-- Your mother may have encouraged you to be yourself, but the advice has never meant quite as much as it does today. A growing number of apps now promise users real-life rewards on the basis of their virtual profiles.
Launched earlier this year, Hotelied is a booking site that prompts users to build profiles that add up to a "travel persona" -- social followings, professional credentials and hotel-loyalty programs are all accounted for. By leveraging that data to participating hotels, the platform is able to offer travelers special rates and enviable perks.
"Our tagline says, 'It Pays to Be You,'" explained Hotelied co-founder Zeev Sharon.
While such traditional sites as Expedia and Booking.com deliver a long list of options, "their pricing is completely static," said Sharon. "It doesn't matter who you are. You're going to get the exact same offer as anyone else. The reality is that not every traveler is the same."
Sharon cited the "one-size-fits-all" status quo as the inspiration for Hotelied. He said his model as a matchmaking program that "introduces" luxury properties to the kind of influential guests they'd like to see in their rooms.
Hotels are not given direct access to any of the information that users supply, but they can, for example, make certain benefits -- think room upgrades or nightly discounts -- available to "Hotelies" who work in influential industries or command a significant online presence.
Co-founder Nick Colletti put a populist point on it: "We feel very strongly about creating a product that allows users to capitalize on the information that they already have out there."
As it stands, big companies monetize social data in ways that a single person cannot.
Like Hotelied, Haggle aims to change that.
Co-founder Rajiv Salimath said he developed Haggle to empower individuals to translate their online personas into benefits. The scrappy start-up was designed to help users slash prices at their favorite restaurants.
Those who download Haggle are asked to provide information on their social followings, which allows the app to compute a kind of score for each user. The composite number synthesizes such metrics as the frequency with which a diner eats out, the loyalty he demonstrates to preferred restaurants, the influence he wields on social media, and a factor that Salimath has euphemistically termed "bankroll."
If a restaurant deems a patron's score worthy, the management can propose a discount. Enterprising users can either accept that rate or haggle for a better one.
The app has partnered with 60 restaurants already and plans to add 120 additional spots by the end of August. Salimath told ABC News that he hopes to extend the technology into other categories like the retail space that behemoth Shopkick currently dominates.
Founded in 2009, Shopkick is considered a veteran of the industry. The app rewards customers for their everyday behavior, focused on delivering benefits, called "kicks," for such quotidian activities as walking into stores and browsing clothing racks. The start-up has partnered with Macy's, Target, and Best Buy, among other major retailers.
For CEO Cyriac Roeding, the conviction that inspired Shopkick is simple: Stores depend on foot traffic, but do not reward it. Roeding maintains that shoppers should be compensated "just for showing up."
The sentiment is one that Salimath shares: "Our goal is once you know how valuable you are to any business, you should be able to leverage that."
Still, Salimath insisted that the process is only as public as users would like it to be. Neither Haggle nor Hotelied requires that users advertise their savings.
Sharon and Colletti confirmed that those who book their accommodations through Hotelied are not obliged to tweet or post about their stays.
Ultimately, Colletti characterized the app as "a marketplace where individuals can receive something for who they are." No strings attached.