How to unleash your networking skills with Highlight

Get started with Highlight, the app that lets you discover people nearby.

Sharon Profis Vice President of Content
Sharon Profis is a vice president of content.
Sharon Profis
3 min read

Every year, there's always one app that takes the crown at South by Southwest. By no official decree, one smartphone application grows rampant during the event, as it gains traction with nerdfest SXSW attendees and later spreads to early adopters. Like you. And me.

This year, about a dozen apps attracted some buzz (you can view them all here), but the one that garnered the most attention and activity was Highlight (iTunes link).

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The free, location-based app alerts you of people in your vicinity with similar interests and mutual friends. Not aimed at romantic pursuits, Highlight moderates the connection of potential friends, networking contacts, and colleagues, allowing you to bookmark those you find interesting.

Naturally, SXSW is a perfect event to launch such an app, but Highlight is also useful to us observing the conference from afar. Meetings, parties, and networking events are ideal places to put the app to use, as it's less official than connecting with someone on LinkedIn or Facebook, but more useful than simply following them on Twitter.

Once you download Highlight, get started with these tips:

Adjust your privacy settings
Once you log in with Facebook (that's the only way to use Highlight right now), tap the menu button (upper left) and select Settings. Tap Manage privacy and decide if you want to make yourself discoverable and visible by everyone or just friends of friends. If you choose the second option, you'll limit your visibility and only friends of your Facebook friends will be able to find and highlight you.

Edit your blurb and profile
Your blurb is the short status message others on Highlight will see when they're in your vicinity. Some users will choose to be clever and witty ("Ask me why the chicken really crossed the road.), while others might offer a slightly more practical message. For example, you might offer a little snapshot of why you're at that networking dinner or party.

If you ask a question or make an engaging statement in your blurb, expect answers. Next to every user's blurb is a + sign that allows users to leave comments.

On Highlighting people
Unlike LinkedIn or Facebook, you don't "connect" with others, or "friend" them--you Highlight them. This passive, one-way interaction (a la Twitter) makes Highlight quite compelling for those who might feel uncomfortable connecting with people they haven't met.

Screenshot by Sharon Vaknin/CNET

As you scroll through the Activity stream and tap on people you are interested in (should be read in the most unromantic way possible), tap highlight to bookmark them for later. Two things will happen. First, they'll be notified that you highlighted them (and if they're interested maybe they'll highlight you back.) Then, the highlight will be made public. Anyone will be able to see that you've highlighted that person by visiting your profile.

Save battery by pausing
Highlight's developers will be the first to admit it: the app will suck the life out of your battery, as it constantly polls your location. Each iteration will be more efficient and less battery-consuming, they promise, but until then use the pause feature to keep Highlight from using Location Services when you're not actively using the app.

Head to the navigation pane and tap Pause Highlight. You'll be hidden (not discoverable), but the next time you launch Highlight, it will automatically un-pause.

For a complete walkthrough of Highlight, check out Daniel Terdiman's hands-on account.