Is LivingSocial Social?

The hackneyed "mobile, social, and local" mantra has been trumpeted for years and yet the world still operates in a place where "social" deals like those below prevail.  

 LivingSocial Chimney Sweeping deal

At QMedic, many of our users/customers are socially isolated.  Some of them go for weeks or months without seeing a loved one. I doubt that a chimney sweeping deal would give them much comfort.  If the chimney sweeper built a relationship with them, as humans once upon a time did, that might have some promise, but that's not baked into LivingSocial's business model.  

LivingSocial Hair Dryer deal

In fact, by focusing on deals, merchants are naturally incentivized to cut out customer service, which can be very expensive depending on the type of service. In the universe of phone support, this is why we get automated phone routing systems versus human beings—this drives us bonkers but the reality is that it saves the merchant a lot of money. When you throw a discount/deal into the mix for the customer, the merchant is driven to cut costs even further, resulting in an "inhuman" customer experience.  That hardly sounds social...

LivingSocial Autodetailing deal

While peer-to-peer messaging platforms like Skype offer low-cost, face-to-face interaction with friends and loved ones, and are a few grades above chimney sweeping in terms of being social, they will never be a substitute for enduring in-person interactions.  Skype falls under the category of technologies that augment and/or sustain the social experience but rarely create new rich interactions.

Ultimately, there is an enormous opportunity in curating offline social experiences, friendships, and relationships, but it's pretty clear that LivingSocial isn't it.  As long as transactional "deal" sites dominate, the goal of creating enduring "local and social" relationships will remain elusive.  

In healthcare, when we consider the challenges and risks associated with poor mental health and depression, especially among elderly populations where many live alone, curating rich offline social experiences should be top of mind for all innovators.  This is the right way to do business, build customer loyalty, and improve outcomes for those who are most vulnerable and in need of human connection.