ClosedSocial: A Growing Trend Towards Niche Social Networking

With the increasing popularity of huge social networks like Facebook and MySpace, it’s easy to see why niche networks are entering the market and falling off almost immediately. There seems to be no room for networks that focus on a particular hobby, demographic, or profession. They are too small, therefore they will all fail.

Or will they?

Thinking forward, reading the trends, looking underneath the pseudo-obvious, it becomes clear that these small fenced-in playgrounds are the future. This article from readwriteweb.com shows an excellent example and six clear-cut reasons why niche social networks can not only survive, but also flourish in a virtual jungle dominated (currently) by the gorillas.

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Remember when banner ads were the thing? Now, most of these gorgeous, flashy, interactive banners get passed over, while simple text links generate tremendous amounts of traffic.

The same thing will happen with social networking, as long as there is a way to integrate different networks into a single posting interface. A 35-year-old firefighter named Henry is a father of 3 in Burbank, California, who enjoys hiking and running the occasional marathon. He cannot easily interact with similar people online through the big social networks. It’s possible, but the general themes of these networks interfere with the end goal of participating in his niche with people in similar situations.

In the near future, he can be a part of a firefighter network, a parenting network, a Burbank network, a hiking network, and a marathon network. With the right interface, if he finds and excellent article about physical fitness that he wants to share, he can post this article to his firefighter, hiking, and marathon networks, but not to his parenting or Burbank network. Later that day, her finds a video news clip about an upcoming 10k run in Burbank, which he can post to his Burbank and marathon network. That night, he hears about a change in the way that the schools are going to be grading students and decides to right a blog post for his Burbank and parenting networks.

That was a long, tedious example, but you get the point. With the right interface, Henry can have an orderly, simple series of social networks in which he can belong and interact. With the right interface, Henry can search for and find information that is shared by those who share in that particular interest. With the right interface, social networking can work well for Henry and those around him.

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Therefore, it all comes down to the interface. Is Google’s OpenSocial the answer? What about websites like Ning.com and GoingOn.com? Flux, the new interface created through a partnership between Viacom and Social Project (which I just signed up for — review coming soon) may be the answer or at least a step towards the answer.

No matter what, an answer will come. It’s just a matter of time.

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Be sure to read more social media tips right here.

JD Rucker

+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

11 thoughts on “ClosedSocial: A Growing Trend Towards Niche Social Networking

  1. I agree there is a huge opportunity for the niche sites. You can spend hours working around Facebook and MySpace without finding a friend that is interested in the same things you are. I don’t have hours to waste.

  2. Bigger definitely isn’t always better, especially in social networking. Sometimes you can gain a lot more with tight groups than you can with general groups.

  3. Passions Network is EXACTLY what you are talking about. It is a single network of over 100 niche sites. People join the network once, and then pick the sites they want in their account. This allows them to surround themselves with people they share something in common with, in a wide variety of communities. Examples include: http://www.nativeamericanpassions.com , http://www.adventurepassions.com , http://www.gamingpassions.com , http://www.bodybuilderpassions.com , http://www.truckerpassions.com & http://www.trekpassions.com .
    There is one interface for managing an account, so it’s pretty easy for an individual to interact across a large number of sites simultaneously, but only in the ones that match their ‘passions’ in life. The whole list of sites is here: http://www.passionsnetwork.com/c_resources.html

  4. Seems to be a natural progression. People originally searched for individual terms (golf), and eventually learned to search for more specific terms (Michigan golf courses), thus the value in the long tail. The same thing is happening here. Personally, I’m glad to see it.

  5. If these are truly “niche” networks, then they will not be “one-size-fits-all” scenarios — in other words, the profile format and/or one person’s friends list will vary from network to network.

  6. One niche social networking trend is private (and public) social networks for people in your immediate vicinity (e.g. apartment building, subdivision, etc.). A few startups have launched recently seeking to create social networks for these communities including Neighborology.

  7. Nice post. Hopefully, initiatives like OpenSocial will eventually allow users to mix-and-match their favorite social networks without having to deal with recreating contact lists and repetitive postings. I’ve blogged about this issue (in Spanish) at http://technosailor.com/2007/11/06/networks-sociales-portatiles-hacia-la-web-30/

  8. Another social community on similar lines is “Infodoro.com”. Though the niche community theory applies to this social network with a twist.

    This (http://infodoro.com/infodoro/) website has tow web applications and plans to roll out more overtime. ‘FiveWords’ and ‘Shopping List’ and other such conceptualised applications are intended to build communities that move around & proliferate alongwith the users of the particular application.

    Do you see, this to be blending in with Niche Social networking concept?

    1- The FiveWords applications brings together a set of people who like to talk loud and talk out their personal opinions (Not expert, Not right and Not Wrong) on issues ranging from sports, entertainment, environment, relationships, politics, economy and so on that influence their lifes directly or indirectly.

    2- Likewise, the Shopping list applications aims to bring together Shoppers who wish to better manage their Time and their shopping experience by making it more organised. Shortly, the application aims to allow shoppers connect with other family members, peers or like minded purchasers (people buying similar stuff and helping each othet out with Tips et cetra)

    Moreover, the whole Infodoro website concept revolves on forging a community of socially aware people who value information and belive that expression, sharing and effective mangement go a long way in its enrichment and valuation, overtime..! For more details, visit the company blog at http://infodoro.com/blog/.

    Share what you think about this and yes guys, this is another Social networking community that most of you have missed on. It’s different, its informative, not restricted and more stringent on user security related concerns!

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