I’ve had the sneaking suspicion for a while that the future of social networks will not be the huge aggregates such as Facebook and LinkedIn, but in proprietary, vertically-specific online communities. Here are several examples representing a variety of interests and professions:
- Fohboh, an community targeting the restaurant industry;
- OfficeArrow, a community for office professionals;
- Social Media Today, a community for those interested in social media;
- Human Capital League, a community for workplace professionals;
- Patients Like Me, a community of patients with chronic illness;
- VR Marketing Lounge, a community for Vertical Response customers;
- SocialMoms, a community for stay-at-home moms.
Even though the large networks try to provide for such varied segmentation, in the end, they are still behemoths. You might compare it to having fast food meal in a mall food court surrounded by lot of people you don’t know to having a cozy dinner at home with friends. Make sense?
I don’t necessarily have hard data to support my conjecture. (Really, it’s more of a gut feeling.) Nonetheless, when you look at communities such as those, I think my feelings are validated.
But, there is logic to support it. For example, how many people are you connected to on Facebook or Twitter? Of those, how many do you keep in contact with on a regular basis? I would venture to guess the percentage is less than 10 percent — 20 at most.
That’s where small niche networks can play a vital role. It reintroduces relevance, which is a binding factor – the glue – of community-building.
What do you perceive will be the future of social networks?