Talking tech since 2003

You may not have heard of Skout but it’s actually one of the oldest and largest mobile (iOS and Android) social networks.  The company is in its eighth year of operation and has 220 million users in over 180 different countries.  Skout focuses on helping connect people, allowing users to make new friends in their local area as well as around the world.  I recently sat down with Skout at this year’s SXSW to learn more about the app and the future plans of the company.

Skout's main screen.
Skout’s main screen.

Because the app is all about meeting new people you might imagine that the most used function in the app is the chat feature–and you would be correct.  According to Skout, the chat feature is most popular part of the app, however, the company was unable to provide with me specific usage numbers such as the number of messages sent daily or every month.  So there are a lot of messages being sent on Skout, but many receive a response?  Well, according to the company the answer is “there is a high response rate for messages sent”–but Skout couldn’t provide specific data for that either.

One of the most interesting features of Skout is the “shake to chat” feature where if you shake your phone you will be connected to another random user somewhere in the world who is also shaking their phone while using Skout. Once users are connected with each other through “shake to chat” they remain anonymous for 30 seconds at which time they can start chatting with each other before being allowed to view one another’s profile.

In the app users can send and receive virtual gifts (which can be purchased with points), favorite profiles and status updates, as well as comment on status updates.

Without a doubt Skout’s app dynamics are definitely geared towards dating, in fact, one user I spoke with told me he found his current girlfriend on Skout.  Of the profiles I checked out many of them indicated that dating/relationships are something they are looking to find.  The ability to search for people based on gender, ethnicity, and location makes it easy to find people nearby who you may be interested in talking to or meeting. The fact that your location is involved is also a security and privacy concern, and is why Skout doesn’t use your specific location, but rather a more generalized one.

That being said, it’s not all about dating.  There are definitely interesting and nice people on Skout — I know, I’ve spoken to a few of them.

One of the people I spoke with is moving from Paris to New York in a couple of months and has been using Skout to find people in the area. According to the Skout team this type of user behavior is very common.  In fact, it’s so common that Skout has built a feature that lets users [virtually] travel to other cities and meet people in them who using Skout.  So for example, I’m in New York, but I could “travel” to San Francisco with Skout to meet people in SF who use Skout.  This could be great if you’re going on a trip and are looking to gain some local knowledge before arriving.

Skout's travel feature.
Skout’s travel feature.

Going back to the chat feature though, of the messages I sent out to people I didn’t always have success.  In my time using the app I probably had more messages without a response than with, but of course mileage may vary.

There were two major complaints I ran into while using the app: crashing and intrusive ads.  Of the users I spoke with all of them mentioned that the app can be very buggy, with crashes accounting for most of the complaints.  The other big complaint I heard about Skout from users is that it’s too “ad heavy.” I can’t disagree with that notion based on my usage, ads in Skout are placed in places where it’s easy for users to end up tapping on them by accident.  The app also has “download X app for X points in Skout,” types of messages pop up frequently.  On top of that there are also video ads that pop up every so often.

Let me be clear, I’m not opposed to a company making money, I just think Skout should rethink the intrusiveness of the ads and how it effects user experience.  That being said, I have to give Skout credit for two things, the ads they have are fairly high quality ads (which is good to see) and they have a pro version (costs $2.99) of the app which is ad-free.

Going forward Skout plans to focus on a multi-app strategy, launching new apps for new types of features (think in terms of Facebook and how many apps they have in the app store’s).  Skout is definitely fun to use and I look forward to seeing what the Skout team has planned next.

Lastly, I just want to thank all the new people I met on Skout for helping me get a better understanding of the app while I tested it out.

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