouraged to upload photos and stories from those locations. Users will also have fully customizable profile pages. MingleNow emphasizes the viability of its service for events promoters. Users who bring in friends and populate the site with photos, stories and reviews will receive points towards real world discounts, early event notification and VIP access to select events. The service will kick off with public events at venues around the US this fall.

Online/offline tie-ins are becoming increasingly common; from coupons from Google and Cellfire to Partystrands, social music recommendations in public venues.

MingleNow will offer a personal calendar so people with various levels of permission see what a given user will be doing in the future, where and with whom. At launch the calendar will import and export to and from GCal and ICal; the company says they hope next to add syncing with Outlook. The company is partnering with a variety of third party services to provide functionality like mobile access and group SMS and voice messaging to co-ordinate events.

The site’s search by tag and criteria for people and places works well. There is something about this that makes public events a little more sterile and packaged than I’d prefer if they are vetted by my personal profile and preferences prior to co-ordinating with friends, but in an increasingly on-demand world many people may want just that. The scores of venue pages on MySpace could certainly be far more functional and in MingleNow location pages will be.

There are also RSS feeds, maps and recommendations throughout the site..

I badgered the company about OpenID or some other means of importing and exporting data across social networking services, lest this be just one more silo, and they indicated that they were in discussions and experimentation regarding those concerns. We’ll see.

There is certainly no shortage of social networking sites available, but the combination of a large semipopulated database, real world incentives and mobile connectivity all at launch is interesting. Especially if MingleNow offers quality events and incentives, doesn’t have a large barrier to entry and ends up allowing users to bring in some of what they’ve built elsewhere, they may bring a fresh take to a potentially exhausted market.