Social Discovery Apps Like Highlight Are A Recruiter’s Wet Dream At SXSW

The history of location-based social discovery apps is a lot longer than the current hype surrounding Highlight and Glancee, currently darlings of the South by Southwest festival.

Back in 2007 TechCrunch’s founder Mike Arrington noted the existence of social mobile apps like Lime Juice, Rummble, Mig33, ZYB, Mocospace, Aka-Aki, Nokia Sensor, Dodgeball, Mobiluck, MeetMoi and Imity, just to name a few. The problem was none had critical mass, in part because smartphones were still thin on the ground. Nokia’s Sensor app was way ahead of its time, but only worked on Nokias and via Bluetooth to “see” who was around you. Aka-Aki had a little more success out of Berlin for a while but in recent years has been eclipsed by newer players. Badoo remains the one to beat in this sector, with 115 million users and many using it via mobile apps.

The first uses of these types of location based ‘social discovery’ apps appealed, shall we say, to the baser instincts: hooking up with people for fun and frolics. But there’s a new use on the block and it’s rearing its ominous head at South by Southwest: recruiting.

I first became aware of this when a friend in a startup posted a comment on the status update of Venture Capitalist, who in turn was complaining about the battery-sucking properties of Highlight . They said:

“Our recruiter has been using it to find really solid digital people he wants to poach.”

Bingo. Because the very interesting aspect of these new apps is this: They are usually set to expose your profile in public as a default. Few people are enabling “friends of friends” only on the privacy settings, and perhaps there are plenty of people at SXSW who feel relaxed about discovering new people anyway.

Even then, you only need to be a friend of a friend of a recruiter and they will be able to look into your Highlight profile and check out whether they should be wooing you for a client.

Is this going to lead to companies asking employees not to use these apps? Will we see lawsuits along the lines of those we’ve seen pop up around people’s use of LinkedIn, in terms of making themselves open to offers from other companies? It’s very, very early days – so who knows. Apps like Workaround.me don’t run in the background yet, though they probably will begin to soon enough.

So the next time you’re approached by someone at a tech event and it turns out they’re a recruiter, check whether they got to you via your social discovery app or not. The answer may prove very to be interesting.