Drinks with Fomo, the App that’s our Newest Bar Buddy
What began as a practical way to check out bar specials, Fomo is Gainesville’s newest social media platform that’s perfect for a night out.
A combination of Yik Yak and Yelp, Fomo allows you to check out what specials and happy hours are happening at each bar in your area. But more than that, with its new relaunch, it allows the user to interact anonymously with others. The added chat feature, which acts as a timeline with updates from specific locations, lets you see what bars are busy, what the nightlife currently looks like or what stupidly noteworthy things the patrons in your area might be up to.
In a conversation that rockets between Snapchat filters, fraternity rushing stories, iOS terms of service and Donald Trump memes, I talked to Jimmy Parenteau, CEO and co-founder, and Nick Bevelock, marketing manager, about the redesigned app and Fomo’s future.
After Yik Yak, a college-centric, location-based social network, attempted to pivot the platform’s focus and removed its anonymity, a move Parenteau felt ruined it, its user base steeply declined and its popularity crumbled. The eight-person team behind Fomo wanted to take advantage of the newly available market share, hoping to create a different entertainment source that could be a lot more relevant to what you’re doing than anything currently on your phone.
“In addition to all this information on where you should be drinking, how much you can get this Tito’s shot for or whatever, it’s also going to be an entertainment source,” Bevelock said. “It’s going to be your go-to when you’re out.”
Everyone is on their phone constantly, even when they are socializing. Fomo is there for the filler times in a fun night: the car ride on the way there, waiting in line for the bathroom or walking home with a slice of pizza. It’s your friend when you don’t have a friend out, Parenteau said. No more checking your email or refreshing an Instagram feed with nothing new. Instead, users can post something funny or awkward or stupid from locations like Fat Daddy’s or Library West, or just scroll through what others in the area are saying.
“You’ve already checked your feed, this is the fifth time you’re going to the bathroom, you broke the seal, you want to see something new or you might even want to post something like ‘the bathroom here at Balls is really nice,’” Parenteau said.
As I wait in line to get into the app’s relaunch party, for which Fomo partnered with Shocktop, I find myself scrolling a lackluster Facebook feed and I can see what they’re talking about. If instead, I could be seeing what people are saying about the place I’m waiting to get into or even the place I could be an hour from now, wouldn’t that be better? But Fomo’s ideal user is who Parenteau lovingly referred to as the “average bro-douche.”
“The person that is going to post ten times a day is going to be Brad, who gets smashed at 2 p.m. in the afternoon and climbs a flagpole,” Parenteau said. “That is the guy that we want to tell about this application.”
The app has more than 5,000 users total, about 3,500 of which call Gainesville home. Fomo also currently operates in Athens, Ga., and will be adding eight more cities across the country in August.
The company plans to promote Fomo with fun rewards in an effort to encourage the social environment they’re looking for, like the pair of Lil Wayne floor seats they gave to a poster recently. In the future, users with successful posts might win an Uber ride home or cover for the night out.
“We want you to have fun and encourage it by giving you more fun,” Bevelock said.
On a more serious note, the app is currently using its new features to help raise money to support Joe Wagner, a UF student and friend of Parenteau’s, who was recently in a motorcycle accident and is in critical condition. For every person who posts in the chat, they’ll be donating 50 cents to the cause, up to $500, although they hope to increase that amount if businesses will match their contribution.
But the new relaunch is just the beginning.
In addition to the new social features, the application aims to simplify and enhance the relationship between bar owners and their patrons. The new app makes it easy and interactive for bars to add the latest happy hours or one-off deals, post in the chat to encourage customers and promote their posts for more publicity. In the future, Fomo also hopes to expand into event scheduling software, working as the middleman between customers and bars to streamline the process.
One of the biggest yet-to-come developments is the addition of drinking clubs, where users will have the option to pay a monthly fee and become a loyal member of a specific bar. Membership allows access to exclusive specials and happy hours, a new mug club for the digital age, Parenteau said. Customers will know what deals the bar is offering before they subscribe and will only be obligated on a month-to-month basis.
“I like to talk shit, so maybe,” said Tessa Arthur, a 22-year old senior at UF, when asked if she was likely to use the newer social features of the app.
Gaby Larios, a 21-year-old UF senior, said that she’d used something similar in Washington, D.C. She was happy to find an easier way to check out bar specials in Gainesville, instead of looking at individual Facebook pages for information.
“You’re on your phone; maybe you’re having a couple drinks,” Bevelock said. “And if you don’t have a story for our [chat] yet, you’re going to.”