In the deluge of news about twitter, facebook and other social networks behemoths like MySpace we often fail to take into account the power of domain specific or niche social networks. What are they? – They are social networks which involve people with the same interest and these networks revolve around this interest. They operate on the principle that if you bring people with a similar interest together the selling will take care of itself. Let’s take a look at some of them.
LinkedIn can be put into this category as it’s a social network with the purpose of business networking for professionals. Wayn is a lifestyle and travel social network with a stated aim of uniting travellers all over the world. Then there is classmates.com, probably the first social networking website which helps people keep in touch with long lost friends with whom they once shared a classroom. These are just a few examples of a huge list of niche social networks. Then of course there is Ning which is a collection of more than 1 million social networks in itself.
Niche social networks help in eliminating a lot of noise from the system and help you target a specific audience. Also as a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau shows that 66% of all internet users would click on online ads if they made sense to them. In traditional social networking sites people tend to block out the ads, only when the ads are personalized or context-driven are people interested. This again is much easier in the context of a niche social network.
So what are the implications? If you want to build a social network targeted to a specific group of people; go ahead build one but make sure it adds enough value for people to justify creating their profile in yet another social network. Be reasonable in the assumption that your user base might not be as huge as facebook. What is important is that you have the right kind of users. Also be mindful of the fact that your backers may not be with very deep pockets so have a sound business plan with ROI in mind. If you are seeking social media marketing for your brand or are a social media strategist, ignore Niche social networks at your own peril. With sites like Ning it’s very easy for you to build your own social network even with limited resources.
One might ask will such networks be deemed redundant in the future by the social networking giants. I don’t think so. They serve their own purpose and will exist side by side with the giants. So what do you think about niche social networks? Are they just more noise? Will they hold their place or will they eventually be blown out by the Facebooks of the world? Do let us know in the comments.