There has been a trend that has been percolating behind the scenes. While Facebook and MySpace cultivate their mass presence by making the world accessible to people and people accessible to the world, Ning is bringing laser-precision focus to social networking, allowing the niche aspect of internet interaction to flourish.
While the social networking powerhouses offer limited platforms for people to form groups and interact with like-minded people, Ning has made it their purpose to offer flexibility in their product. As the self-proclaimed “Home Depot” of social networking, Ning has a do-it-yourself platform (“you can do it, we can help”) that is simple to use and manipulate. A person can create an account and start a social network geared around whatever they want in a few minutes.
In many ways, this is the way of the future for social networking. People tired of the big-box mentality of Facebook and MySpace, where monetization of their tremendous user bases seems to be the top priority, can focus their efforts on building their own network that targets others with the same interests.
There are many nice features on every social network, but one thing that makes Ning very strong is the ability to use the platform on one’s own domain. There is a free option that uses ning.com sub-domains, but with a little effort and a $4.95 per month pricetag, users can park their network anywhere they want.
Ning users can create networks that go after people in the same area, profession, interests, or whatever they want. Here is a sample of some networks currently on Ning that exemplifies the infinite variety potential:
- Horse enthusiasts can network with over 700 other enthusiasts at Show My Pony.
- I don’t speak Spanish, but 233 people obviously can at TVCocina. If food is a universal language, the videos here will definitely make you hungry.
- Over 11K firefighters are members of Firefighter Nation. Tons of videos, blog posts, and images.
- Shanghai has its own network with nearly 1200 users featuring local events, nightlife and more.
- In automotive, there is a car dealer network with over 120 members that discusses honesty in selling.
- Mothers, there’s a social network for you. With over 1000 members, Mommy2Mommy is a place for parental sorority.
- Alumni organizations are taking hold on Ning. Hawk Talk is a place for JP Alumni to reconnect.
The possibilities on Ning are nearly limitless. There are drawbacks. Porn has started creeping in and it’s been making the news. Spam is prevalent, with people joining and posting on dozens of networks. It makes it to where you either have to keep a close eye as an administrator or risk Viagra stories hitting your pages. Still, it’s far less daunting than the larger players.
In the near future, expect to see more business, organizations, and charities start to take advantage of the potential. Niche Social Networking is growing and should experience exponential traffic spikes within the year.